It was an unforgettable day in TV history when “Happy Days” character Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli proved himself king of the beach by water-skiing over a shark. Victorious as the moment may have been, it was also a far cry from the show’s otherwise traditional template. Millions of viewers at home were left scratching their heads, already wondering why and how the series had become little more than a showcase for Fonzie’s various antics. “Happy Days” would go on for many more seasons, but with that fateful episode, it had quite literally jumped the shark.
From Fonzie’s singular spectacle, a lasting cultural idiom was thus born. Then and now, a TV series is seen as having “jumped the shark” when it reaches a pointed new low in terms of quality or gimmickry. In many cases, this occurs with either the introduction of a new character or the loss of an old one. It can also take the form of an outrageous plot device, such as Fonzie water-skiing over a shark. Then there are the shows that dip in quality over time and build toward a proverbial death knell or point of no return, after which they’re never quite the same. Anything can happen as long as viewers keep tuning in… until they don’t.
Stacker surveyed the history of popular television and chose 20 shows known for having jumped the shark, in one way or another. Shows are presented in alphabetical order and IMDb user data is presented for reference.
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