Jump the Shark.
That’s what we call it when a once popular TV show goes on far, far too long.
The show becomes old and bitter and inflexible, the ratings decline, and the viewers wander off in search of fresher entertainment.
And in a desperate bid to hang onto the brass ring, to eke out one more season, one more paycheck, the show starts strapping on water skies and eying the shark tank.
The phrase Jumping the Shark, of course, comes from the 70's sitcom Happy Days, and specifically the three-part season five opener entitled Hollywood. By 1977, The Fonz, or rather the actor playing The Fonz, Henry Winkler, was 33 and it was getting pretty damned hard to believe that he and the gang were just out of high school. Instead of attending college, the actors were all old enough to be teaching it as tenured professors. Nevertheless, season five opened with the TV studio doggedly determined to flog the fading illusion for every last dime, and thus Fonzie ended up in swim trunks and trademark leather jacket on water-skis. Jumping sharks.
As I’ve said elsewhere, it was all downhill from there, the already tired show declined further and further until until we ended up with Joanie loves Chachi and that, well, that just wasn't good for anybody.
In the late ‘90s, years after Happy Days went into syndication, radio personality Jon Hein, based on a conversation with some friends, coined the phrase jumped the shark in reference to the exact moment when a TV show goes into decline. Nowadays, it’s become a widely used euphemism for losing your way in an especially spectacular and ridiculous manner.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gave us nuked the fridge, which means basically the same thing, only for a beloved big screen movie franchise instead of a TV sitcom.
I always thought the Rock & Roll version of this concept should be Kilroy Was Here, named for the band who peaked with Come Sail Away and somehow ended up at Mr. Roboto, but, yeah, that’s probably just me.
Business has long used the phrase gone off the rails, the origin of which should be obvious, to mean the same thing.
And we in the Navy had a dozen phrases for the concept, not the least of which are the derisive nicknames given to once mighty warships that have long outlived their useful lifespan and have become reeking rusting tin cans lurching from one maintenance disaster to another, Sorry Sarah, The Forest Fire, and so on. After one high fatality deployment, I heard members of USS John F. Kennedy’s crew refer to their vessel as the Ted Kennedy, but I digress.
I think we need a political version of this phrase.
A political version of jumped the shark.
Now, around here, I generally use the phrase “Also, Nazis!” (which is technically pronounced “Also? Nazis!” with emphasis and joyous gusto on the goose-stepping fascists) to describe political positions that have taken a ridiculous leap over a tank full of giant man-eating fish, but I’m thinking about changing up.
What do you think of Senseless Holocaust?
See, that’s where a once respectable conservative publication starts out with the clear eyed sanity of William F. Buckley Jr. (William For Crying Out Loud Buckley) and somehow ends up online fifty years later as a twisted bit of Bizzaroland pretzel logic thrashing like a crackhead in a straightjacket trying to justify Hitler’s Final Solution in order to discredit the President of the United States.
Oh, well, sure, when you say it out loud like that it doesn’t sound crazy at all.
Not at all.
Also? Well, you know.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about here, take a gander at this week’s The Corner, wherein National Review Online columnist Eliana Johnson took exception to President Obama’s comments regarding International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
What did Obama say? What offensive, socialist, unAmerican words did he utter this time?
Did he offend the British? Or badmouth the Israelis? Did he dismiss forty-seven percent of his fellow Americans as worthless parasites?
See, according to Johnson, Obama had the unmitigated effrontery to note that Holocaust survivors faced the horrors of the cattle cars, and the Polish ghettos, and the concentration camps and “have witnessed humanity at its very worst and know too well the pain of losing loved ones to senseless violence.”
Did you spot the offending words?
Boy, you talk about offensive … to Nazis.
Seems Johnson was put off by the word “senseless.”
Nazism may have been an ideology to which the United States was, and to which the president is, implacably opposed, but it is hardly “senseless.” By the early 1930s, the Nazi party had hundreds of thousands of devoted members and repeatedly attracted a third of the votes in German elections; its political leaders campaigned on a platform comprising 25 non-senseless points, including the “unification of all Germans,” a demand for “land and territory for the sustenance of our people,” and an assertion that “no Jew can be a member of the race.” Suffice it to say, many sensible Germans were persuaded.
So, the fanatical genocide of millions, millions, makes sense – just so long as you have a twenty-five point platform and hundreds of thousands of devoted members.
That’ll be on the test, Kids, write it down.
Johnson soldiers on until she gets to the part where she can tie President Obama’s comment about the sensible horror of the Nazis to the recent death of four Americans in Benghazi.
Now, seriously, you’ve got to jump a lot of sharks to get to this point.
Whole oceans full of them.
How far is too far? How crazy is too crazy? I mean, come on, when you find yourself in all candor twisting your brain into a Gordian Knot just so you can take offense at Obama’s use of the word “senseless” in relation to the wholesale wanton slaughter of six million people, Lady, you’ve jumped the goddamned shark. You’ve jumped the shark, nuked it, wrote a phenomenally bad 70’s hair band rock-opera about it … and then strapped it to a rail, climbed onboard, and drove it straight into the raging gray sea waving your hat a whoopin’ and a hollerin’ like Major Kong riding the bomb down at the end of Doctor Strangelove.
Jesus Haploid Christ.
What in the hell happened to these people?
Look, I might not agree with William F. Buckley on everything, but at least I could respect him. What the hell happened to conservatives like Buckley? Were they eaten by sharks?
Honestly, how can anybody, and I mean anybody, respect the lunacy that is modern conservatism?
In a recent post I said that if Obama declared that he was anti-abortion, every one of these goofs would suddenly be hauling their daughters down to Planned Parenthood for a forced D&C. I intended it as hyperbole, but, man, I’m really starting to wonder here.
The majority of the comments under the article give me hope for humanity, but then there’s this:
The point was, in a not-so-subtle way, that conflating institutionalized, organized and systematic violence against people (the Holocaust) was rather like the organized, systematic, and institutionalized violence against Americans in Benghazi... not some random event of violence like a drive-by shooting or protests from a video.
For the president to use the word "senseless" to describe both confuses the issue and makes Obama seem like he either defines senseless differently than the rest of us, or he doesn't know what the word means...
Um, say what?
The death of four Americans in Libya is “rather like” the Holocaust?
I can see why this guy is confused by the use of the word “senseless” in two different contexts. Frankly he sounds like the kind of intellectual vacuum who is daily confounded by the morning question of which comes first, pants or shoes?
Talk about senseless.
So what’s the problem?
I mean, sure it’s an obnoxious bit of tautology, but hey, who’s it hurt, right?
The problem, folks, is that this kind of warped thinking, this kind of worldview twisting lunacy, becomes habit.
And it bleeds over into every aspect of life.
It makes you blind.
It makes you deaf.
It makes you hate.
It drives you mad.
It’s contagious – for those who are susceptible, for those who haven’t been inoculated with the vaccine of critical thinking, it’s an infectious disease.
And that, right there, folks, is exactly, exactly, how you eventually end up with, well, Nazis. Real ones.
Jump the Shark.
That’s what we call it when a once popular show has gone on far, far too long.
These people have chained themselves to an ideology that has become old and bitter and inflexible. The ratings are in decline and the once loyal fans are wandering off in search of more respectable entertainment.
It’s all downhill from there and not even Joanie and Chachi – or a Rubio and Christie reboot – are likely to pull it out of its death spiral.
I’d like to leave you with the words of a different president, words also spoken on International Holocaust Remembrance Day:
"Those who perished as a result of Nazi terror, millions of individual men and women and children whose lives were taken so senselessly, must never be forgotten." – Ronald Reagan