Writer of Happy Days Jump The Shark Episode Protests Too Much

FonzieJumpingShark_500.pngWhen a television series suddenly takes a turn for the worse after previously being successful, it's said to have jumped the shark -- lovingly named after the episode of Happy Days when Fonzie jumped a shark in a water skiing competition. And now Fred Fox Jr., the writer of that episode, has penned an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times that claims actually that episode wasn't that bad.

The whole article is a bit muddled: part of the time he's fobbing off the blame to others -- it wasn't my idea to go to California! I was assigned the episode by the showrunner! Garry Marshall probably came up with the idea of Fonzie jumping the shark! -- and in other parts he's discounting the idea that the shark jumping was indicative of any decline in quality, using high ratings and and a further six seasons of shows as evidence that they stayed awesome.

Which is true. Happy Days marched grimly forward for an additional 164 episodes after Fonzie jumped that shark. Just like According to Jim had an eight-year, 182 episode run while Arrested Development only had 53 episodes. Length isn't indicative of quality, quality is. And I think Fox is missing the point as to what "Jumping the Shark" really means -- it's a moment where a show trades its previous characterization and tone for something silly or outlandish or stunty or out of character. Which, in the case of a show that originally began as the story of a group of teenagers in mid-century America and ended as a set-piece for Henry Winkler and his leather jacket, can probably be traced to Fonzie water-skiing over a shark.

· First Person: In defense of 'Happy Days' ' 'Jump the Shark' episode [LAT]


  • TurdBlossom says:

    Fred should just embrace his contribution to pop culture terminology (suck it up) instead of fighting it. "Jumping the shark" is a still a oft used term, even to a generation that has never even seen an episode of Happy Days.

  • metroville says:

    Brian Bonsall would like to settle this matter with Fred Fox Jr. via a crystal meth cookoff.
    Should Fox win, the term "jumping the shark" will be retired forever; should Bonsall win, the term will be replaced by "cooking the meth" and Fox will submit to being chained in the maintenance closet of Bonsall's step-grandmother's apartment building until such time as he (A) convinces Bonsall that he is not related to Michael J. Fox and therefore does not know his home phone number or (B) learns to cook crystal meth.

  • Wellie says:

    In the words of Troy from the season finale of Community, "For the record, there was an episode of 'Happy Days' where a guy LITERALLY JUMPED A SHARK. And it was the BEST ONE!"

  • topsyturvy says:

    Had Mr. Fox penned this article seven or eight years ago before the phrase "jump the shark" had jumped the shark ...

  • The Winchester says:

    That's nothing, you should read Spielberg's "Nuke The Fridge" dissertation in the Wall Street Journal.

  • TurdBlossom says:

    Is this an example of an irony, or a paradox?

  • Me says:

    I was there when the phrase Nuke The fridge was born at the imdb message boards. It remains my proudest moment.

  • LotharZogg says:

    Anytime a word or phrase with an original and distinct meaning like "jump the shark" appears in the lexicon, it's a day to rejoice. In this case, there was never any snappy way of expressing that something exciting had begun to wane or sag at a certain juncture i.e. Niles Crane finally hooking up with Daphne, Meathead and Gloria moving to the west coast. We don't have to agree on when something jumped the shark and we never will, but it's nice when you can reduce a verbose explanation down to three words. It makes for quicker communication.

  • anonymous says:

    I love the biased views in these articles. It's like they're not even reporting the news--as Stephen Colbert once said, they "feel the news at you."
    Regardless, there was rarely a time when I did not enjoy a Happy Days episode as a child--this includes the episode where Fonzie jumped a shark. And I still think it's awesome to this day.

  • topsyturvy says:

    I would counter that All in the Family jumped the shark when Gloria and Meathead moved next door into the Jefferson's house.

  • The Cantankerist says:

    "there was rarely a time when I did not enjoy a Happy Days episode as a child"
    Is there any other way?

  • Trace says:

    At least they were nice enough to link you the article that they were feeling.

  • Tony Bongle says:

    Wow, this posts shows that you really know and feel passionately about this subject. I've never taken the time to comment before, but I just had to let you know how much I appreciate your honesty and candor.

  • I agree with Fox. I feel that viewers tend to over-react. Or in his words: "Over-reactimundo".

  • Art Setera says:

    This makes good reading, looking at this blog has made me think about it a lot more know and I shall make an intelligent choice about it.

  • Wow, Lady Gaga was awarded 8 VMA prizes this year! I am extremely proud of her wins and I enjoyed the Born This Way tune Lady GaGa sung too.