KnowYourPhrase.com - Meanings and Origins of Phrases
Note: The origins for most phrases and idioms cannot be said with a certainty. In cases like this, what's provided are theories that may be plausible to how a phrase originated, but not necessarily so. In addition, quotes that contain a particular phrase oftentimes are taken from old newspapers, poems, or books. The purpose of these quotes is to give you an idea for how old a phrase is.
Phrases and Idioms
The phrase 'jump the shark' is said to come from the American TV series Happy Days in an episode called 'Hollywood' that aired on September 1977.
There's a scene from this episode where a character known as Fonzie is challenged to jump over a shark that's confined in the waters near the beach. Fonzie is hesitant to take on the challenge at first, but is quickly peer pressured by those around him to accept. Now out on the water, Fonzie has his water skis on and is being pulled behind a boat, picking up speed and moving towards the shark's location. Observers can hardly believe that he has accepted to do something so risky. Approaching the ramp, Fonzie gets ready to literally jump over the shark. He does so, and the people watching cheer.
Today this phrase is applied to TV shows, movies, video games, among other things.
When the quality of a TV series is thought to be past its peak or not as
great as it once was, typically because of something absurd being
introduced to the show's plot.
Example: Two friends are watching a sitcom together, one that they've
enjoyed for years. However, lately they've felt that the show has gotten worse, maybe even a little ridiculous, and so they decided to discuss at what point the sitcom 'jumped the shark.'