TV Tropes is a great website to learn about tropes. You know, those characters, archetypes, or other elements that show up in virtually every story ever! The problem is that every article also includes mentions of every other trope even remotely related to the one your reading. You can get lost there for hours going through them all. But what if you’re just there because everybody in your Game Of Thrones forum starts bringing all of these terms up and you have no idea what they’re talking about?
That’s where BW Media Spotlight has you covered, people. I had thought about doing a video series called “Trope Watch” but that would take a lot of editing and hunting clips and images. So I decided on the article route and while trying to come up with a logo I decided it had to have a shark connection. To make a long story short the title became “Trope Shark”, a bite-sized (:) ) examination of a trope, featuring a definition, origin, and some examples that the average person might be aware of. And what better trope to start with than the one everyone knows about and influenced the title and logo you see above? Our first trope for this new series?
Jumping The Shark
Definition: from TV Tropes: “The moment when an established TV show changes in a significant manner in an attempt to stay fresh. Ironically, that moment makes the viewers realize that the show’s finally run out of ideas. It’s reached its peak, it’ll never be the same again, and from now on it’s all downhill. ”
Actually, it should be noted that this doesn’t always mean the end of the series. A show could jump the shark and yet regain it’s credibility with a fresh team or a new idea that saves the show. It then could jump the shark again further down the road.
Origin: The expression comes from the Happy Days episode “Hollywood”, in which the characters were Fonzie is picked out by talent scouts. In the third part, Fonzie is challenged by a rival to go waterskiing, which he does in his classic leather jacket of course. The point was that Fonzie’s portrayer, Henry Winkler, wanted to show of his own water skiing skills and the show was taking place in LA for the episode instead of the usual Milwaukee. This leads to the infamous moment, as Fonzie jumps a shark.
The term was actually coined by Jon Hein, who actually started a website discussing TV shows that lost their steam. The website he started for it now goes to TV Guide but you might be able to find jumpingtheshark.com in the Internet Archive site. There’s actually a follow-up term now called thanks to Time magazine called, “nuking the fridge” after that scene in the fourth Indiana Jones movie where Indy jumps into an old lead-lined refrigerator to escape a nuclear blast and goes flying far away. Because the Indiana Jones franchise was always known for its realistic escapes, right? TV Tropes says that this new term may be more sudden but that points to a problem with the term.
The question comes as to whether or not something applies as “jumping the shark”. It can be subjective. Maybe someone likes the gimmicks that were added to the show. Maybe it’s the character change that ruined the show for someone, like when Ritchie (supposedly the main character) left the show and it became pretty much the Fonz’s show? And how would you know if a show full of crazy things like Adventure Time or Monty Python’s Flying Circus did something too crazy to take the show seriously anymore? When did Spongebob Squarepants cross that line? Because jumping the shark depends on your tastes. Sometimes a show’s changes can be a good thing or something like water ski jumping over a shark doesn’t bother anyone. There’s even some debate whether or not Fonzie jumping the shark in fact jumped the shark or if Indy jumping into a fridge made any less sense than his other escapes. It’s hardly the most bizarre thing the Fonz did in this series, even ignoring the nightmare where his coolness was transferred into a robot. I almost went with the time Fonzie fought the space alien Mork from Ork but the later Mork & Mindy series turned Ritchie’s nightmare into actual canon. (Not sure how Mork could visit Fonzie in the 50’s when Mork & Mindy was set in modern times but that’s another argument.)
So while this is where I would put some examples that’s rather difficult under the circumstances. Try listing some in the comments and see what others say. The next installment of Trope Shark should have better examples of the tropes examined. I hope I’ve helped explain the concept of jumping the shark, a term that even gets used to describe something that happened in real life that seems so strange it’s hard to believe, even if you actually saw it. In my day we used to say “now I’ve seen everything/it all”.
“In my day”. I must be getting old.