Friday, May 26, 2006

Introducing an eccentric alien who looks like Robin Williams

As phrases go, one of the greatest ever coined has to be "jumping the shark". The line originates from a scene in an episode of the American TV show Happy Days, when a waterski-clad Fonz literally jumped over a shark, a scenario so far from the show’s original premise that viewers realised en masse that this was no longer the sitcom they once knew and loved.

Wikipedia says:

Many have noted the shark episode as the moment when they realized the show was no longer worth watching, considering the scene to be unrealistic and of poor quality, making it impossible to maintain suspension of disbelief...

More recently, the phrase has been used outside the realm of popular culture, representing anything that has reached its peak and has turned mediocre. For example, if one thinks a stock or a sports team has reached its peak, one can say that it has "jumped the shark".

My sidekick Kearns has a briefer, but no less acute definition:

The watershed moment when a tv series starts becoming shit.

So far so good. I recently found out – and bear with me if you knew this already – that the TV sitcom Mork and Mindy was actually a Happy Days spin-off show. In Mork and Mindy, wacky comic actor Robin Williams played an eccentric alien (Mork) who had been sent to Earth to study human behaviour.

Anyway, now it’s time to coin a new phrase. Happy Days jumped the shark, then gave birth to Mork and Mindy (here’s how, if you're interested). You could see jumping the shark as the initial watershed moment – or you could see it as a prelude to an even more ridiculous, far-out moment: the moment when a show "introduces an eccentric alien who looks like Robin Williams".

How can this snappy expression be used in real life? Well, let's look at the trio of Labour party scandals that occurred in April this year. One might say this:

"When Charles Clarke's Home Office deportation scandal hit, it looked like the Blair government had jumped the shark. With the Prescott affair, it introduced an eccentric alien who looks like Robin Williams."

Mark my words, that'll be in the Oxford Dictionary of Idiom next year. I wonder if my readers have any good examples of when they might use the expression? It would be good to hear from you both.


Sue Ellen Mischke said...

So what did you think of the season finale of 24? Poor Jackie. He looked awful in that last scene with the mean old Chinese guy looming over him. "I know how this works. Just kill me." Did you see him on the cover of Rolling Stone? I'm not usually very fond of tatoos, but DAMN he looked fine. He's 39-years-old but he looks better than ever.

Will said...

Don't tell me! Season 5 is beyond my grasp - you need Sky TV to watch it over here, so I'm closing my ears till the DVD box set comes out in September.

Sue Ellen Mischke said...

OH MY GOD. I didn't know that you weren't watching Season 5 right now! Shit! I hope I didn't ruin anything! It's a good season; it will be worth the wait. Hope I didn't give too much away!

Will said...

That's okay. I kind of did that thing where I read it with my mind shut so no details went in proper. On the plus side, I am all up to date now (1-4 sorted), so bring it on. I hope series 5 hasn't jumped the shark, or done the eccentric alien thing...

Kusems said...

Just thought you should know that I found this entry highly entertaining. I never got into Happy Days, and I had no idea Mork and Mindy was a spin-off, so now I feel enlightened. I will try to do my part to see that "introducing an eccentric alien who looks like Robin Williams" becomes a veritable catchphrase in the States.