What Does 'Jumping the Shark' Mean?

Henry Winkler, as Fonzie in 'Happy Days'
Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix/Getty Images

In an online discussion forum, you see the expression 'now that is jumping the shark'. What exactly does it mean to 'jump the shark'? Is jumping the shark a negative expression? Is it the same as 'nuking the fridge'?

Answer: 'Jumping the Shark' is a negative expression to say that something that was once good has now peaked, and has taken a severe downturn in quality or usefulness. To 'jump the shark' is the same as saying 'this once-good thing has now become absurd and dragged out' or 'this has crossed over into stupidity and uselessness'.

The expression is also known as 'Nuking the Fridge'.

Examples of 'Jumping the Shark' / 'Nuking the Fridge':

  1. "Indiana Jones just survived a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge? This show has officially jumped the shark!"
  2. "Enough with the lecture, dad! You're not just beating a dead horse, you're jumping the shark with your preaching."
  3. "This health care bill debate has jumped the shark. Enough, already! Let's just make a decision and move on."
  4. "The car manufacturers have officially jumped the shark. Government bailout? Puhlease! We rescue mismanagement in this country? That's idiotic."
  5. "The Transformers 2 movie may have had good special effects, but the story seriously jumped the shark. I'm not going to follow that series anymore because it now insults my intelligence. Even Megan Fox couldn't save that show from the crap heap."
  6. "I can't believe they're making a seventh Saw movie. They jumped the shark with that show at the second installment."
  1. "This party is not just clownshoes, it's a shark jump. Let's get out of here and find a real party."
  2. "I think Dr. House has jumped the shark. He is the same sarcastic jerk he was four seasons ago. Someone give us new storylines, please!"
  3. "The Star Trek franchise jumped the shark with that fourth movie. Ever since the crew started time-traveling to save whales, that show just lost all appeal."

    Where Does the Expression 'Jump the Shark' Come From?

    The phrase 'jump the shark' was originally a Hollywood colloquialism, meant to describe a failing storyline written by desperate writers. The phrase refers to a 1977 television episode of Happy Days. In this television show, the main character of Fonzie (Henry Winkler) dons water skis and performs an absurd stunt jump over a caged shark. Fans of Happy Days argue that Fonzie's water skiing jump was the pinnacle of the television series, after which point the series started to rapidly decline in quality. This preposterous television moment has since become a Hollywood symbol of when screenwriting has deteriorated into absurdity. This shark stunt moment has also become a household cultural symbol of when quality takes a dramatic downturn for the worse in daily life.

    When the Happy Days television series ended in 1985, the Jump the Shark phrase was allegedly coined by a fellow named Sean J Connolly, a friend of a web publisher named Jon Hein. Jon started a website, jumptheshark.com, which has now become a celebrity gossip hub.

    Is 'Jumping the Shark' the same as 'Nuking the Fridge'?

    Yes, 'Nuking the Fridge' is the same expression. 'Nuking the Fridge' comes from the 4th Indiana Jones movie of 2008, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

    In this Indiana Jones movie, the absurdity moment happens when Harrison Ford hides inside a refrigerator as shelter from a nuclear explosion a mile away. Indy and the fridge are hurled through the air during the nuclear blast, but land unscathed and free of radiation. Many viewers argue that this is the point where the Indiana Jones franchise commences its plunge into poor quality.

    The expressions 'Jumping the Shark' and 'Nuking the Fridge' are modern colloquialisms that frequent online messaging. Read about other modern Internet colloquialisms, including 'FTW', here...