Jumping The Shark…by Tom Sumner

Jumping The Shark…by Tom Sumner

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Sunday, 11 June 2017
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Cindy Williams did an interview for my radio show a few years ago. She played Shirley to Penny Marshall’s Laverne on the classic 70s TV sit-com aptly named “Laverne and Shirley.” It was a spin-off of another 70s TV classic “Happy Days.”

When I asked her why the TV shows of the 60s and 70s seemed more fun than contemporary shows, she said, “the mirth is gone.” Her observation has been echoing loudly the last few weeks.

I will always remember “Happy Days” for “the Fonz” and “jumping the shark.” In an effort to boost ratings the 50s themed show had an episode featuring Fonzie literally jumping a shark on water skis in a leather jacket. The over promoted stunt backfired and lives on as Hollywood lingo for “that’s a really bad idea.”

If you like watching celebrities “jump the shark,” it has been a good couple weeks.

Self-described comedian Kathy Griffin definitely jumped the shark with her on-line mock beheading of President Trump.

Bill Maher jumped the shark when he told a Nebraska Congressman who invited him to come out to the state and work in the fields, “I’m a house nigger.” He may not have meant it to be as harsh as it was, but SHARK!

Bill Cosby has been one of the most family-friendly comedians ever and the quintessential TV Dad. Now he’s on trial for allegedly drugging women to make it easier to have sex with them. Perhaps this is the “jump the shark” version of dinner and a movie. So long mirth.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill…it appears there might be sharks in the sand box as President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey (fired by the President) are having a war of words that amounts to “You’re a liar – no you are.” In an attempt to “one up” Comey, the President parenthetically pointed out that “He’s a leaker!”

The search for mirth often amounts to a never ending scroll through Facebook memes. From cute animal and kid pics to often witless political punditry to memories and memorials I search for mirth. But the waters are increasingly shark filled.

I went to another Facebook funeral this weekend. This time it was Adam West who played the 1960s TV version of Batman. Back then, people who were approaching retirement often complained about having to go to funerals so often. Now we can “funeralize” our friends, family and heroes through memes and memories on social media.

When the news first broke this weekend, someone posted “here come the Batman posts.” True. But I welcome the posts about the TV Batman of my youth. Talk about mirth.

The TV Batman (first aired in 1966) is being called “the original” Batman. It isn’t. But it was for me. And to this day – had the BEST Batmobile ever.

The show aired each week in two parts. I remember the excruciating anticipation of waiting to tune in tomorrow “same bat-time, same bat-channel.” But I had to find out how the dynamic duo got out of whatever outrageous evil scheme the week’s guest villain had arranged to rid the world of Batman and Robin.

Every two-part episode jumped the shark with the introduction of some “bat” invention that dealt specifically with the cliff-hanger predicament the crime fighters found themselves in. These inventions were carried in their utility belts which apparently could hold as much as Felix the Cat’s magic bag or a circus clown car.

The show was the epitome of campy. Yet, week after week, the biggest stars in Hollywood suited up to thwart the not so dark knight. Otto Preminger as Mr. Freeze, Frank Gorshin and John Astin as The Riddler, Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, Burgess Meredith as The Penguin and of course Ceasar Romero as The Joker – my first encounter with a creepy clown.

There were many more of Hollywood’s best in villain roles and cameos, but why? Because it was fun.

Every performance was an opportunity to jump the shark with high energy over the top acting that had mirth and mayhem in equal measure. Right and wrong, good and evil were clearly defined in living color.

So bring on the memes and the memories. Mirth makes jumping the shark a lot less likely to backfire.

So…”to the batpoles” my friends and “clear all exits for the batmobile.”

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