Writer of Happy Days Jump The Shark Episode Protests Too Much
When 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.