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Le Fin du Fonz
September 4, 2010 10:51 AM   Subscribe

In Defense of Jumping the Shark. The writer behind Fonzie's infamous, downfall-defining moment remains unrepentant. "More than three decades later, I still don't believe that the series 'jumped the shark' when Fonzie jumped the shark."
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese (111 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Consider: It was the 91st episode and the fifth season. If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes? Why did we rank among the Top 25 in five of those six seasons?

LOGIC FAIL
posted by grouse at 10:55 AM on September 4, 2010 [12 favorites]


Fortunately, my career didn't jump the shark after "jump the shark." When "Happy Days" ended, I went directly to the ABC Paramount hit show "Webster" and, after that, wrote and produced, among others, "It's Your Move," "He's the Mayor, "The New Leave It to Beaver" and "Family Matters."

Sorry to break it to you, pal, but...
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:57 AM on September 4, 2010 [58 favorites]


The tone of the piece seems really defensive (closing by arguing in favor of the enduring cultural relevance of Happy Days? Really?), on top of which it isn't written particularly well.

It's not surprising that Fox would disagree with others' assessment of the inanity of his work, I suppose--maybe it's the Dunning-Kruger effect.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 10:58 AM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


What shark??
posted by Xurando at 11:00 AM on September 4, 2010


I'm not sure he's got all the facts right, either. He writes that the phrase "jumping the shark" was coined in 1987, but then "not long after" the website was launched -- which doesn't seem correct, unless "not long" means about a decade.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:02 AM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


@Capt. Renault:

Yeah, that was exactly what I thought. I guess he just means financially.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:04 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


LA fin. La. It's feminine. /bilingual pedants, twice as annoying as monolingual ones
posted by fraula at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oops. I just figured a shark's fin would be masculine.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:10 AM on September 4, 2010


It is unfathomable to me that the shark still has its bite.

But so does our show. The day after I started writing this article, my sister Jan was meeting our friend Vicki at a movie screening. Jan mentioned I had written the episode of "Happy Days" where Fonzie jumped the shark and was working on a piece about it for the Los Angeles Times. A young man in his 20s at the reception table overheard and looked at her in disbelief. "Your brother wrote the jump the shark episode?" he said. "Awesome!"


More like, "Everything bad is good again".
posted by doteatop at 11:12 AM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It should be pointed out that Season 5 is also the season when Mork from Ork makes his appearance.

They really had run out of ideas by that point, and should have bowed out gracefully once all the main kids in the cast graduated high school.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 AM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


This would be more interesting if Fox actually took credit for it. He doesn't. He says that he "wrote that now infamous episode"—but then specifically adds, "Now, whose idea was it for Fonzie to jump the shark? Amazingly, I can't remember."
posted by cribcage at 11:12 AM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey, I was actually pretty fond of It's Your Move. Wikipedia says the tone led to "Married... with Children", and you can argue that the show was sort of a proto-Ferris Bueller or Parker Lewis.
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 11:13 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes?

If The Simpsons haven't been good in a decade (give or take) why do they keep making them?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:14 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had to try to explain to my French teacher what "jumped the shark" meant the other day. The look on her face was priceless.
posted by heatherann at 11:19 AM on September 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fortunately, my career didn't jump the shark after "jump the shark." When "Happy Days" ended, I went directly to the ABC Paramount hit show "Webster" and, after that, wrote and produced, among others, "It's Your Move," "He's the Mayor, "The New Leave It to Beaver" and "Family Matters."

Sorry to break it to you, pal, but...


Sounds like the guy did alright to me. He earned a living writing TV shows, I wonder how many would-be writers there are in LA now who wish they could get paid for writing whatever today's equivalent of "He's the Mayor" is.
posted by marxchivist at 11:21 AM on September 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was incredulous. Then my incredulity turned into amazement.

Did it, now?

Anyway, I think the writer suffers from the same confusion a lot of us do when it comes down to what "jumping the shark" actually means. Officially, on the original site, it was that whole "everything after this is downhill" definition, but in practice, I think most of us use it more generally to mean an "already going downhill and scraping the bottom of the ideas barrel" kind of thing, using some ludicrous stunt to boost ratings, like adding a baby, "it was all a dream," etc.

On preview, oh yeah, Mork from Ork.
posted by Gator at 11:22 AM on September 4, 2010


We've entered a black hole in which the author of "jumped the shark" has "jumped the shark".
posted by HuronBob at 11:23 AM on September 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


"a sauté le requin"

you know, in French, it might have worked!
posted by HuronBob at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, I was actually pretty fond of It's Your Move. Wikipedia says the tone led to "Married... with Children", and you can argue that the show was sort of a proto-Ferris Bueller or Parker Lewis.

I liked "It's Your Move" too, but always had a hard time reconciling the fact that the woman who portrayed Jason Bateman's sweet, suburban mom on the show was played by the same woman (Caren Kaye) who was the title character in My Tutor , which was about as close to a porno as an R-rated movie can get (and thus, I probably watched it about 200 times during it's run on HBO). Thank you, Caren Kaye, for my sexual awakening.
posted by The Gooch at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2010


If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes?

If The Simpsons haven't been good in a decade (give or take) why do they keep making them?


I know, right? WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE THE REASON??

[Cue cartoon tycoon with monocle and top hat carrying huge overstuffed "$" sacks to the bank.]
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wikipedia says the tone led to "Married... with Children", and you can argue that the show was sort of a proto-Ferris Bueller or Parker Lewis.

Ferris Bueller came out in 1986, Married... premiered in 1987. And while I actually believe it was a pretty good show in its early years, before it became numbingly repetitive, I don't really see what it has to do with Ferris Bueller. If anything "Married..." always seemed like a direct descendant of "All in the Family" to me. Much like Archie Bunker, the people who got the maddest at Al Bundy didn't get you were supposed to be laughing at him, not siding with him.* And if you watch Ed O'Neill's performance carefully, you can see a LOT of Archie Bunker in Al's mannerisms.


*this actually changed in the later years, which is one reason why they suck.

posted by drjimmy11 at 11:33 AM on September 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was out-of-my-mind gaga for It's Your Move, when I was a kid.

Not that same could ever make up for this guy's role in Urkeling up the world.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:41 AM on September 4, 2010


Then there was that second time he jumped the shark.
posted by smcameron at 11:42 AM on September 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


The 1st season of Happy Days was very good. From the 2nd season onwards it increasingly became a let's-masturbate-to-Fonzie cult with increasingly outlandish plots.

Incidentally, I met a guy who formally named his son The Fonz Lastname. His first name was actually "The." I don't remember what their last name was.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, I met a guy who formally named his son The Fonz Lastname. His first name was actually "The." I don't remember what their last name was.

Smart move -- good luck in getting that brat to apologize for anything.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:55 AM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the 2nd season onwards it increasingly became a let's-masturbate-to-Fonzie cult with increasingly outlandish plots.

It was the TV version of the Star Wars movies turning into an extended series of toy commercials. Once they figured out how insanely marketable Fonzie was, it was all over.
posted by Lazlo at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone pls construct a grand FPP about Caren Kaye and don't be stingy with the image links, k?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why all the Mork hate? I remember watching that as a 7 year old, during the original run. Mork was the talk of the damn playground the next day. Robin Williams was/is comedy crack to 7 year-olds.
posted by Optamystic at 12:14 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes? Why did we rank among the Top 25 in five of those six seasons?

Lack of competition. Back then, you watched what was on. Also, it was a show for kids. Children have no taste.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:15 PM on September 4, 2010


And who can forget Dr. Urkel and Mr. Cool:

"Urkel devises the ultimate plan to win Laura's heart ... a transformation chamber that will turn him into a suave, fashion-styling ladies man. Meet Stefan Urquelle, whom immediately melts Laura's heart. But Stefan is a little abrasive this first time out, and it isn't long before Laura misses the irksome Urkel."

Fred Fox Jr.....supervising producer?!?!?!
posted by iamck at 12:26 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I use the expression, "Fonzied it" as a term for smacking a piece of electronics as a means of successful repair. I feel that this phrase is under utilized and would like to see it used more broadly. As a thread jack I now request you share your favorite instance of "fonzying" equipment. Recently the coffee maker was busted at work, and I worked my way thriugh the growing crowd of the line of disgruntled coworkers waiting for the mysterious facilities people to arrive address the situation. I approached the machine and with total confidence gave it just the right thwack, invoked the "eay" prayer and was rewarded when the machine took my kerrig cup and resumed dispensing liquid from its broiler into my Harley Davidson coffee mug.
posted by humanfont at 12:28 PM on September 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


I've never quite understood the jump the shark thing. For pretty much its entire run (minus the first season, which was merely boring as shit), Happy Days set a high water mark for undeserved popularity--this scene was worse than the rest of it? Whatever.
posted by Epenthesis at 12:29 PM on September 4, 2010


I hope his business cards say "Cultural Detritus Purveyor".
posted by Burhanistan at 12:29 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Happy Days set a high water mark for undeserved popularity

I never could make it two minutes into an episode. It was all downhill after the opening theme song.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:30 PM on September 4, 2010


Wow, It's Your Move has some great writing. And Jason Bateman was apparently cracking wise in the womb.
posted by griphus at 12:32 PM on September 4, 2010


Why all the Mork hate?

Oh, I don't hate Mork. Hell, in 5th grade, I wanted to BE Mork.

But as far as nostalgic sitcoms set in 50s midwest suburbia go, supposedly telling tales of the trials and tribulations of high school students as they try to make their way through the confusing period of social change and puberty, Mork really had no place being there. I can see the concept of transplanting the series to Hollywood for a few episodes. Or to the ailing ranch in Colorado for a few episodes. You know, some location shots, a bit of a vacation for the cast and crew under the guise of filming...

But Starting in Season 4, when Arnold leaves and Al takes over the diner, it was clear things were going downhill for this show. Chachi is also introduced in the Hollywood episodes, and he pretty much takes over the show (even from Fonzie) once he joins as a regular cast member. The main gang graduates from high school, and suddenly they start cycling a whole new crew in, although still keeping all the originals around because people don't just disappear from families and circles of friends overnight. Potsie gets banished to the hardware store, Joanie and Chachi become the Hot New Thing, Richie actually leaves the show at some point (and ostensibly it was supposed to be his story the series was telling)...

I think there's a lot to be learned by the BBC model of doing series which have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Let there be an actual point the show is working toward, not just endless episodes in hopes of continuing ratings. I can't even count how many shows were ruined by overstaying their welcome, but I do count Happy Days among them.
posted by hippybear at 12:34 PM on September 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


I remember watching that as a 7 year old, during the original run. Mork was the talk of the damn playground the next day.

It's hard to believe that it was so popular, but it most definitely was. I never watched the thing but every other 12-year-old at school would be running around sceaming "Nanu nanu."

As for the article, the guy's oddly defensive for someone who claims to be proud of the Fonz shark show. "Happy Days" did indeed jump the shark after that. After that episode, it was six seasons of: much more Leather Tuscadero; Fonzie breaks down in tears when Richie almost dies; Mork ex machina; Fonzie almost loses his sight when Al beans him on the head with a dinner tray; the appearance of Chachi; Potsie, Ralph and Fonzie trapped in the men's restroom; Frankie Avalon guest slot; Fonzie dates Linda Purl and babysits her 6-year-old daughter; the Fonz doesn't understand why folk music is suddenly popular; Richie moves to Hollywood; Howard sells the house and the Fonz moves out; the Fonz becomes a Big Brother; and the final season of the show, mostly interrupted by ABC broadcasts of the Winter and Summer Olympics. So, yeah, pretty much downhill after that.

And no, I had, and still have, no taste.
posted by blucevalo at 12:44 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


For a writer he's a very bad writer.
posted by johnny novak at 12:50 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not only was It's Your Move really kind of great, but (trivia alert!), the guy who played Jason Bateman's best friend Eli grew up to be one of the chief nerds behind the Rube Goldberg machine used in the OK Go video.

It doesn't change the weirdly defensive tone of Fred Fox's missive about Fonzie and the shark, but seriously, my best friend burned me the full run of It's Your Move on DVD (from Betamax tapes, I swear to God) about five years ago, and it was one of the things that bonded us for life. I can say nothing in defense of Urkel, but I tip my hat to It's Your Move.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:01 PM on September 4, 2010


The 1st season of Happy Days was very good. From the 2nd season onwards it increasingly became a let's-masturbate-to-Fonzie cult with increasingly outlandish plots.

Well put. I was there, a teen when Happy Days first hit. And it was good, a genuinely rare thing at that point in time, a teen comedy that was actually funny. That is, well developed characters, ridiculous (but not unbelievable) situations, good natured fun all around. But then the producers etc figured out that everybody loved supporting character Fonzie and they made him pretty much the central character. From that point on, it was just one big pander. One long shark jump.

But, of course, the whole culture was like that in those days. A balls out, take no prisoners race to the bottom.
posted by philip-random at 1:16 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


But, of course, the whole culture was like that in those days. A balls out, take no prisoners race to the bottom.

The more things change, the more things stay the same.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:24 PM on September 4, 2010


OMG BREAKING IT'S YOUR MOVE GEEKERY ALERT.

So, I was just recapturing my tawdry adolescence watching the 2nd part of the "Dregs of Humanity" episode, and at approximately 4:04 minutes, Ernie Sabella's character calls Bateman's character a "little mugwump."

Yes, that's right. A "little mugwump."

It's-- just-- so-- !!!

[Hops up from keyboard, spins around, then bolts from apartment and runs squee-ing down the street.]
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:24 PM on September 4, 2010


Happy Days set a high water mark for undeserved popularity

Hey, Epenthesis, Burhanistan: Sit on it!
posted by TedW at 1:34 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the article:

...I likened the popularity to a new fad, where someone jumps on the proverbial bandwagon and soon everyone is doing it, for no rhyme or reason, like the riding the mechanical bull craze.

I can feel my brain disintegrating just reading this.
posted by argybarg at 1:35 PM on September 4, 2010


(My last comment would have been more appropriate coming from user 106214.)
posted by TedW at 1:37 PM on September 4, 2010


Ferris Bueller came out in 1986, Married... premiered in 1987. And while I actually believe it was a pretty good show in its early years, before it became numbingly repetitive, I don't really see what it has to do with Ferris Bueller.

He was saying that "Ferris Bueller" and "Married..." were both influenced by "It's Your Move," not that "Ferris Bueller" led to "Married..."
posted by straight at 1:40 PM on September 4, 2010


> Hey, Epenthesis, Burhanistan: Sit on it!

That's pretty sad if you get offended that someone doesn't like a boring TV show that you liked.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:42 PM on September 4, 2010


Fortunately, my career didn't jump the shark after "jump the shark." ....
posted by Capt. Renault

I had that paragraph in my capture buffer to paste here. The fail. It burns.


There's another thing about Happy Days that's always been a huge watershed moment, in my life. At some middle point in the series, they switched to filming in front of an audience. All the performances suddenly became pitched to that circumstance. The Scale of the acting became appropriate for the audience in the studio, but much, much too big for my TV. It became unwatchably awful.
posted by Trochanter at 1:46 PM on September 4, 2010


the guy who played Jason Bateman's best friend Eli grew up to be one of the chief nerds behind the Rube Goldberg machine used in the OK Go video.

This is why I love metafilter.
posted by archivist at 1:49 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is why I love metafilter.

I was watching one of the behind-the-scenes videos about how they did that video, and even though he was about 14 during the show and is almost 40 now, I slowly realized that I recognized him, and I eventually leaned in toward my computer screen and said, "Wait...that's Eli." We eventually traded emails.

It was TERRIBLY exciting.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:54 PM on September 4, 2010


I watched so many Happy Days Re-reruns after school in the 90's. I remember rarely seeing first season episodes, but when they did come on, they were sort of thrilling. Fonzi sometimes wore a white jacket, not his trademark leather coat; and I'll never forget Richie telling Fonzie about a date he had with a girl, wherein they played chess. "You played with her chest?" Fonzie responds. Ron Howard was really channeling Opie in those early days, so it was oh so shocking to think of him getting to second base. I think that may have been the show's first episode.

Also: that writer is way clueless.
posted by ericost at 2:37 PM on September 4, 2010


When I was a little kid I had no idea Happy Days was even supposed to be nostalgic. I thought it was made in the era it was set in. (Same thing with Grease.) It was all part of the same "before I was born, but not, like, the olden days" past, where greasers, hippies, beatniks, Audrey Hepburn and the Beatles all drove jalopies through Riverdale to Vietnam War protests and sody shops.
posted by No-sword at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


That's pretty sad if you get offended that someone doesn't like a boring TV show that you liked.

I think that sound you're hearing is a joke that's whizzing over your head.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:59 PM on September 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Much like Archie Bunker, the people who got the maddest at Al Bundy didn't get you were supposed to be laughing at him, not siding with him.* And if you watch Ed O'Neill's performance carefully, you can see a LOT of Archie Bunker in Al's mannerisms.
Who got mad at Al Bundy? I used to watch the show when I was a kid and it always seemed like he was supposed to be pitied.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on September 4, 2010


When I was a little kid I had no idea Happy Days was even supposed to be nostalgic. I thought it was made in the era it was set in. (Same thing with Grease.)

Late 70s/early 80s -- unless you were into punk or some kind of edge avant scene, that time was pretty indistinguishable from what was being portrayed on Happy Days, particularly the latter years of the show. Or more to the point, the longer Happy Days lasted, the longer its setting became just this vague time and place that was ultimately some uptight, fearful parents' ideal of perennial teenage-dom. Soda pops, sock-hops, boys with short hair, girls who wore dresses, tough guys who were really just marshmallow inside.

And that's still the way most Republicans want it.
posted by philip-random at 3:07 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who got mad at Al Bundy?

Terry Rakolta. I remember reading about her in TV Guide when that was all going on.
posted by Gator at 3:10 PM on September 4, 2010


When I was a little kid I had no idea Happy Days was even supposed to be nostalgic

I assume that it's a sign of aging that 20 years ago now doesn't seem like that long ago. At the time, in 1974, the mid 1950s seemed like a completely different alien world.
posted by octothorpe at 3:10 PM on September 4, 2010


Back then, you watched what was on. Also, it was a show for kids. Children have no taste.

Can't be! Can't *$@!$!* be!!
posted by interrobang at 3:13 PM on September 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


I assume that it's a sign of aging that 20 years ago now doesn't seem like that long ago. At the time, in 1974, the mid 1950s seemed like a completely different alien world.

No, think of the cultural change that happened between 1954 and 1974. There's a lot more in common between 1990 and 2010 than between those other two years.
posted by hippybear at 3:15 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked the cartoon best, where they had a time machine.
posted by dng at 3:17 PM on September 4, 2010


But then the producers etc figured out that everybody loved supporting character Fonzie and they made him pretty much the central character. From that point on, it was just one big pander. One long shark jump.

I'm worried this is what is happening or will happen with The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon. He didn't start as a supporting character, but the situation there is similar in a lot of ways. I really hope the show doesn't devolve into a bunch of pointless soft kitty, bazinga, and "shenny"* related fanservice.

* - Oh god it almost hurt to type that.
posted by ODiV at 3:18 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Back then, you watched what was on.

There was only one TV in the house so you watched what your father wanted to watch. In my family we were watching Good Times and MASH on Tuesday nights.
posted by octothorpe at 3:23 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really hope the show doesn't devolve into a bunch of pointless soft kitty, bazinga, and "shenny"* related fanservice.

Seriously. What I need from that show is a steady, constant dose of Howraj and none of this Shenny thing.

ow ow ow you're right
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 3:26 PM on September 4, 2010


Considering this guy has also been a producer, it's really surprising that he doesn't understand the inanity that is stunt casting, stunt locationing, and stunt narrative. You can really see it in the shark bit. At some level, the idea is Fonzie makes waterskiing look cool by wearing a leather jacket but in reality it's Fonzie wears a leather jacket with swim trunks! What a dork! So this pandering begins the show's cluelessness about its own characters as well.

I had no idea Happy Days was even supposed to be nostalgic.

I had no such luxury, being around when it was in prime time. For me, the 50s craze -- the first big nostalgia craze of the modern type in the pop culture era -- was mystifying. I'm told it traces its origins back to Sha Na Na playing Woodstock (seriously, they're in the movie).
posted by dhartung at 3:26 PM on September 4, 2010


There was only one TV in the house so you watched what your father wanted to watch.

Yup. And if my father were still alive, I'd be suing him for intentional infliction of emotional distress for all those years of Lawrence @%*$#&! Welk.

I had no idea Happy Days was even supposed to be nostalgic.

Come to think of it, I didn't realize this at the time myself. Same with "Laverne & Shirley" (which itself was a spinoff of "HappyDays" and set in the same time period).
posted by Gator at 3:33 PM on September 4, 2010


This would be more interesting if Fox actually took credit for it. He doesn't. He says that he "wrote that now infamous episode"—but then specifically adds, "Now, whose idea was it for Fonzie to jump the shark? Amazingly, I can't remember."

I just wanted to add that it's entirely believable that he doesn't remember who came up with the gag. There are few things that should be taken less literally than "written by" teevee credits, especially for comedies.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:39 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


As inappropriate as Mork from Ork might have been (although, considering that the UFO craze started in the '50s, it wasn't actually that inappropriate), it did give us Robin Williams. I also seem to recall a novelty hit from the '50s that involved an alien/UFO that had the sound "ork" in the chorus, though I can't find a reference.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:47 PM on September 4, 2010


Happy Days was just American Graffiti made into a sitcom. It went downhill the moment it was made. Movie was so much better.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:52 PM on September 4, 2010


The main gang graduates from high school, and suddenly they start cycling a whole new crew in, although still keeping all the originals around because people don't just disappear from families and circles of friends overnight

Funny you should say that...
posted by mreleganza at 3:59 PM on September 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Hey, I was actually pretty fond of It's Your Move.

Yeah, those Dregs of Humanity episodes were classic.
posted by jonp72 at 4:04 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where was all this love for It's Your Move when it was so quickly snuffed? All this time I thought I was the only kid who took it really hard. I related to that show and they snatched it away.. Oh yeah and the mom, that was nice.
posted by hypersloth at 4:08 PM on September 4, 2010


I'm told it traces its origins back to Sha Na Na playing Woodstock (seriously, they're in the movie).

They were also oddly part of the Festival Express tour across Canada post Woodstock.

My partner (who lived through that whole time period) really cannot provide good explanation for Sha Na Na's participation in the counter culture.

They're even still touring. Egads, they're playing my area tomorrow. Hrm....
posted by hippybear at 4:09 PM on September 4, 2010


Oops missed the /em there.
posted by hypersloth at 4:13 PM on September 4, 2010


Why all the Mork hate?

Happy Days was the TV adaptation of American Graffitti, set solidly in the world of the 1950s. Mork was an alien being from a planet where people are born old & grow younger, who came to Earth to study our species in a spaceship shaped like an egg. In his own show with its own internal logic he was hysterically funny, but he just didn't belong in 1950s Milwaukee anymore than the little flying alien belonged in the Flintstones. It was a pure & simple ratings stunt that had nothing to do with the creative logic of the show; they might as well have had Richie take up a hobby of fighting undead creatures or have the Fonz recruited by the CIA. Or better yet, have him jump a shark.
posted by scalefree at 4:23 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


...a novelty hit from the '50s...that had the sound 'ork' in the chorus...

Maybe you're thinking of this?
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:34 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


To respond to the thread jack "best thing Fonzied" request - the headlight on my car. It was out, it suddenly came back on while driving, then it was out again the next day. So I smacked it, and it's worked ever since.

As for the actual topic - badly written, overly defensive article. I'm glad he made money off Webster, but using that as the proof that his career didn't jump the shark sometime after Happy Days (allegedly) did is fairly weak. I think he just wanted his name attached to the phrase, or why else own up to writing what is considered by many to be the beginning of the end of Happy Days? Unless to borrow some glory.

Oh, and to answer someone's question - he said he doesn't remember who came up with the idea to have Fonzie jump a shark at the end of a water-skiing competition, but that he was assigned to write that episode. Those aren't mutually exclusive.
posted by jennaratrix at 4:50 PM on September 4, 2010


Happy Days was the TV adaptation of American Graffitti, set solidly in the world of the 1950s.

American Graffiti was set solidly in the world of 1962, and came out the year after the original (unsold) pilot for Happy Days aired as an episode of Love, American Style.
posted by Lazlo at 4:52 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Guys....are we forgetting the episode when Weezer came from forty years in the future to bring their rock'n'roll ways to the midwest?

That episode was pretty good.
posted by zizzle at 5:51 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


And let's not forget The Fonz was a badass.
posted by bwg at 5:56 PM on September 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds like the guy did alright to me. He earned a living writing TV shows, I wonder how many would-be writers there are in LA now who wish they could get paid for writing whatever today's equivalent of "He's the Mayor" is.

Exactly. I'm sure that the opinion of a bunch of web geeks who weren't born yet when most of his work came out has him crying into the cash-stuffed pillow upon his gin-filled waterbed.
posted by jonmc at 5:57 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I graduated high school in 1984 and somehow never even heard of It's Your Move - which, yeah, is brilliant! And very proto-Buehler, definitely. I don't get the link with Al Bundy, though.

Once again - Metafilter rocks!
posted by Michael Roberts at 6:29 PM on September 4, 2010


I, too, loved It's Your Move when I was little, though I can't remember anything about it now except that Jason Bateman was a smartass who was constantly putting one over on his...neighbor? Or something? And he rolled up his shirtsleeves. Though for some reason every note of that synth lead in the theme song has stuck with me.
posted by Zerowensboring at 6:30 PM on September 4, 2010


American Graffiti was set solidly in the world of 1962, and came out the year after the original (unsold) pilot for Happy Days aired as an episode of Love, American Style.

but in the context of the time, Happy Days did feel very much like American Graffiti, the TV show, with all those sock hop faves on the soundtrack, Ron Howard in the lead and so on. And it was very much sold this way. And, as suggested earlier, for the first season or two, it actually had a pretty good sense of itself as a smart comedy about teenagers and their families.

And then it just got broad.
posted by philip-random at 6:38 PM on September 4, 2010


I'm worried this is what is happening or will happen with The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon. ... I really hope the show doesn't devolve into a bunch of pointless soft kitty, bazinga, and "shenny"* related fanservice.

I had heard a bunch of good stuff about this show, so I checked it out (like 2 years ago now).

The show is entirely composed of nerd stereotypes wrapped inside of typical sitcom "lol ur stupid" jokes. I think it might be more fruitful to hope that it evolves upward to fanservice.
posted by DU at 6:40 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Caren Kaye, for my sexual awakening.

I misread that as Carol Kane. I'll say no more.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:05 PM on September 4, 2010


Thank you, Caren Kaye, for my sexual awakening.

I misread that as Carol Kane. I'll say no more.


Honest to God, I read this and thought you were crediting Carolyn Keene for your sexual awakening.

And I thought, at last, a soulmate!
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:13 PM on September 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


American Graffiti was set solidly in the world of 1962

Most of what we think of as "the '60s" didn't start until at least '64, and didn't get rolling until '68. The bulk of it was in the early '70s. Culturally, '62 had a lot more in common with 1955 than it did with 1965. Just look at the cars.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:38 PM on September 4, 2010


Thank you, Caren Kaye, for my sexual awakening.

I misread that as Carol Kane. I'll say no more.

Honest to God, I read this and thought you were crediting Carolyn Keene for your sexual awakening.

And I thought, at last, a soulmate!


I thought you were talking about Margaret Keane. And I thought, what an interesting sexual awakening that must have been!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:42 PM on September 4, 2010


I don't actually think Happy Days, which was entirely a light sitcom, had that much in common, as far as tone, with American Graffiti, which has a significantly darker and more poignant feel.

It's true that they have Ron Howard and jukeboxes in common, but it's certainly always been the story as I understand it that Happy Days was indeed (as has been pointed out) based on a segment of the extremely light and populist Love, American Style -- a segment that aired before American Graffiti even came out -- and was not, in fact, based on the ultimately kind of sad American Graffiti.

It's not a huge deal, but when talk turns to whether a particular plot point is unfaithful to a show's "creative logic," it's fair to start with the right origin story.

With that said, I don't think there's any show based in any decade about which it could not be said that a weirdo, shtick-performing alien who arrives unexpectedly to kidnap people and take them back to the home planet violates the show's "creative logic." Except maybe America's Next Top Model.

I am totally making this into the backbone of my Mork-defending dissertation when I get my doctorate in giving a damn about things for really no justifiable reason.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:03 PM on September 4, 2010


Happy Days aired from when I was eight years old to when I graduated from high school. I didn't realize it lasted for a decade, and it weirds me out to think it went off the air 26 years ago. It's become such an artifact that I couldn't even explain it to my kids--it'd be like talking about Amos and Andy. [sighs, listens to Mac Davis records]
posted by mecran01 at 9:07 PM on September 4, 2010


Whatever happened to Chuck Cunningham? I mean, jumping the shark is bad, but losing a son and never mentioning him again - HOW COULD YOU, MARION?
posted by crossoverman at 10:00 PM on September 4, 2010


OK, I got the origin wrong, Happy Days came first. But that's irrelevant to my main point which is that Happy Days is set in a basically mundane world with exceedingly minimal elements of fantasy, pretty much limited to things like Fonzi's ability to thump broken machines & make them work again, while the entire premise of Mork is outrageously fantastic with no governing restrictions whatsoever on what's possible in his world. Mork doesn't belong in a mundane world; putting him in one just shows they were so desperate from running out of ideas that they'd try anything to grab people's interest, even something that makes no sense whatsoever.
posted by scalefree at 10:16 PM on September 4, 2010


I use the expression, 'Fonzied it' as a term for smacking a piece of electronics as a means of successful repair.

About 10 years ago I was on a road trip with three buddies. We'd rented a car that had controls for the radio in the back, which was pretty unusual at the time, and I was in the back seat when the first two guys picked me up. A song I didn't like came on the radio, so I changed the station. The guys in the front changed it back, so I changed it again. Before too long I had them convinced the wiring of the car was screwed up because unexpected actions were affecting the radio. If they moved the seat back I used the fader to move the sound to the back of the car. If they rolled the window down, the volume went down. And so on.

When we picked up the fourth guy, one of the guys in the front got in the back and I clued him him. Then I switched places with the other one of the first two guys, so I was riding shotgun and the fourth guy was driving. We showed him how the screwy actions controlled the radio. He tried hitting the top of the dashboard with his fist. The radio turned off. He stroked the dashboard and the radio tuner moved. (I sold it by trying to do the same things and "failing," so he thought he was extra special.) He thought he was The Fonz. It broke his heart a little bit when he found out he wasn't.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:38 PM on September 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm told it traces its origins back to Sha Na Na

Indeed! (previously)
posted by bonefish at 1:16 AM on September 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I misread that as Carol Kane. I'll say no more.

I actually think Carol Kane is kind of sexy. What?
posted by jonmc at 4:23 AM on September 5, 2010


>>I'm told it traces its origins back to Sha Na Na playing Woodstock

You are not the only one to advance that theory.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 7:07 AM on September 5, 2010


"I use the expression, 'Fonzied it' as a term for smacking a piece of electronics as a means of successful repair."

Whereas the actual trick is not to smack the electronic but to lift it very slightly, then drop it. Seriously. This encourages the offending loose connection (which is the only problem a little man-machine violence is likely address) to settle back into its original position. Used to work all the time with my parents old downstairs TV.
posted by philip-random at 10:31 AM on September 5, 2010


As a thread jack I now request you share your favorite instance of "fonzying" equipment.

Late to the party, but what the hell . . .

Mrs gompa had a buggy-as-all-hell Sony Vaio laptop a few years back. (Are there any other kinds of Sony Vaio? I think not. It was a free hand-me-down and totally not worth even that price. Anyway.) So it was doing this spontaneous full-crash to dead cold off thing with some frequency, and I went looking online for explanations. Eventually figured out it was a loose ROM/RAM chip (can't remember which), and you could send it in to some guy who had set up a little sidelight mail-in business fixing just this problem on Sony Vaios for a couple hundred bucks.

We were debating whether the hunk-a-junk Vaio was worth the investment when I stumbled on some forum where a guy described just removing the bottom plate and stuffing it with folded up paper to hold the loose chip in place. Basically when you put the plate back on, the folded up paper sort of pressure-mounted the loose chip in the right spot. So we tried that. Worked like a charm. Except that sometimes it was still just a little loose and the thing wouldn't boot up, so the best way to make it work was to push up on the plate on the bottom of the laptop during the initial startup. It was more of a squeeze than a smack, but I do remember thinking at the time, "This is like Fonzie and his jukebox or something."

So there you go. Got a buggy Sony Vaio acting up on you? Try a modified Fonzie.
posted by gompa at 11:25 AM on September 5, 2010



I actually think Carol Kane is kind of sexy. What?

Yeah, I've gotta stick up for Carol Kane here. She's smart, funny, and hauntingly beautiful. Plus, in The Mafu Cage, she played the fatale-est femme ever.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:59 AM on September 5, 2010


My partner (who lived through that whole time period) really cannot provide good explanation for Sha Na Na's participation in the counter culture.

You know, I didn't really get the whole Sha Na Na Plays Woodstock thing for the longest time. Some crazy holdover from the fifties playing to the counterculture? WTF?

And then I realized the glaringly obvious fact that they were the proto-Ramones, the original ironic hipsters, and basically the godfathers of damn near everything that's remotely retro, kitsch, camp, glam, punk, and/or unapologetically dorky. Seriously.

It's actually really difficult to imagine what the world would be like today without Sha Na Na.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:20 PM on September 5, 2010


Sha Na Na were the kings of Woodstock. You know it's true, deep in your heart.
posted by asperity at 4:01 PM on September 5, 2010


I think the reason that the 50s nostalgia boom in the 70s happened is because for the first time in America the 1950s saw a very clearly dilineated "youth culture" separate from adult life entirely. Those kids grew up, got rosy thinking about their roots and voilà!

As to Sha Na Na at Woodstock?
If you were 18 in 1969, you were 8 in 1959. It would have been right in your wheelhouse to enjoy that sort of thing, especially as an ironically detached trifle.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:33 PM on September 5, 2010


As a thread jack I now request you share your favorite instance of "fonzying" equipment.

I had a car in which the radio would frequently die without warning. To get the sound to come back, you had to thump the dashboard with your fist in a particular place. My friends were only rarely able to hit the sweet spot.

And I for one had a huge crush on Carol Kane, particularly as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged.
posted by rifflesby at 7:21 PM on September 5, 2010


And I for one had a huge crush on Carol Kane, particularly as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged.

See, there your infatuation was really with Christmas, or with belting Bill Murray -- that's not true love. True love is wanting to jump her in The Princess Bride.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:45 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


True love is wanting to jump her in The Princess Bride.

My love for Carol Kane is so strong, I actually watched Transylvania 6-5000 twice to see a 3 second clip of her. (You might thing T6-5000 couldn't be so bad, since it has Jeff Goldblum. You would be wrong.)
posted by DU at 1:20 PM on September 6, 2010


It's actually really difficult to imagine what the world would be like today without Sha Na Na.

Green Day might not have existed without Sha Na Na. Gino from Sha Na Na was their first manager.
posted by jonp72 at 7:13 PM on September 6, 2010


I knew "jump the shark" came from Happy Days, but I didn't realize I saw Happy Days a couple of times while I was browsing through Star World until I read this..

Fonzi sometimes wore a white jacket, not his trademark leather coat

So it's _that_ show eh, the one with that dude in a leather coat. It all fits now.

I had no idea Happy Days was even supposed to be nostalgic.

Then again, may be not. Didn't realize until, ummm, now, that the show-with-the-leather-coated-dude was supposed to be nostalgic. The more you know. :|
posted by the cydonian at 7:34 PM on September 6, 2010


So it's _that_ show eh aaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, the one with that dude in a leather coat. It all fits now.

FTFY.

Also, it's technically a leather jacket. Funny story about that:
"ABC's censors refused Fonzie a leather jacket, thinking it made him look like a hoodlum. Garry Marshall got them to allow Fonzie to wear his jacket close to his motorcycle (a Triumph TR5 Trophy) since a leather jacket was considered safety equipment. Marshall put him near his motorcycle as often as possible, even to ride it into Arnold's."
Apparently a leather jacket is also appropriate safety equipment for waterskiing in shark-infested waters.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:30 AM on September 7, 2010


> "ABC's censors refused Fonzie a leather jacket, thinking it made him look like a hoodlum.

The guy hangs out in a bathroom stall (presumably selling/using drugs and engaging in illicit sexual encounters with diner patrons) and they're worried about some leather?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:25 AM on September 7, 2010


I'm having trouble believing that in the 1970s, a TV executive would object to showing a "hoodlum".
posted by DU at 11:34 AM on September 7, 2010


I have no problem believing ABC was nervous about having a "hoodlum" as a sitcom protagonist in an era when hearing a toilet flush on All In The Family was still considered groundbreaking, and the FCC was mandating that every night of prime-time TV start with an hour of "family friendly" programming.
posted by Lazlo at 12:57 PM on September 7, 2010


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