One of the reasons I write about Happy Days a lot is that I think that show had more "jump the shark" moments than any other show (apart, I mean, from the actual shark jumping), and therefore is a handy reference point for almost any bad TV trend I want to bring up. But that leads me to ask: is Happy Days the show that had the most moments like that -- moments that are typical of what shows do when they've lost their way -- or is there another show that beats it?
Other shows like Law and Order may have had more JTS moments in terms of sheer numbers, but most of them are the same kind of moments: cast changes. What I'm talking about is a show that meets the largest number of criteria for jumping the shark, that has many different moments that fans can point to as the big moment when it started to suck. Happy Days, because it had a) a long run and b) producers like Marshall, Miller, Milkis and Boyett who were willing to do anything to keep a show popular, seems to me to be the one that really incorporates every possible JTS moment, including but not limited to:
- Change in format (one-camera to multi-camera)
- Change in emphasis (Fonzie becomes the star)
- Show becomes completely ridiculous and implausible (the shark jump itself)
- Major cast members leave (including one of the stars, Ron Howard)
- Characters leave the show to do a failed spinoff (Joanie and Chachi)
- A character is forgotten and never spoken of again (Chuck)
- Terrible new characters are added (including Mr. JTS himself, Ted McGinley)
- A cute little girl is added to the cast (Heather O'Rourke)
- Characters start to dress anachronistically and the show forgets what time period it's supposed to be set in (a JTS moment for any show that is set in the past)
- Important characters are softened and eventually lose all edge at the behest of the network (Fonzie going from hoodlum to squeaky-clean role model)
And so on. There may be other shows that had almost as many JTS moments, but I can't think of any that had as many: All in the Family had many of these moments (characters leaving, characters getting spun off, cute little girl added, Archie loses his edge, show stopped using a live audience after Mike and Gloria left) but didn't go all the way into lunatic fantasy or promote a different character as the star.
Roseanne might be a candidate, based mostly on the final season, but I think it was too consistent for most of its run to really count as a JTS champ. Other nominations?