Henry Winkler has revealed the secret behind how that episode on “Happy Days” where Fonzie jumped over a Shark on water skis came about.
We all know the expression by now. “Jumping the Shark” refers to when a good and/or popular television show has passed its prime. Specifically, it refers to the exact episode when the program started to go downhill. It is also used to refer to fads.
Where did this expression come from, you might ask. Well it comes from an episode of the popular 1970s sitcom “Happy Days” in which Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzareli literally jumped a shark. The show, which lasted for 11 seasons, was set in the 1950s.
In that episode, the Happy Days gang travelled all the way to Los Angeles from their homes in Milwaukee. The Fonz, known for making large jumps on his motorcycle, bets a local beach bum that he can jump over a shark held in a pen just off the beach.
But where di the idea for the scene come from? Winkler, whose parents escaped Germany just in the nick of time before World War II started, said that it was his father who told him to do it.
Winkler actually did enjoy water skiing and the show was, of course, filmed in Los Angeles and not Milwaukee. He told Oprah on an installment of her “OWN” series that his father told him he should be sure and tell the producers to let him water ski on camera.
“I water-skied, and I was a water-ski instructor. It was one of the few sports I could do, ” Winkler told Oprah.
“My father, a very, very, very short German person, he said, ‘Tell them you water-ski, ‘ I said, ‘Dad, I probably won’t do that…’ He said, ‘No, no, no, this is important they know this! You tell them you water-ski!'”
But Winkler did not actually do the jump himself.
“Lo and behold, honest, they wrote this thing about Richie [the show’s main character] going to Hollywood and I went with him, and they had me water-ski. I did all the waterskiing, except for the jump. They wouldn’t allow me to. Well, I also couldn’t do the jump! I don’t know how to do that.”
Winkler appeared in all eleven seasons and 255 episodes of Happy Days.