You might not recognize Fred Fox Jr‘s name, but he is the screenwriter credited for writing the now-infamous “Hollywood 3″ episode of Happy Days which involved Henry Winkler as Fonzie waterskiing over a shark. The term “Jump The Shark”, coined by Jon Hein (now of the Howard Stern Show), refers to the precise moment when a television series went downhill. Thirty three years after the episode aired on television, and twenty years after the term entered the pop culture lexicon, Fox has come forward to defend his work.

Fox wrote an op-ed article in The Los Angeles Times defending his work on the infamous “jump the shark” episode of Happy Days:

“All successful shows eventually start to decline, but this was not “Happy Days’” time. Consider: It was the 91st episode and the fifth season. If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes? Why did we rank among the Top 25 in five of those six seasons? That’s why, when I first heard the phrase and found out what it meant, I was incredulous. Then my incredulity turned into amazement. I started thinking about the thousands of television shows that had been on the air since the medium began. And out of all of those, the “Happy Days” episode in which Fonzie jumps over a shark is the one to be singled out? This made no sense.”

Interestingly enough, nowhere in any discussions or articles on the subject of jump the shark did I ever find my name associated with it. So, really, the only people who knew I wrote the episode were those on the show and my friends and family. But I knew. I have to admit, there was a time I was embarrassed. I was Hester Prynne reincarnated, walking around with a scarlet “S” on the front of my shirt, facing accusing glances and stifled snickering. But this feeling passed quickly, and I likened the popularity to a new fad, where someone jumps on the proverbial bandwagon and soon everyone is doing it, for no rhyme or reason, like the riding the mechanical bull craze. It was ludicrous. All I could do was laugh.”

Read the whole article on Los Angeles Times.

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