"I Did NOT Jump The Shark!" Says TV Writer Who Pioneered Shark Jumping

Just thought that y'all might find this commentary piece from the Los Angeles Times to be of interest--I know I did: "In defense of 'Happy Days' ' 'Jump the Shark' episode". It's a commentary piece by Fred Fox Jr., the writer who penned the episode of Happy Days where Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (played by Henry Winkler) ski jumped over a shark.

Since the term "Jump the Shark" has been around since 1985, it's kind of odd to read this piece so long after the term first appeared. Fox uses his commentary to defend his creative decisions when writing the episode, and how the term "Jumping the Shark" does not apply to his episode in the context of Happy Days and its popularity. Yet for all of the assertions and recollections that he makes, Fox fails to cite the most obvious reason why this particular stunt was put in Happy Days in the first place: to capitalize on the popularity of Jaws and the anticipation of its then-upcoming sequel Jaws 2. For shame Mr. Fox, FOR SHAME, for not acknowledging that you wrote an episode to capitalize on the popularity of a hit movie, Jaws, for a sitcom that was produced to capitalize on the popularity of yet another hit movie, American Graffiti.


All you have to do is look at the poster for Jaws 2 to figure out why Happy Days would have a water skier and a shark, even though it's a sitcom that takes place during the 1950s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Furthermore, Jaws 2 was in production while this Happy Days episode was written and produced (it finally aired in September 1977, less than a year before the sequel opened in theaters) so it's not unreasonable to conclude that the show's producers got word of the movie's ski attack scene and thought that Fonzie + shark = prime time ratings bonanza due to the popularity of Jaws and interest in Jaws 2. Heck, I saw this episode when it first aired and although I wasn't even in kindergarten yet, even I could figure out that this episode was jumping on (over?) the Jaws bandwagon. (For what it's worth, the shark jumping episode was a big ratings hit for ABC after all.)

Yours truly, in my prepubescent
water-skier-eating monster shark attire

In light of this, I propose that all sitcoms should have more sharks in them--preferably, a giant monster shark that suddenly appears and eats a major character, at least once per season, and perhaps a closing "feeding frenzy" scene with multiple sharks for the last episode of a sitcom that has been cancelled. I especially recommend this for sitcoms which air on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. That's the kind of shark jumping I can support.


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