Happy Days Writer Defends "Jump the Shark" Moment
More than thirty years after The Fonz' infamous water ski trick on Happy Days, the phrase "jump the shark" is among the most dreaded to hear in the TV industry.
But back in 1977, series writers including Fred Fox Jr. simply thought the stunt would be a good way to utilize actor Henry Winkler's real-life water ski skills.
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Although Fox doesn't remember who specifically penned the moment, "what I definitely remember is that no one protested vehemently; not one of us said, 'Fonzie, jump a shark? Are you out of your mind,'" he wrote in The Los Angeles Times.
The moment has since gone on to join the pop cultural zeitgeist -- and put a name to some of TV's worst moments (see Felicity's haircut and Roseanne's lottery win ). Fox still contends Happy Days was far from past its prime when The Fonz jumped the shark.
"All successful shows eventually start to decline, but this was not Happy Days' time. Consider: It was the 91st episode and the fifth season," Fox wrote. "If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes? Why did we rank among the Top 25 in five of those six seasons?"
Fox is still surprised by the phrase's staying power. "It is unfathomable to me that the shark still has its bite. But so does our show."