Sunday, December 17, 2000

Happy Days


Bush, Gore star in hit TV show

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        It's called Jump the Shark.

        “A defining moment, when you know your favorite television program has reached its peak,” explaines its creator, New Yorker Jon Hein. “It's the instant you know, from now on, it's all downhill.” The phrase is in honor of the Happy Days episode when Fonzie water-skis over man-eating sharks.

        Mr. Hein's Web site (www.jumptheshark.com) lists hundreds of TV shows from All in the Family (jumped when Gloria and Meathead moved out) to Bewitched (the Dick switch, from York to Sargent) to Seinfeld (never jumped).
       

Hillbillies in color
        Serious couch potatoes can debate whether M*A*S*H went south after Henry Blake's death or when Alan Alda stopped chasing nurses and started moralizing. You can check in with your scholarly views on the wisdom of colorizing the Beverly Hillbillies or motherhood for Murphy Brown.

        My favorite television show for the past five weeks has been Who Wants to Be President? starring Al Gore and George Bush, with Dan Rather and Tim Russert as the wacky neighbors. Harrowing plot twists. Cameo appearances by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Many somber addresses to “the American people.”

        I only wish I'd had the flag concession.
       

A hit show
        And then on Wednesday night — right after a visit from the best incumbent president, Martin Sheen — came the best real television of the campaign season. Al Gore sounded like he was talking to us, instead of lecturing us. He looked good. You could imagine why Tipper allowed him to maul her on national television. You could see why a lot of people like him.

        He promised to “honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together.”

        Looking amazingly relaxed and blessedly free of pancake makeup, Vice President Gore said, “What remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship.”

        Stepping forward an hour later to assume “his stewardship,” the president-elect said, “I was not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation. Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests. And I will work to earn your respect.”

        He thanked Mr. Gore for his “gracious” telephone call and added that “I understand how difficult this moment must be” for him.

        “What we need to do now,” U.S. Rep Rob Portman told the Enquirer's Howard Wilkinson, “is to get on with the healing.” The Terrace Park Republican who has long been a member of the Bush inner circle will be a supporting player in this new Washington show, along with some character actors and bit players.

        How will they perform their roles?

        “The things we have been dreaming about, we can now do unfettered,” said Tom DeLay, the House majority whip.

        “There will always be this sense that there was some larceny involved in this election,” said Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut.

        Wednesday night could be the first episode of a new show in Washington, D.C. It might even be a hit. If someone jumps the shark — if we see an instant when things begin to go seriously sour in our Happy Days — surely Americans will remember who played the Fonz.

        And who took the role of the sharks.

       E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.

       



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