The year, 2002. The book, Jump the Shark. Author Jon Hein described 250 television shows, celebrities, athletes, and politicians who had passed their prime. The book’s title originated with the television show, Happy Days.
Long past its prime, Happy Days was fighting to keep viewers. The writers resorted to filming in entertaining locations just to create plot ideas. At one point, the struggle for audience share put city boy Fonzie in Hawaii, on water skis.
In an interminably long scene, Fonzie did, literally, “jump the shark.” And that was the point where it became obvious the show’s creators had nothing left. It was time to bring the whole affair to an end. Ever since, the catchy term has been applied to just about anything when it has passed its prime.
Over the years since Fonzie made his leap, dozens of shows took their turns at jumping the shark. Mash jumped when Colonel Henry Blake’s plane went down just as he was about to get out of Korea and home safely. The Mary Tyler Moore Show jumped the shark when Rhoda and Phyllis left the show. The chemistry was never the same. Bones jumped when Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth married and had a baby. Chasing murderers is never the same when you have to worry about the baby. From there, it was all downhill.
And one of the few television shows I enjoy is about to suffer the same fate. The Big Bang Theory is poised to jump the shark.
Over the years, I’ve become hooked on the show’s combination of likable cast and hilarious depictions of university nerds. Vital to the show are its well developed characters and the relationships between them. Penney, the bimbo across the hall in the first season, contrasted with both Sheldon and Leonard, two brilliant and totally geeky roommates who can tell you anything you want to know about physics. Sadly for them, and happily for our funny bones, they can’t seem to get through the most elementary social situation, particularly if it involves women.
And the geek culture is kind of fun. In fact the show offers a pretty accurate, if exaggerated, picture of university professionals. Anyone who has experienced campus life will recognize the cluelessness and ambition of Sheldon, who is certain that the Nobel Prize is easily within his grasp. Between Leonard, Howard, Bernadette, Raj, Amy, and a dozen or more minor characters, all of the higher education stereotypes are portrayed.
Unfortunately, the writers ran the course of gags involving university geniuses. Eventually, they married Howard and Bernadette (and the baby came a season later). The producers may not have been aware, but the show was failing. Howard and Bernadette’s marriage was a natural development in real life, but in the life of a television series it heralded the lessening of sexual tension. And sexual tension was a big part of the show.
Then they married Leonard and Penney. All that’s left is joining Sheldon and Amy Farrah Fowler in Holy Matrimony. When that happens, watch for the splashdown. There is nowhere else to go.
The producers may not know it yet, but the show has already jumped the shark. You heard it here.