Where does the phrase ‘jumping the shark’ come from?

6 Jan

I don’t think I would want to be Henry Winkler.

Now, I don’t mean anything bad by that as I’m sure he has enjoyed a wonderful life. And he’s certainly racked up some pretty cool acting credits, including Arrested Development, one of my favourite ever TV shows.

But he also played The Fonz on Happy Days and I bet there’s not a day gone by when he hasn’t suffered for the character’s memorable catchphrases and gestures.

As a seasoned pro, I’m sure Henry smiles politely yet resignedly every time some tool cocks his thumbs outwards and throws a guttural ‘eeeehhhh’ his way, no doubt assuming he’s the first person ever to think of doing it (he’s not). But I would have snapped about the 10,000,000 time and reached for something pointy and lethal, which would mean I was writing this from jail.

And that would be no fun.

But anyway, I digress. Because as it turns out, Henry is also partly responsible for the phrase ‘jumping the shark’, albeit in a very roundabout way.

I went looking for the origins of this expression after a debate with friends about whether Buffy the Vampire Slayer jumped the shark in season four with The Initiative (it did not).

And it didn’t take me long to discover its background, courtesy of an LA Times article, which began as follows…

In 1987, Jon Hein and his roommates at the University of Michigan were drinking beer and had Nick at Nite playing in the background. They started talking about classic TV shows when someone asked, “What was the precise moment you knew it was downhill for your favorite show?” One said it was when Vicki came on board The Love Boat. Another thought it was when the Great Gazoo appeared on The Flintstones. Sean Connolly offered, “That’s easy: It was when Fonzie jumped the shark.” As Hein later recounted, there was silence in the room: “No explanation necessary, the phrase said it all.”

What was even more interesting about the article was that it was written by a man named Fred Fox Jr, who had a vested interest in the matter as he actually wrote that particular Happy Days episode. And believes it gets a rough deal.

You can decide for yourself by reading what he has to say here, but in the meantime, did you know  The Fonz actuallywent head to head with Tom Hanks on the show?

Watch the video below and then join me in wondering why the Karate Kid never came calling . . .

One Response to “Where does the phrase ‘jumping the shark’ come from?”


  1. Hooniverse Asks- What Car has Totally Jumped the Shark? | Hooniverse - October 4, 2013

    […] Image source: WhatCanILearnToday […]

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