Welcome to Episode Five, the final episode in our week long series about jumping the shark in real life situations. We started off the week talking about shows, such as How I Met Your Mother, that have jumped the shark. While it’s fairly common for shows to jump the shark at some point, not all shows find themselves meeting that same fate. Many believe that shows such as Newhart and The Dick Van Dyke Show successfully ended their runs without ever jumping the shark. I would argue that The Good Wife has been going strong for 5 seasons now and has yet to jump the shark. Here are three lessons we can learn from these non-shark-jumping shows.
Lesson: Know when it’s time to go.
One way that shows avoid jumping the shark is by knowing when to quit. While it’s possible to jump the shark early in a show’s run, most shows tend to jump the shark around Season 5 or later. After five+ years of telling stories about the same characters, the writers appear to start running out of new things to say. But instead of ending the show while it’s still relatively fresh, the show’s creative team starts relying on gimmicks, multiple guest stars, or odd story lines in the hopes of keeping the show alive a bit longer. Staying too long can be a problem in real life too. Even the most fabulous job can get stale if you stay too long. It’s better to go out on top and be remembered for your successes than to end at the bottom and be remembered for your lesser moments (Yes “The Roseanne Show,” I’m talking to you and your lottery-winning story throughout the last season).
Lesson: Brief plateaus are normal, long plateaus can lead to problems.
Not every episode of every TV show is a winner. Even the best shows have an oddball moment or two. You may find one or two episodes that fall a little flat, but then the successful show continues to climb once again. It’s a bad sign however, when a show plateaus into a long line of uneven story telling and less than exceptional writing. Once mediocrity becomes the norm, it’s only a matter of time before the show starts to go downhill. Successful shows, just like successful jobs or successful relationships, have steady growth with occasional and brief plateaus mixed in.
Lesson: Don’t let money, praise, or glory blind you from reality.
Legend has it that Dick Van Dyke ended his very successful hit series after only 5 seasons specifically to avoid a decline in quality. I can only imagine that the network and others associated with the show were less than pleased that their hit show would no longer be on the air and brining in money. But Van Dyke stuck to his guns and ended the show. If we want to avoid jumping the shark, we too must be realistic about our situation and not let others persuade us to stay for the wrong reasons.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this week’s “Jumping the Shark” series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it! I would love to hear your thoughts about jumping the shark (in TV land or in real life!)