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Jumping the Shark: 10 Great TV Shows That Took a Turn for the Worse

From ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ to ‘True Blood,’ these were the moments when our favorite series started to take a nosedive

True Blood and Dexter

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer in 'True Blood' and Michael C. Hall in 'Dexter'

John P. Johnson/HBO; Randy Tepper/Showtime

It was supposed to be an invigorating, can't-miss moment: The coolest character on television, clad in a leather jacket and shorts (?!?), would strap on some water-skis to perform a dangerous stunt. But Arthur Fonzarelli, a.k.a. the Fonz, wasn't going to wow the crowd with just any death-defying act, mind you — he was going to leap over a Great White shark. Take that, Jaws! In your face, Pinkie Tuscadero!

When Happy Days forced its most iconic character to stoop to such desperate measures, it left behind a legacy it could not have predicted: a phrase for the moment that a TV series crosses the Rubicon of audience respect, losing both its integrity and the plot. The term "jumping the shark," as coined by Jon Hein for his Website devoted to the devolution of television shows, signals a pivot point in which a writer' room starts resorting to desperate measures to maintain viewers' interest. Such last-gasp measures didn't start with Garry Marshall's nostalgiafest, of course — the less said about the Great Gazoo, the better — but it was the Fonz's date with an aquamarine predator that gave us an iconic moment in which to sum up the beginning of the end.

TV history is littered with JTS moments, and the fact that we're now living in a new Golden Age of Television (TM) hasn't stemmed the tide. So we've brought together a crack team of boob-tube-ologists and asked them to pinpoint some recent examples of unfortunate series shark-jumping. These were all beloved shows that, for one reason or another, took a left turn for the worse. Strap on your waterskis, folks.

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‘True Blood’

Welcome to Faerie-Land (Season 3, Episode 7)
"I'm a faerie? How fucking lame!" Indeed, Sookie Stackhouse, indeed. True Blood was already starting to get away from itself — too many characters, not a firm enough grasp on any of them — when it revealed that the source of Sookie's occasional flashes of psychic power, not to mention her irresistible vampire magnetism, was…faerie blood. Is this any more ridiculous than werepanthers, or the idea that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives would pass vampire equality legislation? Not necessarily. But the corny, silly faerie world, costumes, and special effects made the series look unwittingly cheap and stupid rather than knowingly trashy. For a show trying to walk the fine line between camp and crap, that kind of failure is the true death. STC

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