Fox Defends Jumping the Shark

The LA Times has run a first-person piece from Fred Fox Jr, the man who wrote the infamous episode of Happy Days when Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli jumped a shark. It’s become an expression to mark when a TV show tipped into disrepute, but Fox thinks it’s one of the biggest misnomers in TV history.

Fox points out that far from being a death knell for the show, when the Fonz (played by Henry Winkler) water skied over a shark the show was at its peak. The episode itself was “was a huge hit… [with] an audience of more than 30 million viewers”. Fox said that if the episode represented a creative nadir then “why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons?”

Subsequently the rise of the expression to jump the shark, left Fox “embarrassed… but this feeling passed quickly, and I likened the popularity to a new fad, where someone jumps on the proverbial bandwagon and soon everyone is doing it.”

Fox insists the real motivation for the jump was not about scoring ratings. Part of the reason someone (Fox doesn’t remember who came up with the idea exactly) suggested the shark jump was because “Henry [Winkler] water skied in real life”.

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