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When Good TV Goes Bad: How #EndATelevisionShow One-Upped Jump the Shark
November 26, 2018  | By Alex Strachan  | 1 comment
 

When did the phrase “Jump the Shark” jump the shark? All good things must come to an end, of course, but there was a time there, not so long ago, when “Jump the Shark” — the idea, the conversation and the website — was a big deal. Now, it seems tired and dated — yesterday’s news.

One leading national newspaper in the UK ran a regular, weekly guest column titled, “When Good TV Goes Bad” (sample offenders: “How Community’s fourth season failed to make the grade;” “Why Murder One should have closed its case;” “How Parks and Recreation [below] got sickly sweet”), but even that failed to stay the course. Good TV shows still go bad, of course. It’s just that the conversation itself got tired and dated.

After all, if you think about it, the decision has been made: Most of those shows are not coming back, whether lessons were learned or not.

The real conversation is about shows — many of them long-lasting, much-beloved shows — that are still with us, shows that may be showing signs of trouble but still have time to correct course.

That’s probably why the hashtag #EndATelevisionShow suddenly began trending on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, right up there with #CailforniaWildfires, #FloridaRecount, #Thanksgiving and — wait for it —  #RalphBrokeTheInternet.

The idea was inspired no doubt by "Jump the Shark" and "When Good TV Goes Bad," but with a twist.

The twist was not to identify the exact point at which a once-admired show lost its mojo — that’s a conundrum showrunners and TV executives wrestle with every day, anyway, and if they knew the answer, it wouldn’t happen so often.

Rather, the twist was to name a show the viewer thinks should have retired by now, or has already retired, by performing a little word-play on the show’s title, whether through pun, double meaning or highlighting a word or phrase in the show’s title itself.

The day I noticed #EndATelevisionShow was trending in Twitter’s Top 10  — Nov. 15 — some of the social-media suggestions were witty and inspired, some less so.

Murder She Committed, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Off-the-Air (right), Malcolm In the Middle of Traffic and How I Met Your Memoir, didn’t do much for me, but some — 21 Jumped Street, for example, along with Eight Is Enough, The Z-Team and The Office Is Closed — did.

If there was a dividing line, for me anyway, separating funny from not-so-funny, it was that the most inspired choices seemed to be for shows that are still on the air, in production or are still being talked about. Perhaps that’s because the shows themselves are more topical, cancellation decisions have yet to be made, and because half the fun in playing the forensic game is being able to spot the fail as it’s happening, not after the fact. Hindsight is 20-20. That moment in Happy Days (the fifth-season episode "Hollywood Part 3," which aired on Sept. 20, 1977, if you must know) when The Fonz jumped over a tiger shark on water skis (top), is easy enough to ridicule now.

At the time though, let’s face it — if we’re honest with ourselves — it seemed good, hearty, goofy fun. As more than one TV historian has noted, the arc of long-running sitcoms bends towards ridiculousness. As it is, Happy Days would air for another six seasons, making eleven in all, which would only have happened if the ratings held up. So how bad was that jump-the-shark moment, really, given that few, if any, viewers cared enough to change the channel?

My favorite Twitter suggestions for #EndATelevisionShow, that day I looked on Twitter, included Orange is the New Blackout, Hell’s Kitchen Freezes Over (left), Roseanne? and Mourning Joe.

If placed under severe duress — if threatened, say, with another 18 hours of Twin Peaks: The Return on a non-stop video loop — I might come up with some of my own.

The Walking Dead DOA, for example. Watching this show — which I no longer do, despite having once been addicted — is my own personal zombie apocalypse, it seems.

But wait, there are more.

American Horror Story: When Things Got Real.  A little too real, it seems to me, in these troubled times.

Homeland In-Security — the inevitable result when bad players in the real world make Carrie Mathison seem positively sane. More stable, too.

Criminal Minds: Postmortem (left) — enough already.

Modern Family: Post-Modern — ditto.

Supernatural: Neither Man Nor Beast – sadly, neither super nor natural anymore.

Grey’s Anatomy: The Paralysis of Analysis – 'nuff said.

I Feel Bad – indeed

Salvation – no more.

Take Two: That’s a Wrap …as of Nov. 21.

Silicone Valley – erm…  

There are others, too, but I have fond memories of their early seasons. I’m still in mourning.

I refuse to end on a downer, though. Because, when all is said and done, TV in the year 2018 gave us something truly remarkable — a show, The Americans (right), that reached for great heights, attained them, and then knew exactly how and when to step down.

Many good shows go bad, but not all of them.

The Americans proved, as long-running TV series rarely do, that it’s sometimes wise — and uplifting — to stick to the road to the very end.

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
LOVE that you brought in a Twitter trend! Especially with all the recent discussions of Finales and "Fall Finales" (i.e. False Finales). There is still the sense in TV-creator-land that "lessons learned" is the way to end the arc, and that a “good show” is about an arc. And why it was so great when the Sopranos ended on a blackout. Analyze this, indeed.
Twitter doesn’t care about arc, just brevity. Cut to the chase, so to speak. However, this article gives the game more credit than it deserves. The pun here is in the absurdity or the surprisingly obvious option.
Diff'rent Stroke
Mary Tyler Less
Charles is Charged
I Loved Lucy
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Dewitched
Sabrina, The Fully Trained and Responsible Witch
This exercise is not about suggesting plot points or jumping the shark. The best part is that shows that have been off the air for decades are still a new part of the national conversation.
Nov 27, 2018   |  Reply
 
Tammy
Sorry, the general link to the Twitter hashtag is this: https://twitter.com/hashtag/endatelevisionshow?lang=en
Nov 28, 2018
 
 
 
 
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