July 27th, 2012, 9:21 am

Three TV Shows Which Jumped the Shark . . . and Then Jumped Back

Jumping the shark is a myth. In terms of television pop culture, we describe a TV show of declining quality as having "jumped the shark", a term which originates from "Happy Days" when Fonzie - you guessed it - jumped over a shark on water skis. But just because a TV show has gone sour doesn't mean it will stay sour - a concept which oddly escapes TV critics, who tend to perceiving "jumping the shark" as the "point of no return". With "Supernatural" and "Glee" about to enter sink-or-swim seasons in a few months, I looked at a few TV shows which manage to retain their former glory even after they clearly jumped the shark.

3. Heroes
Jumped the Shark: During any point after Season 2, which was painfully condensed by the Writer's Strike. As a result, entire subplots were left unresolved and completely ignored. Just ask Katie Carr's Catilin, who ends up stranded in a post-apocalyptic future and never mentioned again!
Jumped Back: When "Pushing Daisies" creator Bryan Fuller re-boarded "Heroes" for a short-but-sweet tenure. While Fuller didn't stay long on "Heroes", his presence did help recapture some of the final glory. Under his watch, characters such as the super-speedster Daphne met a tragically poignant end, a stark contrast to the unresolved subplots of season 2.
The Result: While "Heroes" never reached the heights it did in Season One, it did manage to redeem itself in Season 4, which featured a carnival-themed story that added actors like Robert Knepper (Prison Break), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) and even Ray Park (X-Men) to the cast. Still, this shark definitely took a big bite out of "Heroes", as critics were less than pleased with Claire's lesbian exploration - which felt like a desperate attempt to grab viewers - as well as Sylar's ongoing turn from good guy to bad guy to maybe-good-guy.


2
. Smallville
Jumped The Shark: When the show's creators, who had intended the end the show after Clark Kent headed off to college, found themselves writing an adult Clark working at the Daily Bugle. The showrunners were clearly running out of ideas, and you can't really blame them - "Smallville" was predicated on a Clark Kent who wasn't yet Superman. It doesn't help that over ninety percent of the original cast left the show (only Tom Welling and Alison Mack appear in every season).
Jumped Back: Arguably in Season Six, when the introduction of Green Arrow and other Justice League members reinvigorated the cast and guest stars, and definitely in Season Nine, with the inclusion of the Justice Society in the stellar two-parter "Absolute Justice". Regardless, the addition of other characters from all corners of the DC Universe provided a necessary booster shot for the lagging series.
Result: For the last couple of seasons, "Smallville" was worth watching again. The presence of "Green Lantern" and "Justice League" writer Geoff Johns on a few episodes certainly lifted the quality of the overall show, as did episodes from Bryan Q. Miller, who rose from the rank of intern to story editor over the course of the show. Budget limitations and a poor lead-in episode kept the final episode from being the epic conclusion it set out to be, but the series still remains worthwhile if uneven favorite among fans. Miller is current continuing the series in comic book form with "Smallville: Season 11".

1. The X-Files
Jumped the Shark: Look at it this way - who do you remember? Mulder and Scully or Doggett and Reyes? After seven seasons, David Duchovny quit the show, saddling Gillian Anderson with a new pair of agents - Robert Patrick (T-1000 in "Terminator 2") and Annabeth Gish (Elizabeth Bartlet in "The West Wing"). While critics didn't seem to mind, fans were less than pleased, especially because the two agents lacked the chemistry which had made Duchovny and Anderson so watchable in the first place.
Jumped Back: When Fox Mulder - not surprisingly, abducted by aliens - returned for twelve episodes in the season eight. Still, Mulder's return was about as spotty as Duchovny's character in "Californication", as he appeared in only cameo roles in season nine before returning just in time for the series finale, which gave long-time fans at least a little closure.
The Result: While "The X-Files" remains a turning point in television history, the series certainly bit off more than it could chew, and while the TV show didn't jump the shark, the franchise certainly did. "The X-Files" ended with Mulder and Scully on the run with an alien invasion slated for - you guessed it - 2012. The next time we see Mulder and Scully is the film "The X-Files: I Want To Believe" - which completely ignores the alien invasion despite being set six years after the end of the series. The missed opportunity almost certainly puts the franchise presently in the belly of the beast.

(That's it for this rant. Check out a new Blue Yonder next week!)

Michael Corley (Guest), July 27th, 2012, 9:03 pm

Smallville I agree about Smallville. After watching ALL of them I think there was more good than bad. And some of the best dynamics was Clark interacting with other heroes.

RDPulfer, July 27th, 2012, 10:35 pm

Exactly, Michael. Even though the finale didn't live up to its enormous expectations, its still a series I look back at fondly.

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