Jumping the Shark

Jumping the Shark

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"Jumping the Shark" is an idiomatic expression describing a pivotal moment when a successful creative effort begins a significant decline in quality. While originally coined to describe outrageous and absurd television episodes, the term has since been used in a wide variety of contexts.


The expression comes from a scene in the 1977 fifth season premiere episode of the American sitcom Happy Days titled "Holywood: Part 3," in which the character Fonzie (played by Henry Winkler) performs a water-ski jump over a caged shark (shown below).[3]

The scene was widely criticized for being gimmicky and disregarding a previous episode in which Fonzie injuries himself performing a jump with his motorcycle. In 1985, American radio personality John Hein's roommate coined the phrase "jumping the shark" while the pair were discussing popular television shows that gradually degraded in quality. In 1997, Hein launched the website JumpTheShark as a database cataloging pivotal moments when television shows had gone downhill (shown below).

Jump The Shia It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on.it's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it jumping the shark. From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same Top 10 Vote Getters 1. The X-Files 2. The Simpsons 3. Xena: Warrior Princess 4. Friends 5. Highlander . Beerly Hills. 90210 9. Seinfeld 10. South Park Shows Added votes! Flo Enos be CHiPs Party Of Five The Waltons Get Smart


In 2000, Hein appeared on the Howard Stern Show to discuss "jumping the shark," further increasing the website's popularity. On October 21st, 2003, an entry for "jump the shark" was submitted to Urban Dictionary,[1] defining the phrase as "a moment when somethin that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity." In 2005, the character Barry (played by Henry Winkler) in the television sitcom Arrested Development jumps over a shark while water-skiing (shown below).

In 2006, Hein sold the website to the media company Gemstar. After the company removed all fan contributions to the site, many speculated Gemstar was attempting to censor negative statements regarding television shows in the company's publication TV Guide. TV Tropes contains an entry for "Jumping the Shark," containing a comprehensive list of examples.

"Nuking the Fridge"

In 2008, a similar term known as "Nuking the Fridge" was coined in reference to an infamous scene in the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, in which the titular hero survives a nuclear bombing by hiding inside a refrigerator. The phrase is meant to pinpoint the precise outrageous moment that manages to discredit the dramatic effectiveness of everything that follows in a story.

"Frying the Coke"

In 2011, Doug Walker (a.k.a. The Nostalgia Critic) coined the term "Frying the Coke" in his review of the film Double Team, calling it a successor to both "jumping the shark" and "nuking the fridge." Walker defines "frying the coke" as an outrageous moment that may serve to thrill and entertain more than it does to undermine a work's credibility. In the Double Team scene that this term comes from, the protagonists survive a large explosion (itself an already-spectacular display taking place in a colosseum) by shielding themselves with a Coca-Cola vending machine.

Search Interest

External References

[1] Urban Dictionary – jump the shark

[2] TV Tropes – Jumping the Shark

[3] Wikipedia – Jumping the shark

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Top Comments

Emmanuel Asiegbu
Emmanuel Asiegbu

You forgot one thing:
“Jumping the couch,” after Tom Cruise’s infamous loss of his mind on Oprah. It’s the moment where a person finally goes off the deep end.

Examples of couch-jumping
-Kylie Jenner trying to trademark the name Kylie.
-Kevin Federline’s infamous album.
-The Fine Bros.’ React World.
-Sonic the Hedgehog 2006.
-Nickelodeon’s Nick Studio 10 block.
-Rick Snyder’s entire existence.
-Ann Coulter’s entire existence.
-Donald Trump’s entire existence.

Colonel Sandor
Colonel Sandor

Remember kiddos, Happy Days was a show filmed before irony or self-awareness were part of pop culture. It’s always amazed me how Happy Days requires, at times, a greater suspension of disbelief than a show like Gilligan’s Island does.

Oh, and TV Guide bought jumptheshark.com to shut down internet criticism of TV shows?


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