"Defining 'Jump the Shark'" is a research paper written for English 250 class with Bernadette Fox. It was written by the Dozerfleet founder on December 4th of 2006, finishing up the class for the fall semester of 2006 at Ferris State University. As the final assignment, it contained the most research done.


The choice to make a paper on this topic came after up to 50 different other topics were considered and ultimately turned down. It was decided that the topic deserved some attention in class, and would be fun. It also tied in the term "Jump the Snake" that had been popularized by Urban Dictionary as a term for something that categorized as "Jumped on Day 1."

Other topics that were consideredEdit

Many topics pertaining to the Dozerfleet founder's knowledge of The Sims 2 were considered, including various TNFLs such as BI-SWILS, CT-BILS, CLL-FILLS, and more. Maxis disabling rain was another one, though that point was rendered moot when Seasons was released in 2007. A paper was considered on how to shoot reflective windows, dramatic arrests, train top battles, and romantic scenes for machinomics and machinima. Tying in with this was the Hot Coffee Scandal, and how it pertained to Mod The Sims affiliates Mathman, Helaene, DavLuv, Exnem, and similar artists. The Exotic Destiny proposal was written, but then saved for personal use. Simlish as a "language" sounded interesting, but was turned down as a topic due to a fear there would not be enough material to justify a full-length paper.

Dozerfleet Comics properties such as The Bison and Stationery Voyagers were also possible conversation starters. Another topic for discussion was all-thing-Snakes on a Plane. Having seen the movie and having bought the soundtrack, the Dozerfleet founder couldn't resist entertaining the thought of doing a paper on its history. However, much of the meme's history was already known. A paper on why it wasn't as popular as initially projected would have been redundant with "Snakes on a Marketing Strategy," which was written for Marketing 321. The history of Donovan Frankenreiter’s music would have made a nice side-topic, but would have required a lot of research to yield any interesting results. Another question was speculation on how soon it would take for the next Scary Movie installment to have a Snakes on a Plane parody. That question was soon rendered moot, as Epic Movie did exactly that. In fact, Epic Movie wiped out any chance of LWW Ritzed ever going anywhere.

One topic in the list, "Should River Rock Bar be torn down?" became redundant with "The Stoplight System is Dead." The rise and fall of Sons of the Desert was considered, but scrapped. Bryan Singer's run with X-Men was another consideration, as was the rise and fall of the Fox Kids Network. Lost was on the list, also was a topic of the complete history of TMNT. There were at least ten other topics, all of them deemed too esoteric in the end.

Article itselfEdit

David Stiefel
Eng. 250 with Bernadette Fox
Final Research Paper
Monday, December 4th, 2006

Defining "Jump the Shark"

Perhaps you may have heard it said somewhere around your neighborhood. Maybe you may have read it in the latest issue of TV Guide. But more and more common, the expression “jump the shark” is being added to the everyday lingo of the world, but of the US in particular. This often produced strong curiosity as to just what “sharkjumping” really is. Some would believe it to be a new kind of sport, but this is far from true. So just what does it mean to jump the shark?

According to an anonymous Urban Dictionary submitter, sharkjumping is defined as: “…a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity”[1]. He cites commonly known examples, such as the picture on the left. This is a clip from the show Happy Days, in which the character Fonzie, desperate to overcome his fear of sharks, literally jumps over a shark on water skis. refers to the event in the strictest sense of its definition: “When a television show has reached its peak, and has since reduced its quality by resorting to stunt programming. Shortly afterward, it is usually cancelled”[2].

The term has come to be generally used to refer to any form of entertainment that was once good but that has experienced a loss of quality. The largest problem with modern shows is that exactly what defines a “jump” point for a show tends to vary depending on the viewer. As the term is applied to politicians, it refers to the moment when a particular politician does something so completely stupid as to destroy his own credibility with potential voters. Jonah Goldberg of Jewish World Review even argues as such, claiming that Howard Dean’s infamous “Tasmanian Devil” tirade in 2004 was his “jump the shark moment”[3].

Common arguments are made about many TV shows and even movie franchises having shark jump moments. This list includes but is not limited to: Scrappy Doo being introduced to Scooby Doo, the Star Wars prequel trilogy including Jar Jar Binks, the cast of 90210 all successfully graduating from high school in spite having endured situations that would have guaranteed the complete failure of most of them were they real life high school students, and the complete alteration of the nature of Full House when two of the key characters finally got married.

Another common example is the way that the nature of Boy Meets World was tweaked so that even in college, all the cast of the high school seasons were somehow all back together. Even after Corey and Topanga get married, the show tries to pretend that it’s still the same show as it was when it first started with the cast early in high school.

According to the official website, there are key categories of moments when a show’s creativity is said to jump shark (following list as navigation bar on

  1. A show can jump shark if a different actor plays the same character in a show.[4] Examples would include more than one actor playing Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace and the villains in the 60’s Batman show being constantly played by different actors for each new episode they appeared in. A third example, not given on the website, is an episode of Big Bad Beetleborgs, where a very silly plot device about a spell book is used so that the Red Striker Borg could be played by a different actress from that episode onward.
  2. It can also be said that the birth or death of a major character can bring about the end of a show’s credibility with the audience[5]. The birth of Little Ricky on I Love Lucy is considered the point where that show hit its decline.
  3. Ted McGinley got involved. Nearly every show this actor has been in lost ratings shortly after he appeared on it[6].
  4. When a key character in the show reaches puberty, the show is said to be on the decline. Characters begin to radically change in their key properties, in accordance with changes happening to the actors. Supposedly, this was a major problem for shows such as The Brady Bunch, Small Wonder, Punky Brewster, and the like. Even the Beetleborgs suffered with this, as the original actress for the Red Striker was beginning to clearly appear too old to be the 11-year-old the show wanted and the Green Hunter’s voice was changing very rapidly[7].
  5. Having too many special guests is also said to be the point at which shows go downhill, or when unnecessary counterparts of the main characters are added. According to the main site, the special guest problem has often plagued Frasier[8], such as when Bill Gates or Dr. Phil guest starred. Alvin and the Chipmunks is said to have gone downhill after the Chipettes were introduced[9].
  6. Too much sex, or the final consummation of a sexually suggestive relationship between two or more characters on a show, is said to be a point where the show goes downhill, as the characters can no longer relate to each other the same way[10].

There is a reverse phenomenon, when shows or actors or movie franchises that were either always bad or were bad for a time start becoming very good. This phrase is sometimes called “growing the beard,” a reference to Commander Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation [11]. Supposedly, Star Trek was doing poorly and had lost credibility with fans, until the season where Riker grows a beard, after which the writers started coming up with better plots for the show.

The term “seeing the leprechaun” was coined before the term “jump the shark” existed, to describe the same thing. Supposedly, this was a reference to an episode of Bonanza in which Hoss Cartwright meets a leprechaun[12]. The show supposedly lost credibility with fans after that episode.

Another term used to describe actors going crazy or losing their credibility or other forms of entertainment acting out-of-step with their normal behavior patterns is called “jumping the couch.” This is commonly understood to be a reference to when Tom Cruise literally jumped on Oprah Winfrey’s couch to express his views on Katie Holmes. The incident was spoofed in Scary Movie 4, wherein which Cindy’s (Anna Faris’) latest boyfriend literally jumps on the couch of an Oprah-like lady. The term “jump the couch” is referred to on WordSpy as:

“To exhibit frenzied or aberrant behavior that makes it appear as though one is completely out of control or even insane”.[13]

The most recent development in the lexicon of “jump the shark” terminology is the term “jump the snake,” originally just an entry on Urban Dictionary and later authenticated on the site Snakes on a Blog [14]. This is supposedly a reference to Snakes on a Plane, which received dismal reviews compared to what New Line Cinema expected. Used retroactively, the term can describe TV shows that were hyped to be great, but which were canned after only just a few episodes, denying the shows any chance to develop into anything of lasting value. Shows that are said to have jumped the snake would include Father of the Pride, The Tick, Quintuplets, Game Over, Fish Police, Scorch, and more.

In the end, what we can learn from all of these is that the longer one tries to stretch something out beyond the quality of its original inspiration, the more likely it is to go bad eventually. Some things though, can have a second life in spite a loss of quality or credibility. Other things were never good, but hyped to be, and in the end, were proven doomed from the start.


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