There are many common sayings, phrases, terms and colloquialisms that I wish would take the leap and get out of dodge and get off my plane. These include, but are not limited to:
- Twilight was a well-written series of books with totally rational and sane fans with discerning taste and completely healthy interpersonal relationships.
Also, there are people out there in the world still quoting Borat and Napoleon Dynamite, but I am certain that we’re all on the same wavelength on that one. But the phrase that dicks me off the most? “Jumping the shark.”
When the phrase originated, it had a perfect meaning and came equipped with the best of intentions. It describes the exact moment in a beloved television series when things completely went off the rails, and was to be utilized to describe that moment in other programs.
That last part hasn’t really worked out for it.
Instead, the phrase is now used to describe any moment in any TV series that pisses you off. Yes you, one single individual person, most likely on the Internet.
The latest misuse has launched this past week, following the Jim and Pam wedding episode of The Office. Per uszhe, I got on Twitter to see just how wrong people thought I was for liking it, and I counted four allegations of shark jumping among those I follow.
Let’s discuss the very term before I start yelling at people for having wrong opinions (this is the Internet, mawfucker!). “Jumping the shark” has become more ubiquitous than Starbucks, or even jokes about how ubiquitous Starbucks is, which is in and of itself more ubiquitous than Starbucks. So it’s really super all over the place. And it seems as though people have lost sight of what it is and what it refers to. The phrase stems from a dude water-skiing over a goddamn shark while wearing a leather jacket with his swim trunks. That’s ridiculous. Ridiculously awesome, but ridiculous still.
Of course this was probably not the first time Happy Days had shown signs of taking a turn for the goofy. Fonzie had been steadily gaining super powers as the show went on, and this was merely the tipping point for fans to finally say: “Dude, what the shit?” except it was the ’70s so they were probably all “*toke* Huh? *toke* Well, whip inflation now I guess.”
When Jon Hein created this magical game-changing phrase out of brain dust and sunshine, he really had the right idea. He was talking about really stupid things indicative of the writers just saying, “You know what? Fuck it.” Fonzie’s Jaws-jump, the appearance of Cousin Oliver, stars leaving their own show to be helmed by secondary characters, location changes, the culmination of sexual tension and Ted McGinley.
But today it’s used so incorrectly that it’s lost all meaning and is primarily only used by uncreative people on Internet comment threads. I dare you to go to IMDb’s forum for any given television show (don’t do it; it will hurt you in the soul place) and no matter what the program (“You know, Ken Burns really jumped the shark when he focused on Yellowstone in this park series …”), no matter how long it’s been on (“You know, this Modern Family pilot really jumped the shark when they added the Mexican kid …”), no matter anything, people will find a way to decide that it’s no longer worthy of being on the air.
The worst thing about all this? You can’t determine if a show has “jumped the shark” at least until the next episode, you wasteoids. That’s what the phrase means, that this was the moment that the show went downhill. So when people are online five minutes after the show airs rampaging about sharks and Fonzies, you already know they can’t be trusted.
I’m not saying people are wrong in disliking any moment or episode from a TV series. Hate the shit out of it, see if I care. But deciding in a single moment that an entire series is now officially degrading past the point of Small Wonder is being pretty melodramatic. Jim and Pam’s wedding is thrown off by a YouTube meme? Shark jump! Robin and Barney start dating? Shark jump! They don’t kill Kenny in every episode anymore? Shark jump! The SVU team catches another pedophile? Phil Hartman dies and they bring in Jon Lovitz? Shark jumps abound! Jesus dies in the Bible AND gets resurrected? Dude, shark jump!
The Internet contingent isn’t exactly known for giving solid chances to TV shows. Except Dollhouse. I mean seriously, we are trying really really hard to love that damn Dollhouse show. But other than that, most people don’t give anything a fair shot for longer than a season or two. Once 40 or so episodes – beloved and cherished episodes at that – have passed, the Internet elite suddenly decides that it sucks and should have been canceled and why can’t American TV work like British television and blah blah rhapsodizing on Battlestar blah blah.
Come on guys. All we should be asking of TV shows is that they make us laugh, make us think, or at the very least give us a somewhat enjoyable 22 – 42 minutes. Do we really demand perfection on a weekly basis? If you’re reading this column, probably not, but the fact still stands that we should at least try enjoy the things we enjoy instead of spending our free time being pissed at stuff. Call me crazy, but at the end of the day we should think outside of the box and just like things. It is what it is. Vote for Pedro.
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.