Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jumping the shark




I was talking to Sharon the other day about the plot term 'jumping the shark', and I was telling her what I understood it meant: that you keep coming up with twists just for the sake of it (keeping your readers/viewers interested).

Turns out I wasn't far off.

This is a very funny explanation about plot devices that can be termed 'jumping the shark'. Are you guilty of any of them? (usually happens in serialised stories which have gone on and on for some time.) Do you think Harry Potter has jumped the shark at any moment? Personally, I thought it went downhill after Goblet of Fire.

"The term jumping the shark alludes to a scene in the TV series 'Happy Days' when the popular character Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli jumps over a shark while water skiing. The scene was so preposterous that many believed it to be an ill-conceived attempt at reviving the declining ratings of the flagging show.
Since then, the phrase has become a colloquialism used by 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. Such a show is typically 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.

1. Same Character, Different Actor
When a new actor is hired to fill the same role of a departed one. However, this category has also been applied to new actors hired to play the role of a new character that is essentially the same as the original.

Notes: Ha ha, this happened in 'Dynasty', 'Dallas' and practically every long-running soap. Worse yet, I remember the one in 'Dynasty' was explained by his having plastic surgery!

2. One of the characters gives birth.
Notes: 'Friends' anyone? Is there anyone who hasn't given birth on 'Friends'? (some multiple times). 'Mad About You'.

3. Death
A character's departure is explained with his/her death. This can be due either to the actor/actress who filled the role leaving the show, or a real-life death.

Notes: Hah! Prison Break, guilty as hell. So is every soap opera. And 'House' has fired all his medical staff.

4. Puberty
Children who are members of the cast enter adolescence and/or approach adulthood.
Notes: Cosby Show. I think in Harry Potter's case, adolescence was a good thing.

5. Singing
Non-musical members of the cast (or those never thought previously to have performing talent) sing as part of a musical number during an episode.

Notes: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the musical episode! Xena Warrior Princess.

6. Two main characters are married.

Notes: Friends again! As far as I'm concerned, Friends jumped the shark after Season 3.

7. Two main characters have sex, particularly if their sexual tension was deemed part of the show's appeal.

Notes: Every series that does this goes downhill after that. Think 'Remington Steele', 'Moonlighting'. 'Cheers'. Thank goodness no one in the 'X-Files' ever had sex. (with each other, I mean). Can people on 'CSI' be considered having 'sex'?

8. Moving
The main characters move from their familiar surroundings, usually to new surrounding some distance away.

9. New kid in town
When a new character (often, a young child) is added to the cast, in response to former child actors who have entered adolescence or adulthood, and/or to revive falling ratings.

Notes: Cosby show! Then again, the 'Desperate Housewives' always have new neighbours. And 'Heroes' keeps on adding people I can never keep track of.

18 comments:

Argus Lou said...

Are you veering off into TVland, dear Xeus? ^_^
If you write one novel at a time, I'm sure you won't need to 'jump the hippopotamus'.

Xeus said...

Merry Xmas, Argus!! Are you having a White Xmas?

Am writing 2 novels simultaneously, isn't that grim ? (grins)

I'm thinking seriously of writing a screenplay next, but only if I can find someone to actually lens it. (As in the DC series, but I rather not write it in Malay!)At least in screenplays I can just tell the story quickly without having to worry about too much description.

But my dialogue sucks! How ah?

At least your dialogue is much better than mine!

Argus Lou said...

It's not white yet - it's cold but no snow on the plains, only up on higher ground. Going to Germany tomorrow or Monday.
Can you believe I went to watch a football match at minus-4 degrees C the other night? Bayer Leverkusen beat FC Zurich 5-0, my goodness!

Your dialogue-writing SO does NOT 'suck', Xeus. Just because one person told you that a long time ago, you let it stick in your head. Go ahead and write your script. Worry about the filming/videotaping later - there's a lively video-making community in KL, I heard.

Xeus said...

Sigh, maybe you're right, Argus. But my Malay writing still so DOES suck, and I'm not fishing for compliments either. It really DOES suck :)

(Did you get an A for Malay? I know I never got anything above a C3.)

Argus Lou said...

Then write the script in English. We know both our Malay 'tak boleh pakai punya'. ;-) (They do make films and series in English in M'sia, y'know?)

(First I got a terrible P6 which caused me to not get Grade 1, and then got a C3 in the July paper.) :-P

Kenny Mah said...

This is why I love blog comments... how the topic gets steered away casually from the entry to something like SPM results. Hehe.

Me, I got an A for my Malay but also 'tak boleh pakai punya' --- I'm probably better at 'bahasa kampung' than anything proper. LOL.

Merry Xmas, ladies! :)

Xeus said...

Wah, Kenny, that's fantastic! An A for Bahasa, an unprecendented occurrence in my household, that's for sure :)

Xeus said...

Argus, you mean they do make films in English in Malaysia? Really? (wow, I never knew...)Almost everyone I know says they have to write in Bahasa. English stuff just doesn't sell in Malaysia.

Argus Lou said...

Kenny, glad we're not so fussy about digressions. ;-) Hey, if your bahasa kampung boleh pakai (nobody speaks in standard textbook Malay, Mah), you should translate for Xeus - or at least write the subtitles.

Xeus, adalah! At the very least, stick in Malay subtitles for the non-Malay parts of your movie. (see above) Kenny can help. ^_^

Xeus said...

"Jom, mari kita pergi makan pizza." Yup. My vocab is limited to that!

Argus Lou said...

Kenny might well tell you it's "Jom, mai pi makan pizza!"

;-)

Tunku Halim said...

Have a great XMas. I'm going to jump the shark...well, roast the duck actually! :)

Lydia Teh said...

Nice write-up. It's a new term to me, this jumping the shark. Happy hols everyone.

Xeus said...

Merry Xmas to everyone! TH, at least you're not eating shark's fin.

Lydia, when go out with Kak Teh ah?

adam brown said...

look this is the "diet" i told you about you should really enter the site :) bye enter the site

Tunku Halim said...

Can I come meet Kak Teh too - from Friday onwards is fine for me!

Xeus said...

Oh great, TH! It means you are coming back!!! We should ALL meet up. BTW, I might not be able to do the book session with you, might be in 'Nam. But I can get replacements though...

Tunku Halim said...

The more replacements the merrier! It's great to be back. My h/p no. is . . . I'll sms you!