Jumping the shark

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Fonzie jumping over a confined tiger shark on water skis, the scene that led to the downfall of Happy Days. Also the trope namer.

Jumping the shark is an idiom used by critics to describe media making something to attract attention and stay relevant and ending up introducing something absurd that finally reveals to the public that the writers of the show have most likely and definitely ran out of ideas, and in worst-case scenarios, may never produce another good episode again.

The trope also has an opposite named “Growing the Beard”, in which a series begins to become noticeably better in quality.

Notable shows that jumped the shark

  1. Happy Days: The first example of "jumping the shark" and also the trope namer. After the Season 4 episode "Hollywood: Part 3", the show centered around Fonzie and his friends, throwing away the Cunningham family (because he was the most popular character), and quality nosedived as a result. Fan consensus is that, of its eleven seasons, only the first four and a half are worth watching. The aforementioned episode in itself also disappointed the public, because in it Fonzie literally jumps over a tiger shark while riding on water skis, ignoring and undoing his character's development and creating a blatant and huge discrepancy, as in an earlier episode he got badly injured after having jumped with a motorcycle over more than a dozen of barrels and thus claimed he would never do such a dangerous thing again.
  2. The Simpsons: After the infamous episode "The Principal and the Pauper", the series has been continuously trying to create shocking moments and episodes, such as killing off Rabbi Krustofski or having Homer and Marge undergo a fake divorce as part of ratings traps in a desperate attempt to keep ratings from sagging. This is arguably the show with the most "jump the shark" moments in television history.
  3. Family Guy: In Season 7's episode, "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven", Brian admitted he is an atheist and yet, met Jesus earlier that season. This episode led to a major plot hole and a bad plot twist. That was not the only time. In the episode "Life of Brian", Brian is run over and killed by a car but comes back only two episodes later. This was a dirty trick by the writers to gain views and also possibly the biggest "Jump the Shark" moment in TV history, cementing the series' decline and setting these seasons' bad reputation in stone.
  4. The Fairly OddParents: In the Season 6, they introduced Poof. Since then, many people felt that the show relied too much on "whacky baby shenanigans" even though most of the episodes in Season 6 including the following seasons afterward did not even revolved around Poof nor did he change the dynamic between Timmy Turner, Cosmo and Wanda that much. However, the show truly started to take a nosedive in Season 7 following the debut of Ray DeLaurentis as head writer and co-executive producer alongside creator Butch Hartman's supposedly declining interest. Then, things got worse in Season 9 with the introduction of Sparky, a fairy dog that would be the new mascot of Timmy. Fortunately, he was taken off after the ninth season. But the straw that broke the camel's back was in Season 10, where they introduced Chloe Carmichael, an utter Mary Sue. Her introduction (along with the tenth season's terrible quality similar to that of the previous season) ended up canceling the series.
    • It has been speculated that the reason for this is so that Hartman could move on to other projects; it was only when he left Nickelodeon several months after the show's final episode aired that the show was officially canceled.
  5. Scooby-Doo: The show Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo introduced Scrappy-Doo, Scooby's cousin, who is a really annoying character and acts as if he is the "savior" in almost every episode. In addition, every Mystery Gang character except for Scooby and Shaggy was removed at the time. Fortunately, he got better once Don Messick replaced Lennie Weinrib as Scrappy's voice, though he was later removed starting with A Pup Named Scooby-Doo!. Warner Bros., the current owners of Hanna-Barbera, have all but distanced themselves from him (the few times he got recognition were his role as the main villain in the 2002 live-action film and a small hate cameo in Mystery Incorporated). However, this could all change in the future because the hate towards him has been getting tiresome and it’s been beating a dead horse.
  6. Avengers Assemble: Season 5 only focused on Black Panther and it being a one-show Replacement Scrappy as it displaced the superior Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
  7. Bunk'd: Season 3 removed Xander, Jorge, Tiffany, Hazel (who has later returned in the Season 4 episode, “Inn Trouble”) and Griff from the show have been replaced by three new characters, Matteo, Finn and Destiny. What’s worse is that Season 4 also removed Emma, Ravi and Zuri from the show as well, getting them replaced with Gwen, Ava and Noah. Season 5 removed Gwen from the show and replaced her with Parker Preston. Finally in Season 6, Ava, Matteo and Finn have been removed from the series making them replaced with Winnie, Jake and Bill. This makes the show barely a Jessie spinoff.
  8. Bizaardvark: Despite this being a good thing, the show removed Dirk Mann (Who was portrayed by infamous YouTuber, Jake Paul) in Season 2 and in Season 3 they added Zane and Rodney as replacements.
  9. Mr. Pickles (Momma Named Me Sheriff): Its disastrous Season 4 premiere/series finale shifted the focus to Sheriff with Mr. Pickles being killed off.
  10. Oggy and the Cockroaches: In Season 5, it switched from modern-day to the past and future, although there was more variety of characters and it stayed true to the previous seasons. By Season 6 onwards, the series generally stopped doing any new episodes in favor of remastering the episodes from Season 1-3, resulting to nothing new.
  11. Mom: The show removed Violet (despite being a good thing she was removed) and Roscoe after Season 4 and the show keeps adding characters, despite being likable characters, they were kind of unnecessary because they’re just added to get more tea and drama in this sitcom.
  12. Family Feud: The Bullseye round was added in 1992 (each family starts with $5,000 and all five members must build up their bank for Fast Money), considerably slowing down gameplay and lowering ratings, making producers try out gimmicks like celebrity episodes and eventually leading to Ray Combs' abrupt firing in 1994. Said round was retooled as the Bankroll round for Richard Dawson's comeback season (in which only one member of each family plays), making it somewhat better, but it was too late. It made an unwelcome return for John O'Hurley's final season (2009-2010), before being removed for good in the Steve Harvey era.
  13. Ben 10: This show is all over the place for jumping the shark. In the Season 1 finale, Ben gains Vilgax's DNA which makes Gax (who is basically Vilgax), but he was soon killed off along with Upgrade. In Season 2, Ben gained Omni-Enhanced forms. However, in the Season 2 finale "Innervasion", Shock Rock becomes a villain and loses his Omni-Enhanced forms, Overflow, Grey Matter, and Wildvine after the Omnitrix reboots again.
  14. King of the Hill: In Season 9, the series introduced Lucky who would later become Luanne's husband. He was hated by fans and many consider him the moment that the show's decline would begin. Not only that but Season 9 was when Peggy Hill has gone to the point of no return. She was horribly Flanderized into a very annoying and ungrateful woman who has now become troublesome for her family (yes, even Lucky), and is considered to be the worse housewife in cartoon history, alongside modern Lois Griffin.
  15. The Smurfs (1981): Season 5-8 introduced Grandpa Smurf, The Smurflings, Puppy, Nanny Smurf, and Smoogle to boost ratings, although these seasons were still decent. The last season, however, focused on the Smurfs time-traveling rather than stopping Gargamel due to NBC's wishes.
  16. The Flintstones: The final season introduced the Great Gazoo, a very annoying alien from the future (when the series was set in the Stone Age) who only Fred, Barney and child characters could see.
  17. The Ren & Stimpy Show: The fifth and last season killed characters like Powdered Toast Man in Dinner Party, Muddy Mudskipper in Terminal Stimpy and Wilbur Cobb in The Last Temptation, although fortunately Powdered Toast Man was brought back in the Nicktoons MLB game in 2011.
  18. The Brady Bunch: The final six episodes introduced Cousin Oliver, who was meant to be a replacement for the aging Bobby.
  19. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): In Season 9, the show got rid of Shredder and Krang, replacing them with a more generic villain named Lord Dregg. It also introduced Carter, a teenage boy who occasionally mutated into an Incredible Hulk-type monster to the turtle team. This was in the midst of a change in tone for the series in general, as it became edgier in appearance right down to a Gotham-like red sky.
  20. Thomas & Friends: 2010 saw the introduction of the Logging Locos and they would be constantly used in almost every episode these engines are in from Season 14-16 due to HiT trying to boost in more ratings for Thomas. They were eventually removed from the series after Season 16. Season 22 (also known as Big World! Big Adventures!) saw Edward, Henry and Toby being reduced as recurring/secondary characters with Nia and Rebecca all because Toby has his own shed at Arlesdale End and also because Edward and Henry moved out of Tidmouth Sheds for respective reasons. This is also due to another fact that Tidmouth Sheds had seven engine berths and not eight, nine, or ten. Mattel could’ve gotten rid of the Steam Team premise since it's not needed for the original series anymore, but they didn't do that until Season 24 ended.
  21. Dragon Ball GT: Turned Goku back into a child in the very first episode.
  22. Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015): Bumblebee becomes the new leader of the Autobots and got a redesign with huge shoulders due to Hasbro executives wanting to increase toy sales and appeal towards children.
  23. Doctor Who (2005 revival): Season 11 is the debut season of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor. It appealed more to social justice warriors and feminists than anything else.
  24. Laverne and Shirley: Season 6 when the girls move from Milwaukee to Burbank. Granted there were still some good episodes in this era, but it is not looked upon fondly by Laverne and Shirley fans. It all hit the fan by the eighth and final season, when Cindy Williams quit the show, leaving it without one of the title characters (who stayed in the title anyway, for some reason).
  25. Once Upon a Time: As the show went on, it got repetitive (new curse must be overcome, probably is all about Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin somehow, rinse, repeat), centered around a core group of characters and thus wasted other really good, underused semi-regulars, and Disney's thumbprints became more obvious with the insistence of using Frozen characters and certain characters unsubtly looking like their animated counterparts. But the straw that broke the camel's back was the last season, when half or so of the stars left the show leading to a soft reboot.
  26. Are You Being Served?: Two words: Mr. Spooner.
  27. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The episode Intimidation Game was filled to the brim with SJW propaganda.
  28. House of Cards US: Season 6 after lead actor Kevin Spacey was fired because of accusations of sexual misconduct, forcing them to completely rewrite the entire season at the last minute to make his character's wife, played by Robin Wright, the new lead character. The resulting season ends up not being able to decide whether to make Wright's character more sympathetic, or just the same as her husband, and ends with what many have called the absolute worst finale episode of any TV show in history - the finale currently has a rating of just 2.7/10 on IMDb!
  29. Game of Thrones: The seventh and eighth seasons, after they ran out of material from George R. R. Martin's books to adapt to the screen. Most episodes of those seasons aren't actually too bad compared to everything else on this list, but the second half of the eighth season was where things went horribly wrong, with numerous stupid plot twists, anticlimactic deaths of main characters, and an ending that was a colossal let-down. One of the leading theories for the show’s decline is that showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss rushed the series on purpose so they could focus on their upcoming Star Wars project, which they eventually quit working on.
  30. How I Met Your Mother: Season 9, due to the show's writers coming up with a silly gimmick of setting the entire season across a weekend, basically forcing them to write the episodes in real-time. When they realized that wasn't working, they started resorting to flashback episodes and even stupider gimmicks, like an episode where all the characters speak in rhyming verse. And worst of all, the series finale basically undid everything that had taken place in the previous three or four seasons just so that Ted could start dating Robyn again.
  31. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: Season 7 introduced the clock format, and such was pretty controversial. Season 9 got rid of it but worsened the show with various changes, none of which were for the better. Season 17 introduced a new graphics package that was criticized for being cheap and inconsistent.
  32. Two and a Half Men: In 2011, Charlie Sheen quit the show after his infamous public meltdown, leading to his being replaced by an entirely new character played by Ashton Kutcher. The show got back on track a bit in the ninth season with Kutcher, but still wasn't as good.
  33. Battlestar Galactica (2003): Starbuck's returning from the dead at the end of Season 3 was the point where the show completely gave up on trying to make any logical sense and just descended into mystical nonsense, eventually resulting in a nearly disappointing finale with had an anti-technology message that came completely out of nowhere.
  34. Wheel of Fortune (syndicated version): When Harry Friedman became the producer in 1995, and was promoted to executive producer in 1999 after Merv Griffin's retirement, he made many changes, few for the better, but the Prize Puzzle (introduced in 2003) is considered the worst of his changes.
  35. Survivor: Starting from Season 34, each season has been jam-packed with many different twists and advantages most of which had a negative impact on the seasons. Due to the overabundance of advantages, it became difficult to keep track of which contestant had which advantage. All of these seasons (except Season 37, which received critical acclaim) received a mixed reception as a result.
  36. Supergirl: Starting from the sixth and final season, Supergirl is later sent to the phantom zone when Alex accidentally used a phantom zone projector to defeat Lex Luthor. Thus, leaving her allies to find new ways to get her back from the phantom zone in every episode.
  37. LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu: Its TV special, Day of the Departed, was not well-received. The villains were temporarily revived after Cole accidentally brings them back using the Yin Blade. He did so as a trick by Yang so he can become human again. The special was made for only two things: 1, a filler for the postponed Ninjago Movie, and 2, so that Cole becomes human again. Since then, this show has been slowly declining in quality until Season 13 and used cliched elements not just from other media but often itself during it’s time:
    1. Season 7 focused on the villains Acronix and Krux looking for the four-time blades (though three of them appeared at a certain location from the time vortex). Basically, this copies plots from the Pilot Episodes (the golden weapons), Season 1 (the fangblades), and Season 5 (the keys to Sensei Wu's father's tomb). This would later be copied again in Season 8 with the Oni Masks and Season 12 with the Key-Tanas.
    2. Season 10 only had 4 episodes (due to this, it was edited together into a movie in the US) and seemed kind of rushed and somewhat predictable.
    3. The Fire Chapter of Season 11 focused on the Ninja fighting the Pyro Vipers, which are just like Season 1 and 7 with the snakes. Season 12 seemed like a rehash of Season 3.
  38. Cousins For Life: While there were no episodes that jumped the shark, the show's promos made it look like some episodes (mainly the episode "Operation Mom") would jump the shark.
  39. American Housewife: Julia Butters was replaced with Giselle Eisenberg to play Anna-Kat Otto as of Season 5.
  40. Dancing With The Stars (US version): When the show was renewed for its 29th season, the show replaced longtime hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews with Tyra Banks, who is problematic, which angered many longtime viewers.
  41. The Loud House: Added new characters such as Sid just to boost up ratings, and just like The Fairly OddParents (only during Season 9 & 10) this has not worked. The writing on the episodes also started getting nonsensical and crappier as the series went on, one example of the writing downgrading was with the fifth season premiere "Schooled!". The show has already showed zero signs of recovery since that episode
  42. Twin Peaks: Solving Laura Palmer's murder midway through the second season, which the creators had no intention of ever doing.
  43. The A-Team: Season five saw the A-Team being caught and forced to work for the government and adding the annoying and unnecessary Frankie Santana. The opening monologue was excised altogether and the theme song was changed from orchestral/electric guitars to an almost entirely synthesized remix. This led to the series' cancellation.
  44. Paw Patrol: Like the Flintstones, Paw Patrol has the same reason but it was the opposite, dinosaurs have existed in the show (the series was set during the modern times) when in reality dinosaurs were extinct about 65 million years ago, even though the episode "The Pups Save the Dinosaurs" was just a dream of Marshall, Dino Rescue made the show jump the shark, it was made mostly because for more toys and money.
  45. The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat: The show was retooled for Season 2, as Don Oriolo (the franchise's then-owner) wanted it to emulate the '60s show that his father Joe Oriolo helmed. The writers hated the Joe Oriolo version and responded by sticking in as many potshots to both it and the Oriolos as possible, which angered Don immensely.
  46. Teen Titans Go!: Since 2015, the creators and writers have been purposely making episodes specifically to mock either the criticism they get or critics, Internet reviewers, and even fans of the original Teen Titans, with "The Return of Slade" being the worst offender.
  47. The Powerpuff Girls (2016): Introduced the infamous 4th Powerpuff Girl named Blisstina Utonium, who wasn’t well-received by fans.
  48. Pokémon: Ash losing the Kalos League to Alain in a cheap and insulting way, due to how much experience he has gained throughout his journey and how much he has built up his Kalos team only to then have his Greninja lose to a Mega Charizard X owned by Alain despite Water (One of Greninja's types) resisting Fire (the primary typing of Charizard itself).
  49. Pretty Cure: Since 2009, the creators and writers have been purposely making new seasons specifically to mock either the criticism they get or critics, Internet reviewers, and even fans of the franchise, with mediocre, cheap-looking and uncanny CGI animation for the endings as well as the transformations and attacks.
  50. SML Movies and Shorts: After Jeffy was introduced, Logan made him the main character just because he was more popular out of all of the characters. As a result, the channel went through a decline that would get worse as the years passed by, so much so that even YouTube cannot stand Logan anymore. The episode "Jeffy's Kids" resulted in Logan's channel being age-restricted at one point. YouTube later changed their Terms of Service on their site, which resulted in Logan switching channels twice. On February 5, 2021, Logan received a cease-and-desist letter from Doug Bowser and Nintendo of America for using the Mario brand in a raunchy humor environment and misdirecting the audience. As a result, he would no longer use his plushies to make his videos. On March 15, 2021, Logan announced that all of his channels that have Mario references in them would be deleted later in the same year because he had set a custom URL for the channel, a perk that gives earning creators a chance to change the URL name for their channel from the serial number of their channel to something else, usually their channel name. Finally, on May 15, 2021, Logan announced that his channels with Mario references would all shut down on June 1, 2021, due to legal reasons, but the channels weren't terminated as of this writing.
  51. Winx Club: The series began to chunk out a lot of ridiculous retcons like Daphne’s death, the Winx becoming students again, and Icy’s backstory. They also began throwing in bland and undeveloped characters like Roy, the Selkies, and the Lumens. The series suffered even worse with the change of the art style in Season 8. Worst of all, Nabu was mentioned several times in Season 5, only to be completely forgotten next season since the show confirms he’s really dead.
  52. Jeopardy!: The show saw an increase in poorly worded and/or misleading clues when Mike Richards became the new executive producer of the show in Season 37. Not long into the season, longtime host Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer. A rotation of guest hosts would take his place for the rest of the season.
  53. Dora the Explorer: The original computer intro from the first two seasons was replaced in Season 3. Then the Explorer Stars were removed in Season 5.
  54. Swiat wedlug Kiepskich: In Season 13, the show introduced Jolasia Pupcia Kiepska. Foul-tempered, abusive, perverted, and loud-mouthed wife of Waldek. Her jokes always consist of either abusing and bossing Waldek around or spawning out-of-place sexual jokes. Aside from her, there's also abuse of green boxes, lazy writing, cast being reduced into jerkass cast, etc. for all the reasons the show massively went downhill and didn't recover since.
  55. Moonlighting: David and Maddie actually hooking up at the end of season three, thus killing the Will-They-Won't-They vibe that drove the show.
  56. Object Terror: Added a lot of new characters with some being used for filler.

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