Jumping the Shark - A Boxego Moment in History - 20th September 1977

Sep 20, 2013

A Boxego Timeline journal entry...

The phrase jump the shark was coined by John Hein, an American radio personality, to describe the moment the quality of a TV show begins to decline. It comes from a scene in an episode of the American TV series Happy Days titled "Hollywood: Part 3" which aired on this day in 1977.

In the episode, The Fonz – played by Henry Winkler – answers a challenge to his bravery by wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, and jumping over a confined shark. The stunt was created as a way to showcase Winkler's real-life water ski skills.


For a show that in its early seasons depicted universally relatable adolescent and family experiences against a backdrop of 1950s nostalgia, this incident marked an audacious, cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry.

Initially a supporting character, the faddish lionization of an increasingly superhuman Fonzie became the focus of Happy Days. The series continued for seven years after Fonzie's shark-jumping stunt, with a number of changes in cast and situations. The phrase implies a belief that the show began a creative decline in this era, as writers ran out of ideas, and Happy Days became a caricature of itself. That said, the episode where Fonzie jumped the shark was a huge hit with over 30 million viewers and the show itself continued to run for another ten years.

Category: Moment