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January 21 2003

Buffy the Shark Slayer Presently (still) in the Top Ten list at Jump The Shark, BtVS continues to stir controversy. 694 people voted that BtVS never jumped. Over 1600 people voted that it did. However, not all can agree on presicely when and how...

For the uninitiated: It's a moment. A defining moment when your favorite show has reached its peak and there's nowhere to go but down. The phrase comes from a ludicrous episode in the tv series "Happy Days" when Fonzie got on a motorcycle and jumped over a shark tank. Many agree that this was the clarifying moment when that tv series went over the top and failed its audience irrevocably. There's a near science among some of the tv obsessed in trying to understand what precisely causes a given tv series to lose that shine and luster that it once had. People try to determine that painful moment when a tv show reaches past its bounds, breaks from its own self-made rules, or cheats its audience by going where no writer, actor or director should have ever gone before.

BtVS has suffered many of the telltale signs. For example "Same Character, Different Actor" goes back to the unaired pilot, when someone before Alyson Hannigan played the role of Willow. Melodramatic births & deaths are also often seen as a culprit, and Buffy has died three times. We've seen Buffy, Xander & Willow go from "Puberty" to adulthood, another sign that a show jumps the shark. A "Singing" episode has ended the fate of series like Brady Bunch & The Flinstones, but not Buffy. "Graduation" episodes. "Wedding" episodes. "Sexual Tension Ruining" episodes. "Special Guest Star" episodes. "Very Special" episodes preaching the dangers of sex, drugs, magic and rock n roll. Dawn was the show's "New Kid In Town" which again has been the kiss of death for others. The girls of Buffy have gone through as many hairdos as they have clothes but the "Fashion Police" never pulled this car over. Oz, Angel, Riley, Cordelia, Wesley, Tara & Giles have all gone "Exit Stage Left." Yet the show is still standing. To an outsider, the only thing going for Buffy is the fact that "Ted McGinley" never guest starred.

Other series have suffered far less, and failed to achieve more. Yet Buffy (IMNSHOD) has never jumped. Why is that? How has Buffy survived seven years? Or perhaps this is why Buffy's never achieved more than cult status? Because it purposefully turns its face into the wind against everything that previous series have failed to accomplish, and after the failed attempts at similar plotlines, the teeming masses are unwilling to see it done right and proper?

The writers of Mutant Enemy remind me of the talented comedic juggling team The Flaming Idiots. Rather than hide away and shun from the failures of their predecessors, The Flaming Idiots embrace disaster and have made it their trademark. Similarly, Buffy's writers purposefully laugh in the face of bad plot devices and somehow manage to make the most absurd possibilities work like gang busters. No wonder Hollywood won't honor Buffy with an Emmy. Mutant Enemy's peers are jealous that they succeed where so many before have failed - to entertain with a bag of tricks that in anyone else's hands would blow up in their faces!

(looks around) Hmm... sorry. Seems I got carried away in the "extended description" field. Anyone else care to add any thoughts?

Hasn't "jump the shark" jumped the shark yet? I don't think there's a single show listed there that anyone (much less a majority) can agree upon, largely defeating the whole purpose. Every season, you're going to hear people say, "Oh, it isn't as good as it *used* to be." Doesn't mean any one of them is right.
I thought that "jump the shark" meant that they showcased some attention-grabbing device like a live episode or something in a desperate attempt to right the course of a show that's losing its viewership.

[ edited by Robo-Ritter on 2003-01-21 02:30 ]
Robo-Ritter, if that is the case, then be looking for 'a very special Buffy' soon, where the 'gang goes to Hawai'i' and learn that THE FIRST is actually a disgruntled WB Executive, played by Ted McGinley. ;)

My personal opinion? "Jump the Shark" is no longer fresh and has 'jumped' itself---
IMNSHO, people who think Buffy has "jumped the shark" are either (a) those who never liked it in the first place, or (b) those who were unhappy with season 6. Some of these unfortunate (b) folk have even started actively campaigning against BtVS and anything produced by Mutant Enemy. They just didn't get it.

That said, I will confess that I see season 7 as leading up to a logical conclusion for the series, and Anthony Stewart Head agrees with me, so as much as I love the show, I'm willing to let it go if it's over. Though I'd cry. A lot.
Buffy is the exception to the JtS 'rule.' I thought that was the point I made.
I agree with you all the way, ZachsMind. Buffy just won't fit into the jump the shark category at all. It has a quirky, elusive energy that could be taken as jumping the shark every other episode and then doing a couple of back-flips the way it came - or simultaneously up-down-sideways. It is a beast of its own color, and no other TV series comes anywhere near it. Because Buffy is no ordinary series, it obeys no ordinary rules.
Season 6, for me (and for most others, according to the polls I've checked) was the most innovative, engaging season so far.
I share Maeve's irritation with those who attack Season 6. They just didn't get yet, maybe because the series is growing up but they aren't. Hmm... that was below the belt - but what the hell...

As for Buffy continuing past Season 7, that depends on whether you count an ensemble revamp containing most of the original cast as an end or a renewal. That's not the only option, sure, but I doubt that either ME or UPN will want the Buffyverse to exit stage left just yet. What's often overlooked are the impressive overseas sales of Buffy to other networks, and the even more impressive VHS/DVD global sales. There's no way Fox and ME is going to drop such a lucrative franchise, although UPN may want a larger slice of the action in future. Sure, that's not a creative reason to carry on with BtVS, but good writers, from perhaps a wider pool than at present, with new ideas or old ideas in a fresh form will keep the Buffyverse going for much longer than 7 years.
Jump The Shark is a funny site; when I look at the "Jumped" votes I get a very different picture of Buffy fandom than I get from most fan forums.

One thing I think is worth noting is the whopping number of "Never Jumped" votes... more than twice as many as Friends (which had a much bigger audience). This is an impressive sign of fan confidence even if the "Jumped" votes far outnumber it if you add all the categories together.

And the biggest "Jumped" category is Death (Tara). Very odd. My sense is that Tara had a small group of avid fans, a small group of avid detractors, and a huge group whose reaction was, "Eh, she's OK." I hesitate to say ballot-box stuffing was going on, but I do feel confident saying this was the work of a small but highly motivated minority.

That the second biggest "Jumped" category is in reaction to the musical is just weird. I've never seen anyone panning OMWF at any site except for Jump The Shark. Is there a huge contingent of music-haters out there that I didn't know about? ;)

There's at least one thing "Jumped" is useful for, though; it's a great archive of negative comments that go way back... when I see grumbling about S6 and 7 it's fun to see that disgruntled fans were saying much the same things during Season 2... for instance, you can take some of the comments about S2 Angel, replace "Angel" with "Spike" and it sounds like they're talking about S7. *g*

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