Back When The Fonz Jumped the Shark

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It was September of 1977, back when school always started the day after Labor Day the way God intended, not in the middle of August before our summer was even over. And, it was also when the new season of everybody’s favorite television shows premiered in September too, not October-January, or whenever the Hollywood folks felt like coming back to work for 6 weeks before they took their first of several “hiatus” for the year. I was 12, in my first year of junior high, and like kids and adults all across America, I anxiously plopped down in the family room on the red shag carpet, glued to the one television in the house that received only three channels—ABC, CBS, and NBC, to watch The Fonz jump the shark! He did, and we watched nervously as he barely cleared the enclosure of Jaws, The Ripoff, to live to be cool another day and to also spawn a new phrase, “Jump the Shark”, which is now used routinely to describe a television series whose best years are behind it and has resorted to outrageous, gimmicky stunts to retain viewers. AYYYY!

It’s truly hard for me to believe that was well over 30 years ago now. It’s also hard to believe that in anyone’s wildest imagination, the decadent, hedonistic 70’s could be considered a simpler, more innocent time–but they really were. At least if you were an average kid growing up in the suburbs, and not hanging out at Studio 54, that is. In 1977 we were much more insulated from everything that was going on in the world around us. Television was still monitored by censors back then, and there was no way my 12 year old eyes would have ever flipped the channel during prime time to accidently witness a graphic murder, and then the victim’s corpse splayed open on the medical examiner’s table. There was no 24/7 cable news to give us overly private details of the trainwrecked lives of celebrities, some of whom are not much older than I was when I sat on that shag carpet that night to watch the shark jumping. There was no sexting, no cyberbullying on Facebook, no Internet at all.

So, while the world was not really any more innocent than it is in 2011 (it’s naïve to think there is anything new under the sun), at least we had a somewhat gentler introduction to its harsh realities than kids do today. Kids who would probably howl with laughter at me and my generation breathlessly gathered around the t.v. to watch a hokey stunt involving a grown man in a leather jacket jumping over a shark on his water skis while Opie Taylor drove the boat.

Other Noteworthy Events of 1977:

  • President Jimmy Carter pardons almost all Vietnam War draft evaders
  • Alex Hayley’s “Roots” premieres on ABC
  • Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” released
  • Bank of America adopts the name VISA for their credit cards
  • Libyan Socialist Arabs People’s Republic forms
  • “I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC & Sunshine Band peaks at #1
  • Elvis Presley Dies in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Last broadcast of “Mary Tyler Moore Show” on NBC-TV
  • TV’s Rhoda gets divorced
  • President Carter raises minimum wages of $2.30 to $3.35 for Jan 1 1981
  • Miss World Contest – Miss UK wears $9,500 platinum bikini
  • Cost of a gallon of Gas: 65 Cents

Those happy days were yours and mine…

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