If the Internet had been around in 1965, I suspect that rather than talking about a show “jumping the shark“, we would instead be talking about it “Gazooing”.
The Great Gazoo first appeared approximately halfway through the Flintstones TV show’s final season of it’s initial run. (Yep, kids. it’s true, The Flintstones made it’s debut as a prime-time animated series in September of 1960 and ran through April of 1966. It really is that old.) An alien from the planet Zetox, Gazoo had been exiled from his home planet, dislocated not only in space, but in time. He had seemingly magical powers such as being able to make objects appear and disappear and freeze time. He also had the ability to make himself visible only to Fred, Barney, and their children, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.
Basically, Gazoo was a genie-like character, voiced by comedian Harvey Korman, (probably best known for his appearances on the Carol Burnett show) who considered himself indebted to Fred and Barney for freeing him from his space-ship, and thus was constantly trying to “help” them, though of course, in the best sitcom genie tradition, his efforts to help would usually simply cause more problems. At the same time, there was a through-line to his story about him trying to get back home which, due to the show’s cancellation at the end of the season, was never resolved.
As I implied above, the introduction of Gazoo, while certainly not the cause of the show’s decline, didn’t help things either, (let’s just say he was no Barnabas Collins who managed to cause a turnabout in a flagging show’s fortunes and keep it on the air longer) and could easily be pointed to as an indication that those behind the scenes were desperate to try anything that might give them a ratings boost and that it had hit something of a creative nadir – pretty much the textbook definition of “jumping the shark”.
Anyway, here’s the episode that introduced the little fellow, appropriately titled “The Great Gazoo”, which first aired on October 29, 1965.
- ” Ba-Nana-Hanna Barbera” (veezyvibetimecreations.wordpress.com)
- The Flintstones™: Bring Back Bedrock – Ludia (itunes.apple.com)
- 1960: ABC Breaks New TV Ground with ‘The Flintstones’ (tvworthwatching.com)