The first time I said, "Jumped the shark", was during the final episode of American Idol season 8, when Ryan Seacrest did not say, "This year's American Idol is...Adam Lambert!"
I use the phrase, "jumped the shark" quite often now, when referring to some of my favorite television programs, without ever knowing where the phrase came from. According to Wikipedia:
"The expression was coined in 1985 by Jon Hein, who would later create the web site jumptheshark.com." Hein explained the concept as follows: "It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on...it's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it 'Jumping the Shark.' From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same."
Additionally, the expression refers to an episode of Happy Days where the gang went to California and Fonzie demonstrated his bravery by jumping over a shark in water-skis.
I guess it is akin to staring at the TV in amazement while saying, "Oh, come on!" This, if I am being honest, happened every week on the show, "Charlie's Angels".
If you go by the original meaning, I guess there can only be one shark-jumping moment, but when you are talking about American Idol, that is not the case for many viewers.
I first want to say that Season 3 was the season of "jumping the shark" for me. There were only a few, very few, good enough to be on American Idol, a show responsible for one of the most talented and popular singers of this decade, Kelly Clarkson. The few bright spots of talent in AI's season three did not even make it to the finale.
The next time American Idol "jumped the shark" was the year viewers suspiciously voted Chris Daughtry off, leaving three contestants remaining to fight for the title. I say, 'suspiciously' because by that time, American Idol was in its fifth season and viewers knew that to tie a singer to a contract with the AI producers could mean the death of a singer's career. (Exhibit A: Reuben Studdard)
When voters booted Daughtry, it fueled my suspicions from season 3, when I suspected that the viewers' calls were not the only factor determining the winner. While the three remaining contestants, Elliot Yamin, Katharine McPhee, and Taylor Hicks, all had something to offer, Chris Daughtry had the elements of all three contestants combined.
A voice at least as good as Yamin's, if not better; the total package that Katharine McPhee possessed, looks and talent, and the entertaining appeal of Taylor Hicks, that year's winner who won the crowd over more for his humbling personality and 'nice guy' attitude, than for his singing ability. Fans now know a loss for Chris on AI, meant a win for his professional life. (Although I did like Taylor Hicks and I also thought that he was much more entertaining than other contestants, throughout the run of the show).
You would think, as the definition of jumping the shark suggests, that nothing could top that moment, but surprisingly enough, three years later, it happened again.
Adam Lambert, in my opinion, was the best thing to happen to American Idol. He had the voice, the talent, the appeal, the stage presence, attracted fans from all ages, and made it through the season being in the bottom three only once if memory serves me correctly.
Everyone I discussed the show with was certain he was going to win. In fact, they all insisted he had to win.
Imagine the collective gasp of surprise among its millions of viewers, when Ryan Seacrest announced that Chris Allen was the new American Idol, on the night of the season 8 finale. This season I honestly thought Adam Lambert would not lose. In previous seasons, I always had my doubts, right up until the moment Ryan opened revealed the winner's name.
It leaves me wondering whether American Idol will be able to do it again. Will they 'jump the shark' again or was Adam Lambert's loss the defining moment for the show, when everyone realizes the show will never be the same.
Given the solid ratings American Idol manages to hold onto every year, including this season with a new judge in place for Paula Abdul, I would not count on it.