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It’s Hard Out Here to Jump the Shark August 20, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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We’ve all seen it happen.

That moment when our favorite event crosses over into ludicrousness. When the cast of One Day at a Time moves away from Schneider. When they add another baby to the cast of the Cosby Show just so Bill can make those baby faces at them. When The Real World begins ritualistically sacrificing the housemates who leave the seat up (Okay that hasn’t happened yet, but a fella can dream.) It’s widely called “jumping the shark” and it’s moved away from just television into all facets of society. When a cultural phenomenon reaches the height of its’ popularity, it resorts to cheap gimmicks and trickery in order to maintain its’ relevancy. And the intended effect usually results in an opposite result. The popularity falls faster than a John Candy EKG (What? Too soon?) and soon whatever it was is banished to a late night Nick at Nite marathon, the 99 cent rack or even worse, a guest spot on Celebrity Fear Factor.

But with the recent ludicrousness of every facet of life, the shark jumping has become increasingly difficult. When you begin your life so full of campy highs and are shot out of the box with such ferocity, you can’t really jump a shark when you’ve been vaulting over Jaws from day one. How can a show like Desperate Housewives (with its’ umpteen sexual scenarios and almost weekly new cliffhangers) possibly ratchet up its saturation and preposterousness? The pomposity that is every reality show can never jump a shark because that is essentially what every episode is: a collection of attention starved wanna-bes who try to outdo each other by coming up with grander and more intense ways to make themselves look like a total douche on national television.

The term itself has its’ roots in the Happy Days sitcom, where the Fonz literally jumped a shark during a water show. That was the beginning of the end for the shows value as it is a scientific fact that every show following that one was just a bunch of still photos of cast members underscored by jazz music, farting noises and the occasional slide whistle sound effect. Butt the term takes into account that something was once popular and meaningful. You can’t jump the shark unless you previously did something of merit. Happy Days didn’t change lives or incite a revolution (though it is credited with countless families looking for extra cash to invite Italian men with no jobs and questionable sexual practices to move in over their garage.) but it was a pretty decent show before the shark jumping. Today’s television shows, teen starlets and movies like Snake on a Plane cannot jump the shark, since they had no previous form of reference other that the fact that they were hopping from the get go. You can’t be half dead or a little tired. Hence, the term has lost its’ meaning, much like the phrases “Cheap Gas,” “Trustful Government” and “good Bruce Willis film.”

So I am laying the gauntlet down now. The term “jumping the shark” has, well, jumped the shark. It is outdated and unnecessary, so I am here to propose a new term for the moment just before it all comes crashing down. Yup, no longer is a show jumping the shark, but it’s pulling an Osment.

That’s right. By now we’ve all seen the published reports. In a long standing Hollywood tradition of two things almost identical in nature occurring almost simultaneously (Movies about comets, star studded trials, strange Lolita-like singers slutting it up on the red carpet), Haley Joel was arrested for drunken driving and spouting off an obscenity laced tirade just a week or so after Mel Gibson did the same. He was shockingly found to have marijuana on his possession, which I believe is the most common thing on an 18 year old Hollywood’s actor’s person after Lindsay Lohan’s phone number. He blew a .09, which is difficult considering the size of the boy’s jaw line is roughly equivalent to the mass of one of those new planets the scientists found just before Pluto. And he crashed his car, making the money he made on Secondhand Lions have absolutely no meaning at all now. So how does this qualify him for a term that will henceforth be associated with ludicrous acts and sad sack attempts at popularity? Because of who he was and how it happened.

One, he was the second person to get busted this month and he did after the person more famous than he was. At least if you’re trying to live down your cutesy past by modeling yourself after a hellion, try to get the majority of the press. Two, the kid hasn’t done a movie in years, so his persona is burned in our minds as the cute little kid from Pay It Forward. At least when Macaulay Culkin was busted in 2003 he had just done a movie where he played a gay club kid, so his transformation had begun. Osment has to live with knowing that he goes into his “typical child star” phase with A.I. as his legacy. Even Jude Law, who is vying with Samuel L. Jackson for the title of “Guy In Every Movie for the Paycheck,” leaves that one off his resume. And three, the kid never lived up to his hype. Sure, he reinforced the fact that kids whispering in horror films is the creepiest device known to man, but he followed up the sudden explosion with nothing. As stated, you had AI, Secondhand Lions and Pay It Forward, which may have had more Oscar nominees in its’ cast than any other film but part of their contract stated that all their talent had to be checked at the studio door, along with all liquids (Never can be too careful, I suppose.) Even the cute kid from Jerry Maguire managed to get his name on a line of bathroom shampoo. You did not. That may explain the drinking. That and the fact that your parents named you Haley. Come to think of it, let me buy you a drink.

SO pulling an Osment is perfect. A phenomenon that never really burned too bright in the first place already topping its’ past with a grandiose turn for the worst.  The incident may turn out in his favor since there is a severe short of male role models for the future sluts and attention whores. The girls have plenty to look to, but the guys have almost none. Wilmer Valderrama may be the new Winona Ryder (A star that you have to date in order to achieve Hollywood success) but he’s almost thirty. Heck, he’s my role model, but I’ve already accepted my role in life. The kids of tomorrow now may have you Haley Joel when designing a path of degradation.

So next time you watch a TV show outgross itself or a sitcom doles out a clip show before the completion of its’ first season, call it pulling an Osment. Though that phrase may even jump itself before too long. I’ve been hearing rumors that the kid from Pet Semetary has a thing for Thai hookers…Just saying. Because if Hollywood does do things in twos, we need another young star to turn his image upside down. And fast. Because the Olson Twins are already getting boring.

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