It’s a phrase that has become synonymous with going over the top, and signaling the beginning of the end — whether in life, politics or entertainment. Now the guy who wrote the infamous “Happy Days” episode that “jumped the shark” is jumping to its defense.

From the LA Times:

In 1987, Jon Hein and his roommates at the University of Michigan were drinking beer and had Nick at Nite playing in the background. They started talking about classic TV shows when someone asked, “What was the precise moment you knew it was downhill for your favorite show?” One said it was when Vicki came on board “The Love Boat.” Another thought it was when the Great Gazoo appeared on “The Flintstones.” Sean Connolly offered, “That’s easy: It was when Fonzie jumped the shark.” As Hein later recounted, there was silence in the room: “No explanation necessary, the phrase said it all.”

Thus was born an expression that would quickly make its way into the pop culture mainstream, defined by Hein as “a moment. A defining moment when you know from now on … it’s all downhill … it will never be the same.” If I had been in the room, however, I would have broken that silence of self-assuredness, for I wrote that now infamous episode of “Happy Days.”

And more than three decades later, I still don’t believe that the series “jumped the shark” when Fonzie jumped the shark.

Little did the show’s writers and producers know as we gathered in a conference room at Paramount Studios that spring day in 1977 that we would be creating a little piece of history.

Check out the rest. For a long holiday weekend, it offers us an entertaining glimpse at late ’70s television kitsch.

Meantime, you can see where all this began below.

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