When TV Shows Jump The Shark

Jumping The Shark

Some shows last just long enough to end on a high note, and others try stunts that, at best, take away the magic the show once had, and at worst, change the show entirely, and that moment is when they Jump The Shark…
The phrase ‘jump the shark’ is based on a scene in the 5th Season Premiere of Happy Days When Fonzie actually jumped a shark on water skis on the show. It aired on September 20, 1977. It changed the nostalgic tone of the show. There was a website called JUMPTHESHARK.com that popularized the term; site creator Jon Hein is credited with inventing the phrase. TV Guide bought Jump The Shark website in 2006 and just let it disappear.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy died at the end of Season Five. Her friends brought her back from the dead with Season six, but she changed, and so did the show. Sure, she died before, lots of times, but most of the fun stopped with this particular resurrection. The show had introduced us to the seasonal “Big Bad” villain, and we can always be grateful for that. Season Six did give us “Once More, with Feeling” and “Tabula Rasa” – both amazing and clever episodes, but it also gave us a very out-of-proportionally powerful “big bad” – the trio of Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew. The magic was gone. The final season, seven gave us “The First” vampire menace, but went overboard in making a world-threatening event, with dozens of mini-slayers.  Season 3’s Mayor Richard Wilkins was a beggir, more believable menace and a lot more fun to watch.

I Dream of Jeannie

I Dream of Jeannie (Season 5 Episode 11) Tony married Jeannie in “The Wedding,”. I think that was the first “will they or won’t they” on television. Also, Jeannie did warn Tony (and us) repeatedly that if she ever married she would lose her powers.


Roseanne was the number one show in America, and in its first five years, it never left the top five. Some people called it when  Sarah Chalke joined the cast as the “second Becky” after Lecy Goranson left to go attend Vassar College. A lot of people liked the semi-subtle acknowledgment of a different person playing the character. But Roseanne jumped the shark in its final season. The Connors won the state lottery and suddenly became worth over $100 million, then it was later revealed that the whole Roseanne series itself was a story written by Roseanne Conner about her life. Dan had died at the end of season 8. It took a dark and unnecessary turn, for the worst.

The Office

Although the idea of a show being a little bit “self-aware” can and did work for many shows, including The Office, an inside joke or outside reason made it plausible. In the case of the staff at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, they simply had a camera crew that followed them around, often beyond the working day. The edge between being self-aware and becoming a caricature of itself took place in Season 6, Episode 4 – Niagra – the wedding of Jim and Pam. Spoofing the JK (Jill and Kevin) Wedding Entrance Dance video, dancing to Chris Brown’s Forever, from 2009.
Sure we loved to watch Pam and Jim’s nuptials at the time, but we all cringe a little bit when we look back. We expected to cry happy tears and something strange to happen but watching the series regulars dance up the aisle told us that they knew it’d be funny and maybe over the top, but it was also when the show crossed the line and became a spoof of itself. You don’t have to take my word for it. Jill and Kevin’s original video have had over 100 million views on youtube. The Office version is hovering around 4 million.

How I Met Your Mother

Season nine was designed to place in the (56) weekend hours leading up to Barney and Robin’s wedding. Ambitious, but the final episode left a lot of fans disappointed, they kept some long-standing aspects and hints about the show intact, but left out others. The one-hour series finale turned out to feel rushed and not thought-out. Cosmopolitan said, “Honestly, this is one of those finales that actually ruins the entire rest of the series.
That pretty much sums it up. On the plus side, there were 206 otherwise fun and clever episodes. You really didn’t want to know how the show ended anyway, so just don’t watch the finale. Life is supposed to be about the journey.


This was too easy. Friends – The One With Ross’s Wedding  (Season 4 Episode 24) Ross saying Rachel’s name during his wedding vows with Emily in London. Maybe it was Rachel & Ross’s actual wedding and divorce. Or, maybe when Rachel and Joey started dating (Season 8/9). Monica and Chandler’s wedding? (Season 7). some would call it Episode 7, The One with the Blackout, designed to crossover with other NBC shows that night like Mad About You and Madman of the People. Seinfeld wisely chose to not participate that evening. Then again, any time you bring an animal into the show, you are probably pushing the envelope too far. Episode 10 The One with the Blackout might have been the sharking point. Maybe it’s not so easy to decide when Friends jumped the shark.
The Friends producers described the show as “It’s about sex, love, relationships, careers, a time in your life when everything’s possible. And it’s about friendship because when you’re single and in the city, your friends are your family.” I think it was more about a bunch of hot twenty-somethings acting like barely responsible teenagers. I still ask myself, whatever happened to Ben, Ross’ son?


Like The Office, this show often walked the line between believability and becoming self-aware. Being tied to the zeitgeist, X-Files had their own episode titled Jump The Shark in Season 9, featuring the deaths of The Lone Gunmen: Melvin Frohike, John Fitzgerald Byers, and Richard Langly. Some say the show itself jumped the shark when Mulder (David Duchovny) was abducted by aliens at the end of season 7 (Episode 22), which may have had something to do with contract negotiations between David Duchovny and the show. I have to disagree, I think the show just aged a bit ungracefully- perhaps a fitting end to a mystery show that really wasn’t in a position to give any answers.


Dallas was one the most-watched primetime dramas of all time AND had one of the best cliffhangers of all time with the whole “who shot JR?” mystery in Season 3. Just over seven years later, the writers must have believed that could do no wrong, so in Season 10, Episode 1 they showed that the entire Season 9 was just Pam Ewings’ DREAM. Not only a shark-jumping moment but a huge insult to the fans who had invested in the prior season. The writers were wrong… the fans were not happy. The show did end with an annual cliffhanger.

The Brady Bunch

The Brady Bunch survived an Arizona Ghost Town and a Hawaiian Tiki Curse, but when Cousin Oliver arrived, he jinxed the show for good. 10 people in the house were one too many.

Doctor Who

The 2005 Revival has given us five Doctors so far, each presenting fans with fears to complain about, and (usually) ultimately bringing exciting and interesting one-shot adventures and a “Bag Bad” storyline running through each season. The Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whitaker was no exception to the potential controversies and pitfalls. Although a known possibly since the 1980s, new showrunner Chris Chibnall announced that the new Doctor would, in fact, be a woman. 
Concerns about overt preachiness about sexism were as strong as the cheers for a female doctor. Chris promised “an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature” and said that she “will bring loads of wit, strength, and warmth to the role.” He did that with his choice of Ms. Whitaker but failed in the lame episode-to-episode storytelling. 


Moonlighting Will They or Won’t They? They DID in Season 3 Episode 15. There were 28 more episodes, but personal problems between Cybil Shepard and Bruce Willis, and other acting gigs that messed with the schedule made the show almost unwatchable.


Scrappy-doo. Although designed to help avoid cancellation, Scrappy’s introduction in 1979, with catchphrases like “Scrappy Dappy Doo”, “Lemme at ’em!” and “Puppy Power!” have made him one of the least-liked cartoon characters of all time.

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