|(from left to right) Laurette Spang, Henry Winkler, and Ron Howard in "Hollywood: Part 3."
Don't blame the shark! Yes, Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) water skis over a tiger shark in the 1977 episode "Hollywood: Part 3" from the fifth season of Happy Days. And, yes, a radio host named Jon Hein made a lot of money in the late '90s and early 2000s from the catchphrase "jumping the shark," meaning the moment that a TV show starts to go downhill in quality. If people know nothing else about Happy Days, they know about this one very silly moment. But I say the shark has been scapegoated. Or scapesharked, whatever.
For some arcane reason, Fonzie's shark-jumping stunt has become emblematic of Happy Days' overall decline, even though it's really not much more extreme than Fonzie's garbage-can-jumping stunt from the third season or his wild demolition derby against the villainous Malachi Brothers from the fourth season. Not to mention that the "Hollywood" story arc was highly rated when it first aired in the fall of 1977 or that the series wasn't even halfway through its run!
But, somehow, all the blame gets put on the shark. Did you know that Jon Hein himself didn't even identify this episode as the pivotal moment in Happy Days history? Nope, it was his college roommate at the University of Michigan who had a beef with this one. And from this one guy's complaint, we get a catchphrase that refuses to die. Go figure. What people forget is that the "Hollywood" three-parter also introduced the character of Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio). That has way more of an impact on Happy Days' future than the shark.
Anyway, my cohost and I discuss these issues and many more in our review of "Hollywood: Part 3." I do hope you'll join us.