Monday, March 23, 2009

12 Kids Who Killed TV Shows

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, "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 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?" don't talk like that..."

"One of the biggest jumps was after Sam arrived, he and Arnold had a competition selling ROACH 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?"


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..."


  1. Ricky and Oliver! ABSOLUTELY!! Even as a kid, I hated these two with a passion.

    Can't agree with Albert on Little House on the Prairie though. I had a little girl crush on him and thought that he was alright. Little House never did have any cute boys on the show. Willie Olsen? *gag* Albert was as close as us 8 year olds got to a Little House heart throb.

  2. Those shows deserved to die anyway. Well, except Married With Children. We still miss you Al Bundy.

  3. LOL @ "mm-hmm" and "Right ON!" after every scripted black injustice. A lot of 70's shows had talky audience members if I remember correctly.

    And I hated the Jenny Piccolo character in Happy Days.

    Laverne & Shirley jumped the shark when they moved to Hollywood. wth?

    How come Arnold and Sam had to share a room in that big ass penthouse apartment? That's wack.

  4. Cousin Oliver (Robbie Rist) on "The Brady Bunch"

    Thank you for this post. I have been racking my brain trying to remember the name of the albino Chinese boy who destroyed The Brady Bunch.

  5. Scott Baio. Raven-Symone. Janet Jackson. Leonardo DiCaprio. Well, obviously being the new kid on the show ruined their careers, and they were never heard from again.

  6. Yes, but just as many went the way of the dodo.

  7. It's always something to see a Jackson before all the plastic surgery...

  8. Yes, but just as many went the way of the dodo.

    Killed by pigs and macaque monkeys. What stage mom would want that for her kid?

  9. @Toledo...

    Danielle Brisbois is now a successful songwriter/producer, as well. She was a member of the band "New Radicals" back in the 90's and most recently she co-wrote and produced "Unwritten" and "Pocketful of Sunshine" for Natasha Bedingfield. Both singles were Billboard #1's.

  10. In 2001, Robbie Rist appeared with members of the Brady Bunch cast on an episode of the game show The Weakest Link. During the introductions, he joked that "I hope I don't kill this show too!" The other cast members voted him off the show as the first "weakest link", probably because they thought he didn't belong there. NBC canceled The Weakest Link a few months later.

  11. I was a rabid "Growing Pains" fan. Even as a kid, I hated Luke and wanted him off the show. Part of my hatred spawned from legions of Leo fangirls at my elementary school who said they loved him in "Titanic" (I was the only person in my class who even saw the movie). I also knew he added nothing to the show.
    I got sooo mad when the Seavers adopted him. I kept hoping he'd run away and live at the bus stop again or something.

  12. I don't think Albert was the JTS moment for Little House. Neither was Mary going blind. In real life, Mary was blind. The JTS moment for Little House was when Mary (who, for the record never got married) & her hubby had their school burned down & their baby die in same fire.

    In most cases, by the time these kids were added, I'd already stopped watching the shows.

  13. I agree with all but Albert, like LTG said. He's always been one of my obscure crushes. I'd hit that. ;)

  14. What about Andy on Family Ties???

    Any time they inject new blood into a show, it usually means the show is dying.

  15. cary, i meant to tell you that i love the line from Flagpole Sitta on your banner today. can i add?

    "been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding."

    indeed. thank you, harvey danger. just, thank you.

  16. Any time they inject new blood into a show, it usually means the show is dying.

    Not E.R. They're injecting new blood all the time and the show still has strong storylines and good acting. But they're doctors, so maybe they know how to inject blood without killing.

    Is there any example where a show did not jump the shark with such a major addition or was even enhanced by it?

  17. I think they meant "new kid blood", not new adult blood, kushibo.

    I'd say 'Lost' fits that bill as well. Always injecting new blood, but the show is sharper than ever.

    'Stargate' is another example. When Daniel died and they brought in the new guy - Quinn? (It's been awhile since I saw it.) It was still pretty good. But it definitely jumped when MacGyver left and they brought in Beau Bridges.

  18. Hutchlover wrote:
    I think they meant "new kid blood", not new adult blood, kushibo.

    Actually, on E.R. they do add kids to the show. Abby's baby, son of Sam, and the girl that John Stamos is taking care of. But I think E.R. is an outlier just because it's an ensemble show that always had a rotating cast/staff: bringing in someone new doesn't have the same import.

  19. Kushibo, not sure where you got the "inject" line, but ER jumped the shark years ago... about the time someone crashed a tank (!) into the hospital... then it circled around and jumped the shark a couple more times... helicopters falling from the sky, ambulances blowing up, etc.

    That said, for many years it was the best show on TV, in my opinion.

  20. Oliver sucked. I hated that kid. He always fucked everything up.

  21. helicopters falling from the sky, ambulances blowing up, etc.

    Maybe you're right. Having never visited Illinois, I just assumed that was typical for Chicago.

  22. Lol, Poodlehead...

    Your comment made me think what a trip that show would have been if the Brady kids would've been able to use PG-13 language. "Goddammit, Oliver fucked everything up again."

    But not R, though. Then the writers might have gone all Family Guy on us and maybe had Marcia and Greg hook up. And that would just be icky.

    Sorry, Cary. I'm ruining your blog.

  23. I can't be the only one here to think that Scrappy Doo killed the whole Scooby Doo show...

  24. I'd punt that little punk Scrappy Doo down the street, yo!
    He had an attitude and didn't respect his uncle!

  25. Yes, you're right. Scrappy Doo fucked it all up. As a kid I hated that little asshole. We all did.

  26. Yes, I think All In the Family jumped some when little baby Joey was born too. It just changed the dynamics of the show too much. Archie as a Grandpa had to be softer and show he had a heart more.

    Great list, Cary! :)

  27. Even in 1974, Cousin Oliver looked like a middle-aged creepy guy who works in a comic book store.

    Cary, I do hope you don't think ER jumped the shark until after my appearance in season 10. It is still my fave, I will be sorry when it goes.

  28. Okay. Is it just me, or does little Robbie Rist bear a striking resemblance to Benny Hill? Wasn't his show popular? Ya think the ding-dongs (euphemism intended) wanted to capture that audience?

  29. Scrappy. What a punk! Even as a seven year old, I knew that he was wrong for the show's vibe.

  30. Brian Bonsall on "Family Ties". Quinn Cummings on "Family". Going back to the early '70s, Dawn Lyn as little Dodie hastened the demise of "My Three Sons".

  31. Dexter's baby might be a new addition to this list very soon...

  32. You were no ER, Woodwoman? Cool. Were you dead or alive?

  33. I hate Scrappy Doo! What's funny is that my kids watch Scooby all the time and they hate Scrappy too!

    I've read reports that my fav show, Supernatural, has an upcoming episode titled "Jumping the Shark" as an homage kinda thing. Although, it could probably be said the improbable overall storyline is the ultimate in shark jumping LOL Ah, who gives a shit...Jensen Ackles is just HAWT! LOL

  34. I had already stopped watching each and every one of those shows (except Happy Days) by the time these new characters were added, so they all jumped the shark before the additions.

    And as a rabid Scott Baio/Chachi fan, he so did NOT ruin Happy Days.

  35. I remember the episode of Different Strokes where Sam got kidnapped and molested. It is the only one I can clearly remember. And I have the therapy bills to show for it!

  36. Cary, I'm "background" doctor, signing charts, checking out x-rays, on the season 10 finale. Alas, I do not speak.

    If I were an actor, I would now insert all those annoying lame-ass phrases actors use like "honing my craft" and "getting my acting chops in" -ugh. That was my one-time moment. Well, that and Romper Room in 1966. Miss Judy did not like kids when the camera wasn't on, btw. I felt so used.

  37. Oooohhh - Woodwoman with a Romper Room expose. Pray tell?

  38. Scrappy Doo definitely did in Scooby.

    I agree that new kids never make a show better. I guess you could make a case for Facts of Life which basicaly blew up the cast after a season or two even though I never cared for the show from the beginning.

    As far as an adult addition making a show better. I nominate Kirstie Alley. I really thought Cheers was done when they shipped out Diane but it actually got better.

  39. Cheers was fortunate to have a creative team and ensemble cast that were both talented enough to compensate for the loss or replacement of any one character. Shows like Diff'rent Strokes, The Brady Bunch and Good Times did not.

  40. Oh, and as for Scooby Doo, I have my own lyrics for the opening song.

    Scooby Dooby Doo,
    Where the fuck are you?
    You stupid motherfucker
    You're always sniffin' butts
    And humpin' legs
    And drinkin' toilet water



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