The Happiest Shark Jump On Earth
On Sept. 20, 1977, pop culture history was written.
It was episode three of season five of Happy Days. It was called “Hollywood: Part 3,” the final episode of a storyline, which saw Arthur Fonzarelli and Richie Cunningham attempting to make a name for themselves in show business.
That was also the “jump the shark” episode.
The rest is history. Some 20 years later, “jump the shark” would create a stir online as the term used when a TV show takes a certain plot turn in an effort to remain relevant or, possibly, when the show starts to go downhill.
(By the way, a tiramisu cannot jump the shark. Nor can a pair of shoes, a diet fad, a band or E-readers. Just because something gets culturally oversaturated, bad or played out doesn’t mean it jumped the shark. Let’s keep it real.)
I tend to disagree with the latter. If the “jump the shark” moment is when the show starts to go downhill, if I can maintain the analogy, then that would make The Fonz waterski jumping over a circle of sharks the veritable apex of Happy Days, and that’s simply not true.
Happy Days was always a terrible show. The episode was just an attempt to catch interest and put The Fonz in a tough spot. In theory, I would say the entire plotline of them going to Hollywood was the true “jump the shark” moment. Or, that once the boys graduated high school, the show should’ve ended.
This brings me to Modern Family.
I made an appointment to catch the latest episode of the ABC Emmy-winning hit comedy because it had “shark jump” material oozing from it. The family goes to Disneyland.
The “On Location” jump the shark is not an actual category on the website. It should be with Full House being one of the most egregious perpetrators after they were “stranded” on the island along with about 1,000 other people including The Beach Boys.
I’d like to think I was in on the ground floor for Modern Family. I watched religiously the first two seasons. Thought it was clever, a tad edgy and, simply, funny.
To be perfectly honest, Modern Family, as much as I might love it, jumped the shark in the first episode of the third and current season. The episode: “Dude Ranch.” Another “On Location” shark jump where the family (who travels like this?) spend time at dude ranch. Hijinks ensue. It’s a forced episode including the inexplicable departure of boyfriend Dylan.
(The Disneyland episode was not only a shark jump, but a case of selling out, so to speak, as The Disney Company owns the American Broadcasting Company and the shoehorning of rides in the dialogue was borderline sickening, i.e. “Ethan and I want to go to Haunted Mansion!” “You guys want to go to the Matterhorn?!” and “Hey! How was Splash Mountain?!” Get to Disneyland this summer!!!)
To go back further, Modern Family really lost its edge after that firestorm of a first season when it got all that media attention and the cast were suddenly best buds, as in they were shown to be a really tight-knit group that generally cared for each other. This dulled the show for me a bit. The same thing has happened to The Office, another favorite, which has jumped the shark, circled around and jumped it another half dozen times. The animosity betwixt characters that fuels shows like 30 Rock, Arrested Development and Parks and Recreation are lost on Modern Family and The Office (among others).
Modern Family also has suffered the same fate of many shows: It’s stale. Anymore, it’s a cookie-cutter format of Cam and Mitch disagreeing based on their personal foibles, Jay and Gloria arguing and a parent vs. parent vs. kid dynamic with Phil and Claire. Meanwhile, the two kids are dumb and the other two are precociously obnoxious. Mix in an overload of Fizbo the Clown and it’s become a show that is being outdone by the shows running behind it (Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B …).
Modern Family jumped the shark. Debate when and where and how all you want. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on its shelf life. It can only go downhill.
Just ask Ralph the Mouth.
Crib Keeper’s Note:
As long as they keep Sofia Vergara in plunging necklines, I’ll be watching.