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Jumping the shark

| Wednesday, October 7, 2020


Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

“Jumping the shark” describes the moment when a piece of media, usually a long-running television series, gets completely derailed from its original content. The show usually gets gimmicky and overdone, experiences a drastic drop in quality and essentially becomes a shell of its former self.

Jon Hein, radio personality and creator of the now-defunct JumpTheShark.com, described the phenomenon as the “defining moment when you know from now on … it’s all downhill … it will never be the same.” The phrase gets its name from the episode of “Happy Days” where Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water-skiing, and other examples include “Friends” when Joey and Rachel start dating, “The Office” after Michael Scott left or “How I Met Your Mother” when they introduced Zoey (though that story arc did bless us with Kyle MacLachlan). 

All this to say: Fall 2020 at Notre Dame has unequivocally jumped the shark.

I mean, what are the writers doing? We’re way past believable now. They threw a giant curveball at us last season, introducing COVID-19 and sending all the students home. That was a bold choice to make, but it somehow paid off when we were renewed for another season back in May. This was the writers’ chance to get back on track — and they totally blew it.

The season started out decently strong, though there were a few odd choices made right from the start, like having the football team join the ACC for the year and discontinuing fan-favorite character Muffet McGraw. The HERE campaign was a good visual gag for a few episodes, and then they had that whole case spike story arc, which was a good source of tension, if not a little predictable. After that was resolved, the semester almost seemed to feel familiar again. Football games started up. They brought in Library Lawn, arguably the best new set piece since they built Pizza Pi. There were even some interesting B-plots: an outbreak in Zahm House, a controversy in the student senate and the introduction of the SDH bees (talk about a literal bee plot).

However, the writers didn’t stay on track for long. They ventured dangerously into shark-jumping territory when a law professor from Notre Dame got nominated to the Supreme Court, which was already a little out there for this semester. They strapped on their waterskis after University President Fr. John Jenkins sparked controversy by attending the nomination ceremony without wearing a mask. And then, the moment came — Jenkins tested positive for the coronavirus. We didn’t just jump that shark, we did a 360º backflip over it.

My complaint? It’s just not plausible. The University president blatantly defying his own regulations and then actually contracting COVID-19? It’s tacky. It’s bad writing. It doesn’t go at all with the themes of the season that the writers have been pushing, not to mention that it essentially re-hashes a plot from earlier on in the season. This just doesn’t make sense, you guys!

Writers of ND Fall 2020, I implore you — come back from this. Give us a break. Bring back other fan-favorites — might I suggest having Fr. Pete McCormick guest-star for a few episodes or bringing back the Cafe de Grasta set? We just want some good, old-fashioned, believable plots. Film a bottle episode about students waiting in LaFun for their Subway to be ready. Have a socially-distant, quarantine-themed SYR. Whatever you do, just make it convincing. Is that too much to ask?

Ella Wisniewski is a junior studying English and economics. She tries her best not to take herself too seriously. You can reach her at [email protected] or @ellawisn on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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