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April 13 2005

Readers respond to the SMH "Jump the Shark" article. (Reg. may be req.) "Harrison Ford and Nicole Kidman probably have jumped the shark, along with Prince Charles, Blue Heelers, Will and Grace, JAG, Heath Ledger and David Dale. But Julia Roberts probably hasn't, and Buffy never did jump the shark and never will. ... That seems to be the consensus with strong minority dissent..."

i agree, buffy never jumped the shark.
Thought I'd collect and copy the replies pertaining to BtVS here. By my calculations, these excerpts constitute less than 10% of the piece, and since we're going to comment creatively on them on a non-profit forum, the doctrine of fair use protects such disseminating.

Or something like that.

FWIW, I thought 90% of the replies were more interesting and better-written than the original piece. Whatever the value of the SMH, it has a pretty bright readership.

"Sandra Seaman: I definitely think Nicole Kidman has jumped the shark. She's now campy and impossible to take seriously. But I do object to when you called Willow becoming a lesbian jumping the shark (in Buffy). The show took a serious turn at that point, but that's more attributable to the fact that the characters graduated from high school and had to move on into new lives. I don't think that the subsequent seasons were worse off for that.

Also, Willow becoming a lesbian was hardly gimmicky, and some of the most critically acclaimed moments of the show occurred following that. In fact, Willow's first inklings of feeling for Tara occurred in Hush, the brilliant silent episode. The Body, the episode in which Buffy's mother dies included lesbian Willow and was an incredible show.

Fan favorite Once More With Feeling included the closest primetime has ever come to seeing cunnilingus on television, and remained classy, tasteful, clever and fun. Later seasons' Willow has a fanbase to rival Buffy's, and not because of her sexuality, but because she is a strong, intelligent character, well-written and well-acted.

The show after this point is different (whether it was better or not is a matter of opinion) but I would hardly call Willow's shift towards girls a defining moment in the downfall of Buffy. I'm not quite sure that Buffy ever Did jump the shark. If so, I suspect it was when Spike got his soul back. But again, I'm not certain I could say that Buffy ever did.

Buffy as a show was so hard to define, was so many things at once, that its defining moments could be treated in so many ways. One defining moment was drama, one was comedy, one was horror... Finding a single thing in a series so rich in content and context that represents its future success or lack thereof is nearly impossible. It is overly simplistic to say this moment was the beginning of the end. Buffy wasn't perfect, but it always managed to recover and always brought itself back to the space that its fans needed.

If Buffy ever jumped the shark, she stopped halfway to kick the shark's ass before turning back. Please reconsider your comparison of Willow's sexual questioning to the lamest moment in television history."


and,

Dana Lawrence: "Hello. Given the outcry that occurred when Joss Whedon made the error of killing Tara Maclay, Willow Rosenburg's lesbian lover on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I think your assessment that Buffy jumped the shark when Willow came out is completely and utterly incorrect.

Three years after Tara's death, message boards in the United States are still awash in vehement and passionate arguments about her death and Willow's descent into dark magic, and a goodly number of virtual seasons, including the superb one by jet wolf (www.btvschosen.com) have managed to resurrect Tara in meaningful ways. I would posit that this, rather than indicating the show lost its touch, demonstrates instead that it still held the power to involve its audience well beyond what Joss ever expected. Indeed, in the book Jump the Shark, Buffy is criticized more for bringing in the character of Dawn than for anything else.

But even bad Buffy is better than 99% of anything TV has to offer, and in the polls that have been done here in the US, the vast majority of voters feel it never jumped at all; Dawn comes in second to that."


and,

Darren Booth : "Do love your work, however I have an issue with your JTS article. Agree with most of it, but your comment about Buffy jumping when Willow became a lesbian is way off.

Willow's change to a lesbian was foreshadowed in series 2 - several years before she started batting for the other team. Buffy was like that - character development happened over years - not episodes, like most TV these days.

So that was in no way a desperate act of a show on the decline. Right up until the end of the show it continued to be one of the best-written pieces of TV I've ever seen, as are the Sopranos, Cold Feet etc etc.

Also, as more a cult show than mainstream, I don't know that it ever compromised its characters for ratings."


and, finally,

Leon Wolff: "I enjoyed your piece on jumping the shark. But I would like to question one of your 'jump the shark' moments. You argued that when Willow came out as a lesbian it marked the beginning of the end for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I am not sure I agree. First, Willow came out as a lesbian halfway through Season 4. Yet the show continued for another 3 and a half more years!! It would have continued, too, had not Sarah Michelle Gellar decided to leave the show.

Second, I think Willow's lesbianism actually brought a new depth to the character and made the show more interesting. For example, it introduced the idea of the inordinate pain of losing a loved one. Thus, in the final episode in Season 6, it was Willow causing the world to end because that is how she felt where her lover, Tara, died.)

Third, what *I* think killed the show was Buffy taking on adult responsibilities in Season 7. Since the whole show was about the pain of growing up, the spark and emotional resonance was gone once the main character had actually grown up. OK, too much detail!"


Kudos to those BtVS fans who made themselves heard.
The jump the shark moment wasn't with Willow ... it was when Buffy and Spike went horizontal. The series would have been much better if they had handled it without the 'shock factor' tossed into it.
it was when Buffy and Spike went horizontal.

I seem to remember they "went vertical" first...
Sure, BtVS jumped the shark. At the end of OMWF, Spike and Buffy kissed. In the next episode (8), we meet the loan shark... and Buffy and Spike kissed at the end of that episode also. Probably in anticipation the Spuffy combo would be considered by some as JTS. They jumped, and kept right on sailing smoothly. IMHO, of course.
Hey, that was me! I'm the Dana Lawrence that they cited! Way cool!
Dana Lawrence (AKA Dana5140). Thanks, SNT! :-)
April is right, in my opinion. A jump that was never a "jump."

(and zz9 is also right about the "vertical bop!")
The only time Buffy "jumped" was the episode I Robot... You Jane. I don't think I'll ever be happy with that one. But by the following episode and especially the episode after that (Nightmares) the shark had disappeared and was never seen again.
There is still confusion over what "Jump the shark" means. Here is the online dictionary definition:
"1. jump the shark

a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

Origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show."

Thus, for those people who did not like specific eps of Buffy, you are using the term inappropriately. This specifically relates to the quality declining permanently after the ep in question.
Congrats Dana! I understand the excitement: a portion of one of my emails made "Ask Ausiello" in February. And just when I thought my moment in the sun was over, he linked back to my email for two weeks running (at least, could have been three)!

And I like Zach's take on the whole Buffy/JTS subject, to quote: "…Buffy transcended the concept of shark jumping by purposefully incorporating it into its mission statement."

Read the rest of his post here. The part I'm referring to specifically is around paragraph 4.
The Jumping of the Shark argument tends to always cause a lot of arguments. I think it was as soon as Dawn came in. There were great episodes after that of course, but in my opinion it was never the same great show after that point. I don't think Angel ever completely jumped the shark, though there were some low moments.
wow. i cant see how bringing dawn in was a bad thing. it totally reinvented the show in my book.
SNT, thanks so very much for providing excerpts for those of us who don't want to go through the bother of registering. Very helpful of you.

Congrats, Dana5140! (And a belated congrats to brownishcoat for his/her "Ask Ausiello" coup.)

IMO Buffy never jumped the shark in terms of the definition provided by Dana5140. When we're speaking of ZachsMind's terms, that's another story. His is a great perspective. And I like April's take as well.
BTW, I don't know how the "(reg. req.)" got there, because I didn't include it when I made the post, and as far as I know there isn't any registration needed. I have never done so and I have no problem with the link.
The eloquent Dana's definition of "Jump the Shark" is the one I'm familiar with. Given that definition, "Buffy" never jumped the shark. It has lesser moments - as all shows do - but even the less-than-great episodes had significant redeeming value in comparison to most other TV shows.

"Angel" almost jumped the shark in season 4, with pod Cordy and several moribund episodes; but instead I think it spotted the shark and decided to dance with wolves instead. Season 5 was the most amazing recovery I've ever seen a series make, and, in my mind at least, it superceded all previous season of BOTH shows.
Buffy never jumped the shark, but it did get pretty lazy during Season 7.
rkayn: I added the reg. req. because I was required to register, and I remember that other members mentioned needing to do so for the previous SMH article on this subject. To be honest, I'm not sure why you didn't need to also. But I'll amend it to registration may be required.
For Kidman it was Stepford Wives. For Roberts it was Ocean's Twelve. Both Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts have jumped the shark in my opinion. However, they're still both very pretty. I doubt the world will ever tire of looking at them, but I don't think the world will ever take them seriously again. Of course, I'm just one voice among some seven billion in this world. There may still be people out there hanging on Kidman's every fake accented syllable. Personally I think both women are far too thin to be attractive, and I'd like to stuff a few Big Macs down both their throats, preferably while they're completely nude and smothered in maple syrup and strawberry preserves... writhing and squirming about on a bed made of whip cream and flavored gelatin...

...Uhm. What were we talking about?

Just for the record, I'm getting a little sore nowadays when I see this argument repeatedly rear its ugly head. I feel like Jim Carrey's Bruce character when he throws the prayer beads into the river. SMITE ME ALMIGHTY! HOWZ ABOUT A LITTLE WRATH OVER HERE??? Thank you BrownishCoat for quoting from my own past ramblings so I wouldn't have to. I do not understand, Phlebotinin, how my 'perspective' while 'great' is also so dismissive. I get my definition of shark jumping straight from jumptheshark.com. It's not just my opinion. Jumptheshark.com is built off the vociferous opinions of a great number of people on this planet, whose radically different opinions about the WhedonVerse factor out in the following way:

Objectively, as I've repeatedly explained before, Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets at least twelve of the twenty or so categories supplied by jumptheshark.com. So the argument of whether BtVS has jumped the shark is a moot one. Buffy HAS jumped the shark. Repeatedly. This argument over when Buffy jumped that I've noticed many have seems to believe that a tv series can only jump once, and each individual believe they know when that time is. As I've already stated, Buffy jumped a number of times, so it's important to note only the first time she jumped, and BtVS was a TV show based on a very unsuccessful motion picture. It jumped the shark at "Day One" coming out the gate, and continuously jumped the shark repeatedly throughout its seven year run. If you'll all recall, it was always difficult to get BtVS acknowledged by the mainstream. This sharkjumping is why. The show was written off by a lot of people before it even broke its stride in season two. They didn't give it a chance. Hell, even I wrote it off, but the sheer quality of the storytelling brought me back. As it did for a great many people. BtVS transcends shark jumping. It is immune to it. The argument is moot.

Now can we please move on to more important discussions, like whether or not Morena Baccarin will get to play Diana Prince? *ducking*
Pssh, "Jump the shark". Hating that phrase, thank you.

The truth, as I see it (which, as my minions will explain to you, is the only truth really worth mentioning these days); BtVS had some sh*tty and some brilliant episodes in every single season it was on the air. That's 1 through 7. Some rocked, some sucked. End of story.

Proclamation over. *Hail to the Kitty!*
Damnit! I wrote to him and never got on there. Bummer.
MOrena Baccarin *sigh*

Anyway, I think we just have us here a definitional problem; I'm using what I consider a standard, while Zachsmind is using a different one- and we are therefore both correct, as it relates to how we define it.

In passing, I think the very best of all seasons in the Buffyverse was S5 Buffy, which is seamless from start to finish (though my own personal fave runs from Hush to New Moon Rising, can you guess why?). After that, I'd go with the one season of Firefly- but I have not yet seen S5 Angel.....
ZachsMind, wasn't being dismissive. At all. I understand it isn't just "your" definition although you have articulated it on this board, at length, quite a few times now. Yet there are different definitions floating around. I was referencing them.
Funny, I posted this link in reponse to the original post some time ago: http://whedonesque.com/?comments=6454. It was the last post though, so I guess nobody noticed. Back then, the article was new and didn't require registration to view.
Yay! They put mine up!
Dana5140, DO NOT DELAY....you MUST see Angel, season 5.

ZachsMind, nice explanation, but I can't get myself to say Buffy jumped the shark. Even if it did, I will never admit it. Angel too!
Personally I also agree that Buffy never jumped-the-shark. By its definition, the idea of 'jumping the shark' is when a show begins to decline in quality, often accompanied by unbelievable plot twists or acts of desperation which are an attempt to get more viewers.

So, in The OC for example, Marissa suddenly turning into a lesbian and it being hyped up by the network is an example of jumping the shark because it seems that the writers are unsure of where to take some of the characters, particularly after such a popular first season, and the advertising seems intended to shock and titilate rather than cater to the story.

Willow coming out as a lesbian, however, was a very slow process where we saw hints which developed over time, and finally she met Tara and the two developed a believable and mature relationship. Joss deliberately stalled an on screen kiss to prevent it from becoming a deliberate attempt to shock, instead it was in "The Body", sandwiched around intense human drama which made it all the more realistic, natural and appropriate.

I also believe that Buffy did not jump the shark in any other way. It changed, yes, and wasn't the same show when it ended as when it started. But these changes weren't neccessarily bad, just important.

When Buffy and Spike's relationship began officially in "Once More With Feeling", it was about a year after Spike had begun to acknowledge his love for her, and it was completely believable because of the emotional state Buffy was in. Isolated, desperate, disconnected, and being with Spike was the only way she could feel something at all. The sex scenes between them were some of the most graphic in the Whedonverse, and this was intended to shock but at how much Buffy had changed rather than to allow gratuitous nudity.

"Once More With Feeling" was also viewed as a classic example of shark jumping by many sceptical fans, but viewed in context, with the music used to progress the story rather than merely amuse, along with the high quality and variation of music and dancing, convinced me at least that this was more of a triumph than a plea for ratings.
They talk about whether or not so many celebrities have jumped the shark...but I want to know about Henry Winkler's status. Has he ever jumped the shark? Or a row of school buses, for that matter?
phlebotinin: "…And a belated congrats to brownishcoat for his/her "Ask Ausiello" coup."

Thanks! I posted about it in my livejounal, accessible from my user page.
I'm on it, Harm. But I have to finish Angel S3 (3/4 way through, get through S4, and on to S5)- while still beginning to watch Wonderfalls, Dead Like Me, Freaks and Geeks, Tru Calling and keeping up with Lost and Veronica Mars... :-)
Spike attempting to rape Buffy; that's where Buffy jumped the shark, in my eyes.
Spike attempting to rape Buffy; that's where Buffy jumped the shark, in my eyes.


Which just goes to show that no matter how often people attempt to clarify what the term "jumping the shark" means, many people will still consider it to mean a point in the show they didn't especially enjoy rather than the point where a show begins a steady decline in overall quality and becomes something not worth watching anymore.

I'm really hoping that this will be the end of the Jumping The Shark threads for a while. To be honest it is a subject that is rapidly becoming meaningless, due to the obvious misunderstandings that surround it.
Which just goes to show that no matter how often people attempt to clarify what the term "jumping the shark" means, many people will still consider it to mean a point in the show they didn't especially enjoy rather than the point where a show begins a steady decline in overall quality and becomes something not worth watching anymore.

Actually, I do understand the meaning of the term; but thank you for the clarification and for trying to negate my opinion.
Sorry, Nea, that did come across as rude and it wasn't meant to be directed at you personally. Yours was just the most recent example.

I wasn't trying to negate your opinion but the example you gave was very similar to so many others who state a given episode or scene as being where the show jumped the shark because they didn't like it and then go on to say "but i did enjoy the following season" or words to that effect. Once a shark has been jumped that should suggest that nothing that comes afterwards is any good as far as you are concerned.

Now, if you really do believe that you think the show became unwatchable after the rape scene then fair enough, that is where the shark was jumped for you at least. However if you did enjoy season seven (regardless of whether it was your all time favourite season ever) then jumping the shark is not appropriate to that scene for you. It's just a scene or moment you don't like. See what i mean?

[ edited by The Watcher on 2005-04-14 15:46 ]

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