Where the Phrase “Jumped the Shark” Comes From

January 17, 2012 at 2:00 am 6 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Someone who has always been a good friend to me is my buddy Rick. He is always good for new ideas and he happens to be a TV fanatic.

Two seasons after LOST started, Rick knew I’d love the show. He ran down the plot summary from the first two seasons over lunch and I was hooked before I even saw the show. Another time, he was telling me about a show he liked but was unhappy because it had “jumped the shark.” I wasn’t familiar with the phrase so he explained it to me.

In 1977, during the the fifth season of the TV series Happy Days, the character Fonzie was water skiing and literally jumped over a shark. You can see it in this clip:

The show had been extremely popular, but this stunt was a pivotal point which marked a steady downturn in the quality of the show. It was a grave departure from the stories in previous seasons and seemed to indicate that the writers had run out of ideas.

These days, the phrase is generally used to indicate that something is past its prime or has reached a point that is the beginning of an end.

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Photo: Bill Ward (cc)

Sources: Rick … and wikipedia (Jumping the Shark)

Entry filed under: Entertainment, History and Origins. Tags: , , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lee S.  |  January 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    One of the writers involved with writing that episode disputes that Happy Days began to decline at that point: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/03/entertainment/la-et-jump-the-shark-20100903

  • 2. Ken  |  January 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    The writer mentions that the expression was first used in 1987 and then soon after, a web page was put up with that domain name. There wasn’t any web at that time. No web, no web browsers, no available .com domains for sale.

    • 3. Lee S.  |  January 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Yeah, the article’s writer got the date wrong by a decade, as a whois on jumptheshark.com will show it was creayed in 1997, but that doesn’t negate what was said about the show continuing on for several years after that episode.

  • 4. Joe F  |  April 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    So far you haven’t “jumped the shark!” :-)
    Joe F

  • 5. Dan Gilles (@ExAequali)  |  January 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    And then LOST jumped the shark…

  • 6. Robert  |  December 20, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    jumptheshark.com was bought out by TV Guide. The original jumpetheshark is now bonethefish.com


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