Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jumping the Shark: Can You Turn it Around?

As many have pointed out, a number of TV shows have jumped the shark this season. I am thinking of Entourage and Rescue Me to name two. Nip-Tuck jumped last year in perhaps the Evil Knivel of all jumps.
Once the shark is jumped, do shows ever recover their mojo? I think Saturday Night Live had several recoveries but only by hiring new casts and writers. There are also shows that had so-so years amid better ones. Certainly Dallas had a novel way of wiping out a disastrous storyline.
But I can't really think of a good show that deteriorated and then returned to its full glory. Can you?
Interesting to see if 24 can pull it off next season.

8 comments:

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm drawing a blank as well. I think once shows go down the tubes, well, they usually just spiral. You can turn it around and ask about authors with series that may have jumped the shark. I wonder about that.

pattinase (abbott) said...

In both cases, it's often due to viewer/reader ennui, I think. Although there are so few good TV shows, we may stay with one longer. There are so many fine series writers, readers might just get promiscuous despite consistency in writing. Or maybe the times change and the writing doesn't.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, Patti, there are too many good (if not that many superb) television series around, to keep up with them all...unless one wishes to give all one's leisure time over to it (or at least mine, given my workaholic tendencies). But, then, I gave NIP/TUCK one season and found it lacking, even with Famke J in the cast.

I tend to blame ennui less than there are only so many trips one can take to the creative well without making drastic changes. Marcia Muller's McCone novels ring the changes on the characters' lives, and thus manage to excape the trap that, say, Robert Parker's Spenser books fell into...but even there, I'm not sure Muller has done as good again with that series as with TROPHIES AND DEAD THINGS...but the novels aren't repetitious bores, either.

TV series that have pulled out of slumps...well, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE pulled out of spiral twice, under different producers...once by essentially turning the show over to Harry Shearer, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and other self-confident pros (and marginalizing the good people already on staff, who'd already been micromanaged into boredom), and once after Phil Hartman became the anchor for the only good period the show has had since Lorne Michaels came back the year after Shearer, Guest, et al. After Hartman left, the show fell apart again (he wasn't the whole show, but was clearly the most valuable player in what was for a season or so the best cast the show ever had, even with the ridiculously impressive original crew).

Some shows improve enormously after their beginnings (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, BABYLON 5), and some have arguable resurgences (GUNSMOKE)...but (almost) inarguable resurgences...hmm. Will mull.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Then there's the debate over whether a shark was jumped at all. Many contend the last few years of Seinfeld were too absurd. I think only the last episode jumped.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, I'd say that NYPD BLUE improved for its last season or so after going on autopilot for a while; likewise FRASIER. My friend Chuck Esola found he couldn't watch SEINFELD with any enjoyment when the primary characters were essentially unfazed by the death of Susan, but I'd suggest the series had been sliding by that point (I think the final episode was in part a bird-flip to how loathsome the characters had become to the cast and writer-producers). Notable, I'd say, that Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been involved with two of the shows under discussion here so far, and odd that CBS isn't more behind her fine current sitcom, the only one other than the possibly resurging CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM to actually be worth watching among the post-SEINFELD group.

And sorry about the bad tip on BURN NOTICE, which comes back This week, now that tennis is done for now on USA.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, the last year of Frasier was very good. A good example. I gave up on NYPB Blues before the last season.
The Susan thing was difficult but now that we've see Larry David is action on two shows, it's not hard to see where that thinking comes from.

Steve Allan said...

Oh, the death of Susan was the height of Seinfeld. That was an absolutely brilliant move on their part. As for the last episode jumping the shark, I don't think it did that as much as they just did a disappointing clip show. However, sending them to jail and the last stand up bit in prison was very funny.

The latest stuff on TV just doesn't appeal to me. I still have a dozen and a half shows that I'll watch frequently, but a quick glance at the latest Entertainment Weekly's TV Preview didn't prick my my interest in too many shows. I guess I'll have more time to read and write this Fall.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Flight of the Conchords and Weeds are the only comedies I like right now. I like JLD on her show but the supporting cast leaves me cold and the pacing is so slow. Plus her character is too inconsistent for a family-based comedy. Especially in re: to her son.
And I had to work hard to like Flight. Dave White said to stay with it and I did, and finally I got it. Thanks, Dave.
Dramas-hmm, Rescue Me was bad this year. I guess The Wire, Big Love and The Brotherhood are my last best hopes.