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28/08/2012 10:14 BST | Updated 28/10/2012 05:12 GMT

A Guide to Jumping the Shark

In September 1977, an episode of Happy Days changed the world forever. In 'Hollywood Part 3', The Fonz jumps over a shark to prove how brave he is. The episode marked the beginning of what is seen as a downward spiral for the series.

In September 1977, an episode of Happy Days changed the world forever. In 'Hollywood Part 3', The Fonz jumps over a shark to prove how brave he is. The episode marked the beginning of what is seen as a downward spiral for the series. After this incident, the series' plots became more outlandish and unrealistic, and audiences gradually turned off. Borne out of this example, the phrase 'jump the shark' refers to an event (or events) in a television series that signals a drop in quality, and eventually leads to the show's demise. Here are three television shows that have jumped the shark for one reason or another:

  • The OC (2003 - 2007; should've ended in 2006)

When The OC began airing in 2003, it was an instant hit. The prime time soap opera, set in the wealthy California town of Newport Beach, was particularly popular with younger viewers. This was likely due to the show's focus on the trials and tribulations its teenage characters (well they were supposed to be teenagers, the majority of the actors playing them were pushing 30). As a soap, The OC got away with many crazy plot twists ('My mum is sleeping with my boyfriend!' 'My girlfriend is my aunt!'), because it comes with the territory. However, the series' shark-jumping moment occurred the moment Mischa Barton left. Well, the moment the producers decided to continue the show after Mischa Barton left. Her character Marissa's death at the end of the third season, just as the characters were graduating, was a natural ending for the series. Instead, the show's fans were given a flat-footed and awkward 4th season. There were no memorable plot lines, and the season was shortened due to its early cancellation. 

  • The X-Files (1993 - 2002; should've ended in 2000)

In its prime, The X-Files mastered the art of brilliant storytelling with the combination of mythology episodes and stand-alone ones. However, the show was always centred on the relationship between the two central characters: Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. That's why it was such a stupid idea to continue the series after David Duchovny's Mulder was abducted at the end of the seventh season. Despite the efforts of replacement Robert Patrick (one of the worst actors in the universe), the magic of the series had disappeared. The show managed to last two more painfully mediocre seasons before the creators decided to call it quits. Two years too late if you ask me.

  • Glee (2009 - present; should've ended in 2010)

Ah, Glee. You started out with such promise. In 2009, when you couldn't swing a cat without hitting a crime investigation/hospital drama, Glee brightened up the TV landscape a bit. The show had a host of interesting characters, witty writing and the novelty of musical numbers. However, its descent into utter ridiculousness is almost admirable in its rapidity. When the show returned from its first winter hiatus, the seeds of mediocrity were planted. Glee's writers decided to forego character development and do an episode solely as a tribute to Madonna. Furthermore, famous faces starting making cameos in the show for no obvious reasons (Neil Patrick Harris, Olivia Newton-John). 

These mistakes could've been forgiven if they were only momentary. They weren't. The show was becoming popular though, so Ryan Murphy (the creator of Glee), in his almighty wisdom, decided to make the second season an explosion of random tribute episodes and obvious stunt casting. The popularity of the show's music in the charts has also taken ahold of its creativity. By choosing current music rather than songs that would benefit the story, Glee has becoming a walking advertisement for its own merchandise. The elements that made the series strong in the beginning are gone. With no narrative coherence and a stupidly-large cast, the show hasn't just jumped the shark. It has cleared the whole fucking beach.