How do you know when a TV series is in trouble? When they add a new character, especially a kid, in a pathetic attempt to boost sagging ratings.
That's why an entire section of JumpTheShark.com, "New Kid In Town," is devoted to characters that its readership believes represent the "jump the shark" moment -- or one of the moments, at least -- for a series. JTS readers nominate and vote on various jump moments for each show.
LOTD reader Dianna suggested I list some of the more notable ones, so I did. The quotes in italics are from JumpTheShark.com readers (with errors left intact).
See the full list and votes here.
Seven (Shane Sweet) on "Married... With Children"
The addition of Seven in season seven (1992) beats even perennial show-killer Ted McGinley as top vote-getter for the jump-the-shark moment, although the hit series would last another four seasons after Seven joined the cast.
"If Married... With Children jumped the shark, it was the 'new kid in town' Seven that did it. Not Ted McGinley. And not Steve's 'exit... stage left.' Seven made no sense."
"I think this show got BETTER and FUNNIER with the addition of Ted McGinley, which might be a first."
Cousin Oliver (Robbie Rist) on "The Brady Bunch"
Oliver joins the cast near the end of season five (1974) and appears in only five episodes before the plug is pulled on the Bradys forever.
His episodes are among the worst of the entire series, and include at least one -- the hair tonic episode -- that was so lame, Robert Reed refused to appear.
"Oliver is and always will be the demise of The Brady Bunch. He was an utter annoyance. I watched The Brady Bunch religiously as a child and once I saw Oliver on the show, I knew it was over."
"In some ways, Oliver must be revered as being one of the founding fathers of Jump the Shark history."
Olivia (Raven Symone) on "The Cosby Show"
Olivia joined the cast in season six (1989) as the step-daughter of Denise (Lisa Bonet) when Bonet returned to the Cosby cast full-time after a break to do "A Different World."
"... (Olivia) was such a ham that it became really annoying. Sorry, but nobody wanted to watch an entire episode about her wanting to go to the zoo instead of to church with some wise old woman named Gramtee. And what the hell is a gramtee anyway?"
Sam (Danny Cooksey) on "Diff'rent Strokes"
Cooksey appears in season six as the son of Mr. Drummond's love interest, Maggie (Dixie Carter), then both join the show as regulars in season seven (1984), just in time for ridiculous "very special" storylines about custody battles, kidnapping, epilepsy, mugging, paralysis, and other mirth. The show lasts only one more season.
"Definitely jumped when Sam joined the cast, and I agree with the previous poster, the acting was HORRIBLE! The lines were stuff adults MIGHT say, but kids never..."You'll have to excuse my brother..." "Ms. Chung, as class president, may I say a few words?"...kids don't talk like that..."
"One of the biggest jumps was after Sam arrived, he and Arnold had a competition selling ROACH SPRAY...in their luxury apt bldg on the Upper East Side..."
Stephanie (Danielle Brisebois) on "All In The Family"
Stephanie was added at the beginning of the show's ninth -- and final -- season (1978) after Mike and Gloria depart at the end of the season prior. She then joins the cast of "Archie Bunker's Place" after "All In The Family" ends.
JTS readers actually voted Mike & Gloria's departure as the top "jump the shark" moment of the series, with Stephanie's appearance coming in at #2, and I'm inclined to agree. I think it even jumped a little when baby Joey was born.
"AITF obviously jumped when Mike & Gloria moved away. That final show of the season (when Edith & Archie are just sitting in their chairs after a brief cry) should have been the finale for the show. No Archie Bunker's Place, no Stephanie (gag!) & no lumbering on after that episode."
Albert (Matthew Laborteaux) on "Little House On The Prairie"
Charles & Caroline Ingalls move to the city and adopt street urchin Albert at the beginning of season five (1978). The series would continue for four more seasons, so you can't really say Albert killed it. Personally, I think Mary going blind was the final nail in the coffin. Speaking of, Michael Landon dying didn't help, either.
"The show was at its best before Albert came onboard. I never much cared for the 'moving to the big city' episodes, but I sincerely wish the Ingalls had never decided to drag Albert's sorry butt back with them to Walnut Grove. It was Albert who started this show on a downward path of no return."
"There was one continuing plotline that was so ridiculous -- Charles' and Caroline's penchant for adopting every stray urchin to happen across their path. WTH? This family which is always on the brink of ruin what with the hailstorms destroying the corn and the mill in perpetual bankruptcy somehow expand their family every season."
Luke (Leonardo DiCaprio) on "Growing Pains"
Homeless teen Luke Brower appeared late in season six (1991), then joined the cast full-time in season seven in a last-ditch effort by producers to save the dying show. It didn't work. "Growing Pains" was moved to Saturday night -- TV's graveyard -- to make way for newer series, then cancelled at the end of the season.
But it was the appearance of another kid, Chrissy, a season earlier that gets more votes from JTS readers as the series' jump moment.
"Talk about a real ZERO addition to the show. Some successful doctor and his ‘perfect family’ is going to take in a ‘homeless’ kid? How believable is that? Apparently the state where the Seaver’s lived did not have a foster care system."
Ricky (Ricky Seagall) on "The Partridge Family"
Precocious 4-year-old Ricky was added at the beginning of season four, as the hit series' ratings declined and star David Cassidy started whining about the rigors of fame and fortune and talked openly about leaving the show. "The Partridge Family" was cancelled at the end of that season.
We watched this show and I don't even remember this little twerp. I do remember poor fugly Danny Bonaduce growing out his hair into some sort of giant red pelt. Now, could someone please point me in the direction of Albuquerque?
"I thought the show was okay until Ricky Segall (who unbeknownst to many, changed his name to "Ted McGinley" when he got older) came on the scene. Oh look everyone, Ricky's here to sing and wave his head back and forth like a pigeon on Prozac. Everyone's ear plugs in place?"
Vicki (Jill Whelan) on "The Love Boat"
Vicki came aboard in season three as the daughter Captain Stubing never knew he had. She was added not because of sagging ratings, but because producers wanted younger viewers (what, kids don't like Charo and Bert Convy?!).
More JTS readers cite the addition of Ted McGinley as photographer Ace in season seven was the real show killer, but honestly, although I loved it as a kid and it has sentimental value for me, "The Love Boat" jumped the shark the moment it aired. It was terrible. I tried to watch it recently and couldn't make it past about four minutes.
"The Little-Orphan-Annie, red-headed, freckle-faced thing got worse with puberty, so the jump extends into the puberty category, as well."
"The Love Boat jumped the shark before it even left port. I guess there was a great white circling the waters there in Long Beach (or wherever it supposedly sailed from) that got run over by the Pacific Princess on her maiden voyage."
Jeremy (Ralph Macchio) on "Eight is Enough"
Macchio, as Abby's rebellious nephew, Jeremy, joins the Bradford household in the show's fifth and final season, and gets the second highest number of votes as the shark-jumping moment of the series. Number one? The addition of Susan's baseball-star husband, Merle the Pearl (Brian Patrick Clarke), in season three.
Right on. Merle sucked. I remember. We loved the show until he came along, then it got insufferably lame. They had eight kids for chrissakes! It's not like they were hurting for characters.
"Actually, four would have been enough."
"'There's a plate of homemade wishes on the kitchen window sill...' is actually drug-speak for a plate of homemade hashish brownies. i know i had to be high to watch this show. i blame "eight is enough" for the failed war on drugs."
Chachi (Scott Baio) on "Happy Days"
Oh, Spinderfella won't like this one.
Fonzie's greaseball, sleeveless-shirt-wearing cousin Chachi Arcola appeared in season five, became a love interest for Joanie, and later joined Richie's band on drums.
A tiny number (74 votes) of JTS readers think that Chachi was the jump point for "Happy Days"; I guess they forgot about FONZIE JUMPING A SHARK on water skis in season five, the scene that created the whole idea of "jumping the shark" in the first place. Hello?
And if that wasn't it, Richie leaving the show two seasons later surely was. And don't call me Shirley.
"Live studio audience - Fonzie living at the Cunningham's - Richie using more and more "slogans" - Chachi ---- all indicitive of a show on the way out and leaving bad memories."
"The worst thing was the emergence of the Fonzie character. This short little skinny weasel couldn't scare anyone in real life and they had big tough guys backing down from him. Sometimes 2 and 3 guys would run away. What is he? like 5'6 and 150 pounds?"
"when joanie went from a NOSY LITTLE SISTER TO A FRIZZY HAIRED SLUT WITH A BIG BUTT"
Penny (Janet Jackson) on "Good Times"
Abused child Penny joins the cast in season five when the Evans' friend and neighbor Willona (Ja'Net DuBois) adopts the abandoned girl.
Her appearance is just the sixth most popular reason for the show jumping the shark; JTS readers vote the departure of the dad, James, Sr. (John Amos) after the season one as the top reason.
I guess I agree -- we watched this -- but I also recall that the show started to suck when everything became about J.J. and him saying "DY-NO-MITE" 27 times in every goddamn episode.
"How the hell did she get that role, anyway? Was she the only one who auditioned?"
"I liked the show much better after they got rid of loud mouth James, the father. All the man ever did was fight & yell. The episode where they get the telegram that he was killed, made my day."
"Good Times jumped a whole tank of sharks: Penny...when James Evans "died"... Florida leaves, then comes back...annoying studio audience: Yelling, "Right On!" or "Mmm-Hmmm!" whenever a scripted black injustice was brought up..."