The phrase ‘jumping the shark’ comes from a 1977 episode of Happy Days. Lumbering into its fifth season, the TV series was struggling to come up with new storylines. So the season premiere had Fonzie, played by real-life water sports enthusiast Henry Winkler, don a pair of water skis (along with trademark leather jacket) and jump over a captive shark watched by his Happy Days friends.
It’s an entirely ludicrous moment, made worse by the fact that the jump itself, completed in slow motion, barely cleared 10 feet of open water. The cast and crew later recognised it as the moment when the formerly dominant TV show began its inexorable decline, through another 100-and-something episodes, towards cancellation.
And then somehow, during the last 40-odd years, the phrase ‘jumping the shark’ ironically became the most famous product of Happy Days. It has become standard terminology for something that was once valid and vibrant turning a sudden corner and becoming clichéd and redundant.
Cadbury jumped the shark this month with its Unity Bar. Launched for Indian Independence Day, the idea itself is a rather lovely one. You make a special edition bar with dark, milk, white and blended chocolate and use the launch to make a point about celebrating diversity.
But the concept has been met with universal scorn as social media learned about and then disparaged the idea with a vehemence that was extreme even by its own standards.
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