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November 26 2010

Castle, Bones and HIMYM get the Jump the Shark treatment. TV Guide asks the infamous question about a number of Whedon related shows.

Glee and Desperate Housewives also make the list.

I don't really agree with most of them (at least the one that I know). It seems as if they only watch shows to see the main characters end up together.
Should really have said above, my answer to the question about the main three Whedon related shows would be no, but it is kind of interesting to see why other people might think that they have.

I had a feeling that someone was eventually going to comment on the Bones/Stewie Griffin thing. Have to say, I loved it! Probably one of my favourite episodes of any live action television series to ever include a psychotic cartoon baby! And that's sayin' something!
Agree with some, I do think that House and Glee have lost their way, but on the note of the Whedon related shows I think that HIMYM has been more consistent this year then it has in a long time and while I have yet to see this season of Bones I really liked last season especially the 100th episode. Haven't started Castle yet but I should probably get around to that!
I don't really agree about HIMYM (I actually love Jennifer Morrison!), and definitely disagree about Castle - I think this is its strongest season yet.

I have to say I sort of agree about Bones though. This season has just not been nearly as good, and, for me at least, its partially because the Bones/Booth will-they-or-won't-they that was so fun to watch for so long just...isn't anymore. The character of Hannah is also stealing screentime from the main characters on the show (Angela, Hodgins, Cam, etc.), and I'd much rather watch them than her!

I hope the writers have a plan in the grand scheme of things that makes it all make sense, because I'm getting sort of bored.
Castle has jumped the shark? I totally disagree. Feels roughly the same to me. But Castle is a weird one. Castle and Beckett have great chemistry together but I've never really felt the need to see them "together together." I like their simmer and obvious fondness for each other. I think it could be naturally played out for many years while they slowly become each other's best friend. And then maybe become a couple.

I do have a few things that I complain about on a regular basis:

1. The usually terribly obvious mystery (3XK was a nice exception)
2. The awkward inclusion of Castle's private life. I like the idea of it, but the execution always feels a bit forced to me--like I'm all of a sudden watching a different show.
3. The obligatory in your face inclusions of significant others so as to have an obvious justification for why they are not "together" yet.
4. Beckett no longer looking as much like a cop. (Please get rid of the stilettos. They're just silly.)
5. Not enough Ryan and Esposito. They enliven every scene they're in. The comic chops those guys hint at...

However, after saying all that. I always watch it. :-) It has charm, and wit, and Nathan.
I probably wouldn't say it has jumped the shark, but the last three seasons of HIMYM haven't been as much fun for me as the first three. A lot of it has to do with the overexposure of Barney (NPH works best on the show when he comes in and steals a scene, not when he's at the center of the storylines) and the lack of development regarding the mother (after six seasons we still haven't seen her?). This season however has been better than last season and Jennifer Morrison has been cute on it so far. I really loved the New York-race-episode from the beginning of the season (probably one of the best they have ever done) and I'm happy that Alyson Hannigan didn't vanish after Buffy, but instead instead went on to star in an equally successful and long-running show.

Also, as for Weeds on the list: I really disagree. I love that they always reinvented the show and took it in unexpected directions. I know fans want them to return to Agrestic, they want them to keep popular characters, but I think if it had remained the same way, it would have been really boring by now and I think it's good that they are willing to drop characters who don't fit in anymore. Also, I don't really think you are supposed to like Nancy, she's made some horrible decisions and she hasn't really learned out of her mistakes, but people like that exist and she seems real, conflicted and interesting to me. Also, after those six seasons, the characters have developed so much depth, I think Weeds is still great. I absolutely loved the last season.
'Castle' hasn't jumped although for me it's never been in the stratosphere either. Yep, the mysteries are usually fairly obvious (although they'll throw a googly in there every now and again) and formulaic (the Laney/morgue scene, the Alexis/Mum home scene, the Ryan/Esposito-are-like-an-old-married-couple scene etc.) but it's a fun formula to watch just because everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and bringing their A-game. If it came close for me it was with right up until the end.

'House' is a shadow of its former gloriously misanthropic self IMO but for me there wasn't really a single JtS moment, the quality's just fallen away, as happens with a lot of series that've been on for 7 years - they're basically out of ideas, they've pretty much played all their cards. But firing the Cottages is so far down the list of possibilities it doesn't even bear mentioning - OK, season 4 was maybe a bit patchy (given the writer's strike and so on) but the reality TV piss-take was genius, CTB is a great character, played beautifully by Anne Dudek and it ended with "House's Head"/"Wilson's Heart", arguably two of the finest episodes the series has produced.

'Bones' ? Zach-gate for me. That was rushed and poorly judged IMO and for me it undercut what had previously been a very warm, inclusive show. Also, last season's finale was great and really shook things up and then this season they come back and it's basically reset button time. And the mysteries are usually even more obvious than 'Castle's (hint: you'll see them in Act I in a speaking role but usually not after that until the denouement, they usually won't be a suspect but they might be related to one etc.). Lazy algorithm. Not great.

Funnily enough the mentioned JtS for 'The Mentalist' is when I thought it really started to get interesting - Jane was always a cruel, manipulative bastard who hid his true self behind a mask but when he started to not care that people knew that it added a dimension for me.

Don't watch the rest.
I agree Saje, re: The Mentalist. That episode shocked the hell out of me but I think it's important for stuff like that to come along. Simon Baker, and Patrick Jane in turn, is incredibly charming and likeable (not to mention good-looking, which is always disarming); it's important to remind the audience he's very capable of being a downright bastard when he wants to be.
I think this list is an abuse of the term "Jumped the Shark". Maybe I've got this wrong, but to me "JTS" is not the same as "Isn't as good as it used to be". I mean, the term comes from Fonzie literally Jumping over a shark. I relate the term more to when a show does something crazy or out of the ordinary in hopes of bringing excitement back to a fledgling show. Bones could be accused of this for the Stewie thing, or the Dream episode, but most of these other shows have not done something that out of the ordinary.
Out of the Whedon related shows I only watch Castle and its as great as ever. Its not CSI, it's a cheeky enjoyable light hearted show that concentrates on its great characters and does so extremely well.

Stewie in Bones? Never watched Bones but now I just have to look that up lol.

The only other one I watch is TBBT and although it started off a little Sheldon centric at the beginning of this season I had read that was down to rewrites and reorganisation due to Kaley C breaking her leg. It's been back on form recently.
I think the TV Guide writers need a refresher on "jumping the shark". A slight decline in quality does not count. It have to be an over-the-top absurd moment that leads into a monstrous death spiral into an abysmal ocean trench. If there is any debate on if the show has j-t-s, then it obviously has not. And even if someone feels that Castle has not reached the heights this season, there have not been any bad episodes.
Maybe I've got this wrong, but to me "JTS" is not the same as "Isn't as good as it used to be". I mean, the term comes from Fonzie literally Jumping over a shark. I relate the term more to when a show does something crazy or out of the ordinary in hopes of bringing excitement back...

That's strictly true but the internet site was more about a moment/episode so terrible (for whatever reason, including absurdity or outlandishness as with 'Happy Days') that it coloured your appreciation of the show from there on (or even made it unwatchable for you) and, along with an associated downturn in general quality, marked the "beginning of the end" for the series, the meaning gradually drifted. That's the common usage now (in my experience) but yep, you're absolutely right about the strict definition faneater (and OneTeV).
To be honest, Jelly, I tend to believe that the best shows can survive a few Jump the Shark moments. Some even thrive on them.

BtVS's 'Once More With Feeling' is often discussed as a JTS example, although usually by people who aren't particularly big fans of the show in the first place. Farscape delivered the partly animated 'Revenging Angel', Stargate SG-1 did the extremely tongue in cheek '200' and the X-Files and Supernatural both went so far as to purposely call an episode 'Jump the Shark'. All examples of how a truly good show can do the ludicrous and still come up smelling of roses.

I think the only difference between my examples above and what Bones did with Stewie is that Bones, as a procedural, is generally a much more grounded series than your average science fiction or fantasy series, and so any attempt to risk a little intentional shark jump might be more noticeable. Even so, I still think they pulled it off with enough style to make it work.

But yeah, I tend to agree that Jumping the Shark, in it's truest sense, is where a failing show, clearly running out of good ideas for scripts, attempts something so completely ridiculous that it's good reputation is lost forever. Most of the comments left at TV Guide do seem to just amount to "I'm getting a bit bored with the show now". Not the same thing at all.
The other common misconception is that it's just a really bad episode rather than the top of a slippery slope to utter crapitude. You don't come back from a JtS (quality wise), if you do then it wasn't a JtS (FWIW I agree about the X-files episode 'Jump the Shark', if only because the show jumped way before that for me with the whole "Samantha's in the starlight" debacle). Tvtropes.org link (since brinderwalt may still be relaxing after Thanksgiving ;)

(that, BTW, is why OneTeV is wrong about the debate aspect IMO - it's entirely subjective, not about ratings or cancellation but about quality. The old site had virtually no shows with a unanimous JtS IIRC, though it had plenty with an overwhelming majority opinion)
See, personally I wouldn't class the 'Samantha in the starlight' episodes as Jumping the Shark exactly, because there were some genuinely fantastic episodes during the last couple of seasons. I'd certainly agree that the central mythology of the show might have had a near shark experience at that point.

If I remember correctly, there was a throwaway line in a later episode (or possibly the second movie) where Mulder suggests that he no longer believes that Samantha is dead after all. Not sure if he gave a reason for his change of opinion or not. Hopefully the possible third and final movie (I said hopefully, okay!;)) will clear that up, one way or another.
Saje, my point is that if the "moment" is only borderline odd, that people have to debate if the moment is even out of the ordinary or not, then it isn't j-t-s. I wasn't talking about debating long-term decline (ratings or cancellation).

No moment in Castle can remotely be compared to Fonzie waterskiing in a leather jacket over a shark pen (as part of a show about Milwaukee in the '60s). Even if Castle had an absurd moment, the characters would recognize it, which would keep it from crossing the line. The Happy Days episode played it completely straight and intended it to be an inspiring scene.

I guess my feeling is that articles like this are contributing to watering down the original meaning of "j-t-s", that what made that phrase special is becoming meaningless and diluted.

[ edited by OneTeV on 2010-11-26 18:43 ]
I get what you mean I think, it just seems to me that as soon as you're asking people "Did that seem really odd or only borderline odd to you ?" then you're asking for a subjective judgement. Maybe there's a point though where no sane human being could disagree that it's really odd ;).

(my other point was, the "official" website for Jump the Shark had already watered down the concept to just "a single memorable moment that marked the point at which all the future episodes of the show were worse than all the previous ones". I mean, a lot of entries had "Day one" as an option, how can the first episode possibly have a moment so out there for the show that it's ridiculous ? During the first episode you don't even know what the show is)

If I remember correctly, there was a throwaway line in a later episode (or possibly the second movie) where Mulder suggests that he no longer believes that Samantha is dead after all.

See the reason it was a JtS moment for me was, I didn't greet that with relief, I greeted it by rolling my eyes. The show had lost me in other words, everything after that point seemed worse (worse than i'd have found it if that episode didn't exist I mean). Similarly with 'Bones', they actually (sort of) "take back" the JtS moment with Zach (the thing he did that was so out of character and off message IMO, it turns out he didn't actually do) but by that point it was too late, I didn't believe in the show anymore if you like, I was already disillusioned.
Yeah, I can certainly see how that moment could have ruined the show for you, Saje. I mean, we aren't talking a small plot point here. In truth, it's not too much of a stretch to suggest that the entire show was based around the search for Samantha. Ultimately, it was Mulder's true motivation for pursuing the X-Files in the first place. Not giving the search an appropriate conclusion, and in fact not having her ultimate fate directly tied to the alien conspiracy at all, at least not directly, most certainly stole away some of the impact.

For me, that moment was more when I heard the Cigarette Smoking Man's apparent reasoning for keeping Mulder alive all those years, against the wishes of his superiors, apparently just so he could see him broken after discovering the truth about the planned alien invasion of 2012. I mean, really? CSM, supposedly a man of some considerable intelligence, puts decades of carefully planned work at risk by letting Mulder run around free, just so he can have the dubious satisfaction of maybe proving him wrong when the world comes to an end? Seemed a little bit ridiculous to me and nearly ruined a once great television bad guy.

In the end, I fanwanked it away by telling myself that CSM had clearly gone insane by that point and therefore pretty much anything he said at the end should be taken with a pinch of salt. Even so, it was still a piss poor conclusion to a relationship and story thread that had been so central to the show's history.
In truth, it's not too much of a stretch to suggest that the entire show was based around the search for Samantha. Ultimately, it was Mulder's true motivation for pursuing the X-Files in the first place.

Exactly. It was what drove him through it all, his true north. To say the "resolution" left me feeling a bit let down doesn't even begin to cover it (it also made me fairly sure that Chris Carter had no bloody idea at all where it was going or even roughly how to get there and for a mythology show that's not good).

Same with your CSM issue.

(at the time - and still now though with less ire - it felt to me like titling an episode 'Jump the Shark' was an actual piss-take of the fans)
I have to say I sort of agree about Bones though. This season has just not been nearly as good, and, for me at least, its partially because the Bones/Booth will-they-or-won't-they that was so fun to watch for so long just...isn't anymore.

I'd agree that this show is the best argument for JTS. And I also agree with Saje that how Zach was handled was a major lowpoint. That character was betrayed, no milder word for it.

This season has been a real letdown. After several seasons of emotional growth, Bones has reverted without due narrative support to her early season, disconnected personality and it's quite jarring. I like Hannah, and I hope they're setting up an "interesting" choice for Booth, but one of the best things about the show was the romantic tension between him and Bones and that's just gone. Coupled with her emotional devolution, the main characters have lost a lot of their appeal.

And, frankly, the fact that pretty much every suspect confesses at the end is both implausible and tiresome.

As for Castle, I'd prefer if they didn't force a correlation between his home life and the mystery nearly every week, but otherwise I'm still loving the show. It's nowhere near JTS territory.
I thought CSM kept Mulder alive, really, because he was his father, and he just made stuff up to tell the other bad guys to justify himself. Which I feel is pretty lousy- he was a good pure bad guy, early on. For whatever reason (usually I would love a complex villain) giving him mushy feelings kind of ruined him for me. But WHO THE HELL KNOWS why he did?? The utterly impenetrable snarl of X-Files mythology (much as I love it, and I do, a lot) is probably one of the big reasons I really really appreciate the logic and continuity and emotional reasonable-ness of whedonverse shows.

I also feel that Bones has been steadily downhill since losing Zach. I loved the character, and liked that that season had an overall plot arc (something that goes along way towards redeeming the formulaic individual shows). And then I think it went downhill even more post-coma. I liked the Stewie episode a lot but since then...just nothing. No payoff, barely even basic continuity sometimes...

And, frankly, the fact that pretty much every suspect confesses at the end is both implausible and tiresome.

So so true!!
Castle gets more fun with every episode. It's gotten to the point where Ryan or Esposito don't even need to say anything to make a scene funny. Jump the shark? Ha, I say. HaHa!

Bones irritates me now, mostly. After Zach, I don't quite trust the show to honor the characters they've created. And time & again they prove to not be worthy of trust. Angie & Hodges breakup? Bones reverting to robot sans emotion chip status? Sad, IMO. (The addition of Sweets only barely makes up for past transgressions.)
I'm always disappointed that "Nuking the Fridge" didn't become the modern equivalent to "Jumping the Shark."

As for when The X-Files jumped, for me it came when Mulder suddenly had psychic powers for an episode. The mythology arc just became so convoluted and so made up on the spot that I couldn't really take it anymore. I still really enjoyed the stand alone episodes though. I do mean to complete my collection with the last two seasons at some point, along with the films, which I really enjoyed both of. Still holding out hope for a 2012 film to happen.

The only time I would say any of Joss's shows have been close to shark jumping was with Cordelia in Angel. I never bought the potential romance between her and Angel. Her whole arc come tumbling down the hill of absurdity with everything beyond and including her "ascension."
I wasn't keen on the ascension silliness, but I totally bought Angel and Cordy together. She's the kind of person who could keep him grounded, and I think the strongest relationships are rooted in friendship.

I still watch Bones because it's still fun for me. It was never about the procedural and the characters were never that realistic. It's sort of a science fantasy, the science being forensics.
There's a difference between being unrealistic and being inconsistent. Bones herself - a bestselling thriller writer and anthropologist who knows so little about her own culture (whenever it suits the creators) - is intensely unrealistic whereas Zach's behaviour was inconsistent with what had gone before. Unreality is part of the show's conceit, you either accept it or stop watching but inconsistency is just bad writing.

And I remember initially (presumably on seeing how bad the procedural element often is) fans were all "Oh it's not about the procedural, it's about the characters", now that the characters are (IMO) being mishandled or reset or going nowhere (as well as being unrealistic and sometimes inconsistent) there'll presumably be another reason why they love it.
I'm with the "Bones" hasn't been the same since that completely "say what?" piece of plotting with Zack. Sweets drives me crazy - yes, I know there are all sorts of things the shows do that are not meant to be reflective of real life, but if a real psychiatrist/therapist did *most* of the things Sweets does as part of his professional life, that person would be stripped of their license forthwith. (Mental health professionals do not socialize with their patients, nor do they attempt to write books about them - it is an actionable breach of confidentiality.) I still watch the show because I really enjoy most of the characters and performances, and occasionally some of the social worlds they visit and the "look at what happened to this piece of bone" aspect.

My personal biggest "jump the shark" moment on a TV series is still Season Three of "Forever Knight." Hey, I'll believe what anybody tells me about their vampire mythology. They're soulless? Sure. They can have a soul restored by a gypsy curse? Yup. They can get a soul from Lurky-Mat? Fine. Demon blood can turn them human? Hey, something vamped them in the first place, something similar can de-vamp them. They're like regular people except with an addiction ("Vampire Diaries") and just decide whether or not to be major predators? Okay. But the one thing I will not buy is that a vampire can become human again by falling in love and bonking a human, as on "Forever Knight" with Janette. At that point, I fell off the mythology train so hard I felt my belief bone fracture. I'm not sure there's anything "Bones" or "Castle" could ever do that would come close.
P.S. - Saje, I agree with you about the weirdness of Brennan writing bestsellers, despite being oblivious to many aspects of real-world culture. Until we're told otherwise, I will assume her books are historical (as in, set in the past) mystery fiction.
I think "JTS" is being misused but also it has mutated into a "middle meaning" (ie. not the original strict definition but not reduced to a throwaway term either) of " a noticeable decline in quality that can't be effectively and consistently turned around."

The "HIMYM has become 'The Barney Show' in S-5" is less noticeable on the DVD than watching it broadcast; then again, the DVD was the first I saw it, I grant.
Until we're told otherwise, I will assume her books are historical (as in, set in the past) mystery fiction.

I'm not sure if a period is ever explicitly mentioned but i'm pretty sure they've said her books feature a forensic anthropologist called Dr Kathy Reichs (see what they did there ? ;). If you can plausibly fit the thrilling adventures of a female forensic anthropologist into historical mystery fiction then go for it Shapenew, more power to your elbow (it wouldn't be the most implausible fan-wank i've ever heard, not by a long chalk ;).

And yeah, everyone has pop-culture blindspots but they take hers to ridiculous degrees (and worse, often ignore her ignorance when necessary).
Saje, I'm not sure when forensic anthropology began as a profession, but perhaps it could be long enough ago to count as period. Or perhaps Brennan consults Angela. Or perhaps the writing is inconsistent. Hmm, tough call :) I was struck by the fact that one week Brennan, a vegetarian, is appalled by the conditions at a chicken farm, and the next week can't understand Angela's desire to rescue a pig. WTF? Brennan's argument was particularly absurd given her job - she felt because saving one pig wouldn't save all pigs, it was irrational of Angela (finally, she gave money to the pig rescue out of friendship). By that logic, because solving one murder won't prevent people from killing each other, might as well give up on the crime-solving job and, er, write contemporary mystery fiction or something. I enjoy "Bones," but clearly the writers room is free of minds inhabited by hobgoblins :)
Not that this excuses the other inconsistencies in Bones, but Dr. Brennan does admit in an episode that she reads all of her books to Angela who fills in most of the human behavior parts over a bottle of wine. In that episode, she also gives Angela a percentage of her profits based on her contribution to the less technical aspects of the book.
I was struck by the fact that one week Brennan, a vegetarian, is appalled by the conditions at a chicken farm, and the next week can't understand Angela's desire to rescue a pig. WTF?

Or the time a whole episode was devoted to the fact that Booth was a popular jock in high school and Brennan...wasn't, and in the very next one he mentions playing sports and she says, "really, you were a jock in high school?" Not, sadly, sarcastically. No, Bones and continuity are not friends. It would be so easy too, so little of the show is actually character stuff! But they just don't even try it seems like...
I disagreed with most of the shows listed that I watch, save for Glee (which has become so incredibly tedious) and partially How I Met Your Mother. HIMYM really just needs to get on with it. After six seasons, the whole, "I'm telling this story" thing has worn really thin. I love the show for a lot of reasons, but the central "thing" that made the show unique is so threadbare that it's really just another meandering half-hour comedy. A good one, no doubt, but not great.

I strenuously disagree about Bones, Big Bang Theory and Castle, all of which are having great seasons. Penny and Leonard in Big Bang certainly do have their own chemistry. Bones spends very little time exploring Booth's relationship with Hannah, so the idea that it "steals screen time" is kinda silly. Castle is as good as it's ever been as its secondary characters come into their own.

As for the Mentalist, sure he's a bastard. I'd replace Mentalist with the very similar show Lie to Me, whose Cal Lightman is far more of a manipulative dick than Jane is on Mentalist. And without the reason. I still like Lie to Me, but Lightman's character evolution has been pretty off-putting.
"Not that this excuses the other inconsistencies in Bones, but Dr. Brennan does admit in an episode that she reads all of her books to Angela who fills in most of the human behavior parts over a bottle of wine."

That solved one of my general irritations with Brennan's character. As for the others, like the vegetarianism, Brennan seems to go back and forth between having a soft spot for animals (like dogs, in the dogfighting episode) and questioning their sentience (the pig-saving episode). But I've always chalked this up to the writers not being on the same page about where her hyper-rationality would lead. But those aren't terribly important, and not really jump-the-shark quality. A lot of shows develop inconsistencies over six seasons.

As for what they did with Zach, it's worth noting that they were forced to shorten the arc because of the writers strike, leading to the very clipped and admittedly unsatisfying end to the season. The writers and producers have admitted the problem, but didn't have any other options. It's still all about the characters for me. The forensics are so completely out in left field for implausibility that it's virtually science fiction.

[ edited by ern on 2010-11-28 13:27 ]
As for what they did with Zach, it's worth noting that they were forced to shorten the arc because of the writers strike, leading to the very clipped and admittedly unsatisfying end to the season.

Then don't do it. Said at the time that it could've been made to work with more time (and a more plausible rationale for his choice) but if they didn't have that time then they should've waited until the next season (or written it off completely).

And the character inconsistencies aren't a recent thing resulting from 6 seasons of krufty continuity, they've been noticeable for a while (Hodgins & Angela splitting and reforming is another one for instance, felt pretty cynical).
I disagreed with most of the shows listed that I watch, save for Glee (which has become so incredibly tedious)

Don't tell me it has gotten worse in the second season!

I really liked Glee when it first started, but after the return it became a very diluted show, going for gimmicks over substance and forcing tension between characters to milk stories. It still had quite a lot of good stuff cropping up from time to time, but it would usually also be accompanied by some really badly executed sentimentality. I hate to be a fanboy about it, but the Joss episode really was the only episode in the second half of the first season to avoid it, with other episodes really becoming nonsensical in its attempts to pull some heart strings.

It seemed quite clear to me from the first few episodes that the show was meant to be a much darker affair, which just went right out the window when it became a huge success (this happened a fair bit before the break, to be honest.) I could see myself giving up on it if it continues down that path.
Given all this, let's take a moment to applaud the continuity in the Whedonverse. The shows have all had their glitches, but overall, they are paragons of consistency compared to most of television. (Maybe they can do an "Angel" one-off comic book where the team find a small mind inhabited by hobgoblins and discover that the hobgoblins are actually good beings frustrated by human arbitrariness.)
Good point. The Whedonverse is very far from perfect with regards to consistency but it's a million miles away from as bad as it could be (or as bad as some other shows). And there weren't many (any ?) times when the characters were inconsistent IMO.

(the quote refers to "A foolish consistency..." BTW - my emphasis - so as long as we stay away from those the hobgoblins are our friends ;)
Saje, ah, that explains it. I had always heard the quote as "Consistency [not foolish consistency] is the hobgoblin of little minds." I have always thought of consistency [again, not foolish] as the good elf of good writing :)

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