Saturday April 2, 2005
Book 6: Resident Mad Scientist — Part IV: Old Habits Die Hard
Note: Of all the things that the producers of the 20th-century television program Happy Days may have hoped to leave behind as a legacy, their longest-lasting contribution to Western Culture was inadvertent, and grew out of criticism of their work.

By the middle of the 21st century nobody remembered who "Fonzie" was, and "Richie Cunningham" was equally forgotten. Some of the directorial works of Ron Howard (who played Richie) enjoyed a brief renaissance during the 22nd century, but only because Cocoon was remade as an off-broadway (off-PLANET) musical comedy.

In 1977, the producers of Happy Days thought the family-friendly, feel-good, situation comedy needed to be perked up a bit, so Fonzie went waterskiing. In what was theoretically a thrilling climax to a three-part episode, he ski-jumped over a shark while wearing his trademark leather jacket.

It took nearly 20 years for the phrase "jumping the shark" to become a popular euphemism for "things just changed, and it's the beginning of the end." It spread quickly, and when a pair of popular entertainment programs called "webcomics" accidentally made simultaneous references to shark-jumping in April of 2005, critics were quick to say that "Jumping the shark has jumped the shark." The meta-criticism only served to expand the colloquiality of "Jumping the Shark," however.

Note also that the 24th-century euphemism "feeding the shark" is related, but the story behind THAT reality-programming disaster is hardly germane to this discussion. Besides, some of you might be eating.


Kevyn: Oh, wow. . . Wow.
Kevyn: This VDA unit was sent by us, fourteen hours from now, through that wormgate out there. On its return trip, it traveled over two hundred hours back in time.
Kevyn: You know, I think we just might be able to save the galaxy after all.
Narrator: Elsewhere, in a setting completely and most assuredly unrelated to the story being told in the first three panels. . .
Shark Tank Guy: What's this motorcycle ramp doing right next to the shark tank?