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The Top Five Geek TV Shows that Jumped the Shark


If you’ve never heard of “jumping the shark,” perhaps you’re more familiar with its first cousin, “screwing the pooch.”  Same idea: nothing good can happen after you screw a pooch.  Just look it up.  Scientific fact.

From Wikipedia:

The term Jumping the shark alludes to a scene in the TV series, Happy Days, when the popular character, Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, on water skis, literally jumps over a shark. The scene was so preposterous that many believed it to be an ill-advised attempt at reviving the declining ratings of the flagging show.

Since then, it has become a metaphor that has been used by U.S. TV critics and fans to denote the point at which the characters or plot of a TV series veer into a ridiculous, out-of-the-ordinary storyline. Typically, such a show is deemed to have passed its peak. Once a show has “jumped the shark,” fans sense a noticeable decline in quality or feel the show has undergone too many changes to retain its original charm.

I couldn’t have said it better, myself.  Even though I obviously felt the need to try.  With an upsetting metaphor.  Sorry about that.

Wondering when 30 Rock jumped the shark? Some people think it was season five. At least, that was one of the seasons least-enjoyed by critics.

If you’re interested in learning more about the creation of the show from the super-funny lady who did it, I’d recommend checking out Tina Fey’s hilarious memoir, BossypantsAmazon named it a “Best Book of the Month” for being “impossibly funny.” (!)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Hey, remember the first time Buffy died?  And then she came back?  And totally kicked the Master’s bony, vampire ass?  Yeah.  That was awesome.

Hey!  Remember the second time Buffy died?  After taking on a GOD?  And then she came back?  AGAIN?  Yeah.  NOT SO GREAT.

If Buffy had ended at the end of season five, it would have been heartbreaking.  But you know what?  It also would have been poignant, powerful, and somewhat satisfying… I mean, she died after facing off against a GOD, people.   (Did I already mention the GOD?)

After triumphing over countless vampire and demon baddies, a master vampire, a giant serpent demon, the seemingly unstoppable Frankensteinian creation of a shadowy military organization, and a GOD…  where can you go after that?!

Well, to the UPN network, for one… and no one could have thought that boded well.

You know where else you go?  To Contrivancetown, USA.  ‘Cause after the writers have blown their creative wads pitting Buffy against a GOD, they were left with a B-movie premise for season six (The toughest foe she’ll have to face is the one she never expected… her best friend) and a hey-what’s-even-bigger-and-badder-than-a-god? premise for season seven.  The actual answer to that question is nothing.  Nothing is bigger and badder than a god. Their answer?  The “ultimate” evil.  Or, as they called it, “The First Evil.”  That’s thinner than Britney’s last excuse for forgetting to feed her baby.

Yes, some good came of the sixth and seventh seasons.  We all enjoyed the musical episode, Once More, With Feeling.   But I loved that show so damn much.  Why couldn’t it have ended on a high note?

Twin Peaks

For writers whose show received so much acclaim, they apparently didn’t spend much time reviewing their copies of TV Show Writing for Dummies.

Otherwise, they would have been aware of the Moonlighting effect.  When you build the show upon the sexual tension between Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd and then finally let the two of them make out, you might as well take the show out back and shoot it, because the draw ain’t there any more.

So, Twin Peaks.  You have a showed whose plot revolves around a murder mystery.  You solve the mystery.  The show shrivels up and dies.


Veronica Mars

Oh, Veronica Mars.  You know you’re my favorite pocket-sized teen detective.  And so delightfully quippy with your… quips.

The mystery of the first story arc encompassed the entire first season… and it was brilliant, satisfying television.  Brilliant enough to keep fans around (but sadly, less engaged) for the next two seasons.

By all indications, to try to improve ratings in the second season, producer Rob Thomas caved to Big Corporate pressures to make the show more palatable to the masses.  And we all know what that means: dumb things down.  Suddenly Veronica was solving two or three “big” mysteries in a season.  By the end, it was practically a “contrived TV mystery of the week” formula.

When storytelling went out the window, so did a little piece of my heart.  And not the cold, dark part of my heart where I store my pity for Republicans and George Lucas.  The other part.


Alias writers, no one ever accused you of being brilliant.  So you probably didn’t even get your copies of TV Show Writing for Dummies when you got to Hollywood.  But you sure did put together a fun show.

That is, until you blew your wad.  You know what I’m talking about.  In one episode, you took down the “big Bad,” the terrorist organization SD-6, and you got Sydney together with whats-his-face.  You know.  Michael Vartan’s character.  That guy.

What followed–from what I gather, since I quickly tuned out–was a show about an incestuous, top secret spy agency that put its considerable resources towards gathering the artifacts of a really smart Renaissance artist.  Wow.  How about, like, fighting terrorism or whatever?

Jennifer Garner in red leather can only keep my interest for just so long.


It’s hard to put a finger on exactly when Angel jumped the shark, but I know what happened when I finally gave up.  It went a lot like this:  Around the middle of season three, after weeks of feeling an overwhelming sense of I-don’t-really-give-a-shit-any-more towards the show, I said–very much like a petulant Valley girl–“Um, b-o-o-o-red now,” and removed Angel from my TiVo’s Season Pass list.  I didn’t tune back in until the series finale.  The End.

While other shows make a fast and furious face-plant when they jump the shark, Angel took its time.  It was more like a slow, spiraling plummet towards inevitable doom.  Here’s the deal.  Angel was interesting when it was about the vampire-with-a-soul saving innocents from the seedy elements of the underworld.  The dark, mysterious, and exciting underworld.  Over time, unconcealed demons and supernatural phenomena became so prevalent in Angel’s Los Angeles that you had to wonder just how very deaf, dumb, and stultifyingly stupid the human inhabitants of the city really were.   Somehow it’s just no fun any more when Angel, the aforementioned vampire-with-a-soul, is the head of a multi-national law firm and seemingly hundreds (thousands?) of civilians are both aware of, accustomed to, and familiar with supernatural beings and happenings.

There’s suspension of disbelief, and then there’s, “Oh, c’mon!  Are you frigging kidding me?”

That said, I’m totally reading the comic when it comes out this Fall.  I’m such a sad little fanboy.

14 comments… add one
  • Cindi September 24, 2007, 9:52 am

    You’re right on with “Twin Peaks” (my heart broke because in its early days that was the best show evaaahhh) and “Alias.” I’m afraid that “Lost” is going to jump the shark any day now. We’ll see what happens this season.

  • Nima September 24, 2007, 10:45 am

    Angel jumped the shark in season 3 when they added a kid, first as a baby, then as a teenager, to the show.

    BUT, Angel season 5 is one of the best seasons of television, right behind Buffy season 5 and BSG season 1. Angel season 5 brought everything full circle, had love, loss, and lots of heart. Also, there’s the episode where Angel is turned into a muppet. Awesome. The way Whedon chose to end the show is also incredibly remarkable.

    Just, you know, FYI.

  • Great White Snark September 24, 2007, 11:03 am

    Cindi, I’m keeping the faith with Lost.

    Nima, you’re right. That damn kid marked the show’s downfall. Glad to hear Joss pulled it out in season five.

  • nickolai September 24, 2007, 11:37 am

    Great post GWS. I haven’t watched any of these shows, but can someone help me figure out when the Simpsons jumped the shark?

    My first thought was the Who Shot Mr. Burns double episode, but then I read that was season 7, so definitely too early. I’m thinking somewheres in Season 10 or 11…

  • Shithead September 25, 2007, 11:44 am

    What the hell? You know that after my weekend I like to read about some geeky movie you saw on your weekend?

  • Shithead September 25, 2007, 5:15 pm

    Oh, and however bad you think the actual jumping of the shark might have been, note that it’s likely worse. Fonzie is on water skis, wearing some sort of belt-like lifesaving device over his leather jacket.


  • Great White Snark October 2, 2007, 1:08 pm

    By complete coincidence, the 30th anniversary of The Fonz jumping the shark was last week.

  • Nathan D April 28, 2008, 4:57 pm

    Angel almost kinda got getter after it got worse. Though, the puppet episode I just couldn’t get through.

  • Percival Constantine May 12, 2009, 5:57 am

    Angel is one of the few shows that jumped the shark but then jumped BACK and produced its best season ever with the fifth and final one.

    I’m not sure why you chose to list that on here instead of Smallville, which has now developed a penchant for jumping the shark several times a season.

  • Kimber September 29, 2009, 7:18 pm

    I’m re-watching all of the Angel episodes at the moment. It jumped the shark when they went to Pileah (Sp?) and “demons” became laughing stock. ALthough Numfar (doing his dance of jov, etc.) was awesome, I realize Charisma Carpenter could not change her character the way the writers required. She went from airhead/bitch/rich girl to serious girl who wants to save the world. She can’t do a crying scene to save her life. I don’t mean to be mean, I am the biggest Buffy fan ever, but Charisma couldn’t make the switch.

  • Kimber September 29, 2009, 7:46 pm

    Oh, BTW, Buffy never jumped the shark. Mystical death was never a show-ender. ever.

  • Sarah October 22, 2009, 4:49 am

    Buffy definately jumped the shark in season six.

    Angel lost it with the son (the Pylea episode was AWESOME) but regained composure in season five (though the very end of the very last episode was the worst Whedon dissappointment of my life!b

  • Ollie February 19, 2011, 3:48 am

    Totally agree that Buffy jumped the shark with season 6; although that season had one truly outstanding episode and a couple of decent ones, the majority of it was fairly turgid and Willow going evil and deciding (at the last minute) that she would destroy the world was wholly uncovincing. Weirdly, to my mind the show picked up massively again in season 7 but if you have to identify the point when it lost touch with what it really should be then season 6 is definitely that moment.

    As for Angel, for me the second half of season 4 is that point – they layered on all the Beast/Evil Cordy stuff to tremendous effect in the first half of the season (I think that was the strongest run of episodes the show ever put together), but then they RUINED it all with the frankly absurd and almost laughable Jasmin storyline. This decline was then continued into season 5 where there was only 1 really good episode – that one where Angel and Spike go to Rome – and practically everything felt forced.

    Having only recently (like, today) learned the meaning of the expression ‘jump the shark’, I’m now wondering if we’re watching it happen right now to another favourite show of mine – 30 Rock. I had to turn off yesterday when watching an episode from season 5; you can’t even describe how far below the standards of seasons 1, 3 and (most of) 4 it is now. (Season 2 doesn’t count – the writers’ strike ruined that one.)

  • Ian March 2, 2011, 3:24 pm

    Angel jumped the shark, as the author said, in a slow steady plummet to earth, resulting into the show exploding into a ball of flame.

    Adding Connor was galacticly stupid, adding nothing to the story. Part of the draw to the show was the chemistry, with the right amount of tension, and great glib humor within the “Team.”

    Than they had to start screwing with ALL of it. Wesley and Angel’s falling out, Cordelia turns into a bored “goddess,” than returning with amnesia, just when her and Angel’s relationship could have taken a far more interesting turn. The love affair between Fred & Gunn.

    Angel was a story about ass kicking, good against evil, and hating, Wolfram & Hart, and great “Team chemestry,” with an upcoming apocolypse. It turned into, “Days of our lives.”

    Connor was the first step in utterly ruining the show. I found him just plain irritating. When the chemistry of the team went to hell, so did the show.

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