Wednesday, November 23, 2005

My Brain Hurts

Last night Bravo was showing a repeat of Happy Days Reunion. Think about this for a moment. In 2005, I was watching a show produced in the 1980s about a show in the 1970s which was supposed to be taking place in the 1950s.

Now if they could just work That 70s Show in somehow the universe would implode.

Speaking of Happy Days, by coincidence earlier yesterday I came across the Wikipedia's definition of Jumping the Shark which is probably Happy Day's lasting contribution to modern culture.

If you are not familiar with the term, it refers to an episode where the Fonz was water skiing (in his leather jacket) and jumped over a shark. This is considered the moment when the show officially changed from being about the Cunningham family to it being about the Fonz's stunts. The term is now used to denote the point when a show abandons its original premise and suffers a loss of quality. In many cases this also leads to the show's cancellation. In other cases the show was headed for cancellation and producers tried to breath some life into it by introducing a major change. There are also cases where a show continues after one or more major character left by adding new characters and making others more prominent.

This brings me back to That 70s Show. The show centered around high school-aged Eric Foreman, his family, and his friends, particularly his relationship with the hot girl next door.

Supporting cast members have floated in and out over the years but the show always had a core of eight actors. Now two of them left and a new lead character was added. The show still has some laughs but the premise is really strained. The show has been stuck in 1979 for years. The actors are now 5-10 years older than their characters. Everyone graduated but most of them still spend their time hanging out and getting stoned in the Foremans' basement, even though Eric is long gone.

This is a prime example of a show that has jumped the shark but was not allowed to die a graceful death.
The official Jump the Shark website lets you vote on when (if ever) a show jumped the shark.

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