If you follow pop culture at all you have heard the term “jump the shark”. This comes from the infamous Happy Days episode when Fonzie jumped over a pool of sharks on waterskis. But it has become known as the moment that Happy Days took a turn that it would never recover from. It was the episode that indicated the end was near. Today that term is used to describe anytime a show hits that point of becoming just plain stupid or irrelevant. When it finally goes from great entertainment to ridiculous attempts to milk the franchise for any last drop of revenue. It is almost always applied in retrospect. You generally don't know the ‘jump the shark’ moment until several episodes or even seasons later.
With all of the streaming options it is very easy to watch every episode of a show. You can find an interesting show and go back to the beginning and catch them all. And if you are like me... you want to watch until the very end. You want to see how they wrap it up. And hopefully it doesn’t get cancelled before it gets there. In fact there have been several shows that I haven’t started until they end. I might be out of the pop culture discussions and I might get spoilers on Facebook, but then I am assure that I am not gonna be wasting my time starting a show that never has a planned ending
Over the last couple of shows I have come to a realization that the desire to finish a show all the way through can be very painful. Some shows become nearly unwatchable. The plot slows down, the writers seem to have lost their way, and the obvious desire to complete a season, or to milk it as long as possible becomes the thing you focus on while trying to make it through the end. But I still have to watch. I still want to see how it ends. I can tell when a show gets there because I procrastinate watching the next episode. Or I fall asleep half way through. Great shows you can’t wait to see the next episode. You can binge watch the entire season because the desire to see what happens next is pulling you in. You can stay up to 3am just get to the conclusion.
Recently I experienced this exact thing while trying desperately to finish the third and final season of The Leftovers. After a riveting season 1, and a decent season 2, I forced myself to conclude the horrible season 3. Just to see how it ended. To get the answers I so wanted to know. And with every episode I turned to my wife and complained about how boring, stupid, or terribly acted that episode was. But still I watched.
So what is my point? Well...Seven and half years ago I started watching the Walking Dead. The first 4 or 5seasons were excellent. Season 6 was ok. And season 7 went very dark and very gruesome, almost to the point of being unwatchable. Season 8 has lost it. The show just drags on, like the writers know where they want to go but have to spend 8 episodes to get there, when it should only take 1. The plot protection has taken any real concern over who might die next. The character development has developed to the point that most are either a caricature of the character (Rick, Daryl) or so far from what we loved about them that they are a bore ( I am talking about you Michonne, sappy doesn’t work on you). Spoiler alert. I didn’t even care that Carl died, I was relieved that I didn’t have to see anymore of his sad attempt at teenage angst.
So while suffering through this 8th season I finally came up with a term that sums up how I feel when a show reaches this point. When I watch because I am invested but not because I am engaged. When you realize the show has jumped the sharks but you watch because you are just hoping it crashes into a scene from Jaws. When you just wish the writers would realize that it is time to wrap things up, and put us all out of our misery. When the actors act like they don’t really care if the show goes on. When I become a member of the Watching Dread.