Jumping the shark is a colloquialism used by U.S. TV critics and fans to denote that point in a TV show or movie series' history where the plot veers off into ridiculous story lines or out-of-the-ordinary characterizations, undergoing too many changes to retain the original appeal of the series. Shows that have "jumped the shark" are typically deemed to have passed their peak as after this point critical fans can point to a noticeable decline in the show's overall quality. The term is an allusion to a scene in a 1977 episode of the TV series Happy Days when the popular character Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli literally jumps over a shark while water skiing -- a scene that was considered so preposterous that many believed it to be an attempt at reviving the declining ratings of the flagging show. The TV Tropes website and the Transformers Wiki also refer to this as Ruined FOREVER!, with the implication by the fans that the original premise of the fictional franchise has been irreparably altered and damaged by the changes in its premise, usually done to attract new fans to the franchise at the risk of alienating earlier fans.
In reference to the Smurfs cartoon show, there are critics who believe that the show at some point during the nine years of its original Saturday morning run on NBC had "jumped the shark", though opinions as to when it did so are divided, and not everyone who has watched the show even believe there was a "jumping the shark" point for it. Some viewers simply outgrew watching the show after passing through puberty into adolescence, which to them was the show's "jumping the shark" point. As to the major points along the show's history where it may have done that for long-time viewers, they are listed as follows:
A rather arguable point where the show had "jumped the shark" was when the Smurflings were introduced in Season 5, as there are viewers who felt that the de-aging of the three original adult Smurfs characters was too unnecessary to happen; or that the Smurflings were too annoying and too unnecessary as characters, reducing Papa Smurf and all the adult Smurf characters to being babysitters. Some also vocally object to the addition of Puppy to the cast during this season, as if the Smurfs really need a pet character to take care of.
- Other major character additions
Besides the Smurflings, some feel that the additions of certain other major characters during the period of the cartoon show's original Saturday morning run had made the show "jump the shark" from that point on. Some point to as early as Season 2 with the appearance of Sir Johan and Peewit (which is rather ironic, considering that it was through the "Adventures of Sir Johan and Peewit" comic books in Europe that the Smurfs themselves were introduced). Others point to Season 3's Baby Smurf, or Season 6's Grandpa Smurf and/or Scruple, or Season 7's Wild Smurf, or Season 8's Nanny Smurf and/or Smoogle. However, since most of the major Smurf character additions were creations of Peyo rather than of Hanna-Barbera (which also includes the Smurflings), the question of whether these additions made the cartoon show "jump the shark" would seem to reflect closer to whether their creator has made his series of comic books do the same with their introductions.
- Season 9 (the time-traveling season)
This would definitely be considered the "jumping the shark" point for the cartoon show, since its original premise was shifted to that of time-traveling, a "goal-oriented" plot that certain viewers feel is the death knell for any TV series since very few series that have "goal-oriented" plots reach the intended climax (Star Trek: Voyager being one example of the exception).
In regards to the 2011 Smurfs movie, some fans' reactions suggest that the original premise of either the cartoon show, the original comic books, or both has been "Ruined FOREVER!" by having the Smurfs appear as CGI-animated characters in a live-action real-world setting (a complaint that seems to be constantly leveled at other live-action/CGI-animated movies such as Garfield, Scooby-Doo, and Alvin and The Chipmunks), or that the story has them appear in a modern-day real-world setting such as New York City, or certain changes in characterization such as Smurfette taking an "action girl" role in her confrontation with Azrael.