“Whoaa!” Spoiler Alert – If you are planning a massive Happy Days Marathon or are just dying to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – please don’t read this particular blog post and please know I’ll be praying for you… because you really need to start watching some better TV/movies.
Anyways, there is apparently a phrase out there called “Jumping the Shark”. It refers to a moment in TV history when Arther Fonzarelli, otherwise known as The Fonz” from the hit show Happy Days did something very out of the ordinary. I mean Fonzie was kinda known for doing some pretty out of the ordinary things already. For example, he was known for his catchphrase “Aaay!”/”Eyyy!” while snapping his fingers, and forming a thrust-forward double thumbs up. It was peculiar but memorable. Everyone knew that he could fix various things like Arnold’s jukebox, or cause it to play his favorite song, or even turn the lights down with the simple hit of the side of his wrist. Heck, Fonzie somehow even managed to continually date more than one girl at a time (kids please don’t try THAT at home) – and even my own grandmother loved him. But ultimately, it was Fonzie putting on a pair of ridiculously short shorts that led to the Happy Days making us feel a little less comfortable about our time with the Fonz. No, it wasn’t the shorts that actually ruined the show (or was it?) – it was the “out there” scene in the third part of the “Hollywood” episode where the Fonz and cast visit L.A. only to have Fonzie challenged into demonstrating his bravery by jumping over a confined shark on water skies. Yep, you read that correctly.
That moment coined the phrase “Jumping the Shark” which has been explained as “A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on…it’s all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it ‘Jumping the Shark.’ From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same.” Fortunately, I was only a one-year old when the episode aired so I got to experience this trauma early on so that I would know what horrors lay ahead in life.
That toddler memory of mine prepared me well because thirty-one years later in 2008, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would rival the Jaws v Henry Winkler absurdity. In one particular scene of that atrocity to all things Indy, as Wikipedia notes, “Indiana Jones is hit by the blast of a nuclear weapon while hiding inside a lead-lined refrigerator in a desperate attempt at survival. The refrigerator is hurled a great distance through the sky and tumbles hard to the ground, while the structures surrounding it are utterly obliterated. A relatively uninjured Jones emerges to witness the mushroom cloud miles away. Some moviegoers found the absurdity of this event disappointing and reflective of the decreased quality of the series, thus the term nuking the fridge”.
Personally, I think that if that is all you took exception to in that particular movie then you are very gracious person. I mean the part where Shilo Lebuff is swinging from trees with monkeys personally made me want to drop kick George Lucas from my stadium seat movie chair. Again though, you get the point that – there are just these seemingly absurd moments in TV or movies when one finds themselves verbally crying out “NO WAAAAAYYYY” or just feeling like something has changed the context we thought we once loved and knew for good. It’s that Jar Jar Binks moment when you think… “is this really happening?”
Oddly enough, for me, these moments don’t seem to be relegated to bad TV programing or George Luca-tastrophies. I seem to experience them all of the time –everyday. No, I don’t typically fend off sharks or watch nuclear explosions go down but, in these small reflective moments everyday, I do have to wonder – “God what is going on here? And how did I get fused into this surreal life anyway?”
It seems to me that I am not at all alone in such awe and wonder. And while, it doesn’t necessarily imply my imminent “Jump the Shark” demise, I think moments like that are somehow preparing me for an Eschaton where I will crawl out of my own proverbial nuked fridge. Until then, I’d just encourage us all to try a littler harder each day to take it all in and to work together towards making sure that we all fare as well when that day ultimately comes.