Can a show jump the shark before it premieres?


The term jumping the shark” has become synonymous with a point in the life of a television program or series where the plot spins off into a totally ridiculous scenario. It could be something as simple as having a wedding between two unlikely characters, having the main character miraculously kidnapped by their previously unknown evil twin, or even having Ted McGinley as a guest star. 99.9% of the time, the incident is an effort to revive interest in a show whose viewership has begun to decline.

The original expression was created in the mid-80’s by Jon Hein during a conversation at the images.jpgUniversity of Michigan with friend Sean J. Connolly. The reference was to a Happy Days episode in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) performed a water ski jump over a shark in full leather jacket and bathing suit attire. It was totally downhill after that. Guess it was too early for Joanie to marry Chachi, Ritchie’s brother, Chuck, had left the series too many years ago to come back as a pro basketball player and a pre-Revenge of the Nerds Ted McGinley was already in the series as a nephew of the Cunninghams.

I know, you wondering just what trail I’ve gone off on and what this has to do with British television. Well, stay with me. Showtime and BBC Two recently announced a new 6-part series called “Episodes” starring Matt LeBlanc. Described as a “comedy within a comedy” (that’s always confusingly dangerous), the series is about a British couple whose hit U.K. show is turned into a dumbed-down American sit-com starring LeBlanc as himself. Sounds more like a “documentary within a comedy” to me. From a production standpoint, there are a lot of great folks involved starting with Hat Trick Productions, so we’ll see where this goes from here.