What has the power to ruin pop culture fandoms for me faster than you can say “midi-chlorians”? I’m not saying it’s aliens, but it’s aliens. Here’s a pro tip for pretty much anyone in charge of making creative decisions for movies and TV shows: STOP PUTTING ALIENS IN SHIT THAT ISN’T ABOUT ALIENS. Otherwise it’s gimmicky, laughable, and we all hate it (and by extension you.)
Here are ten pop culture series that jumped the shark and were arguably ruined by the introduction of aliens:
Happy Days is of course the show that literally jumped the shark and where the phrase originates from. But is it possible for a show to jump the shark twice? Later in Season 5 the show’s director Jerry Paris (the same guy responsible for that crazy walnut-eating aliens episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show) introduced Robin Williams as Mork, an alien from the planet Ork who was sent to Earth to find a typical human to take back to his home planet. Naturally he chooses The Fonz.
It turns out the whole thing was a dream, but Robin Williams’ character proved so popular with the audience he was given his own spin-off show, Mork & Mindy…which also jumped the shark.
When George Lucas wasn’t ruining Star Wars in the early 2000’s he was ruining Indiana Jones. When he introduced aliens to the fourth movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I facepalmed so hard I almost gave myself a concussion. It’s one of the few times I actually felt embarrassed watching a film.
The Flintstones is about the last place you’d expect to see aliens, but halfway through the final season Fred and Barney meet The Great Gazoo, an alien from the planet Zetox. Everything was just fine down in Bedrock until this little green fucker showed up and started acting like he was running shit.
The Flintstones was cancelled just a few episodes later, which you’d think would be a pretty clear indication that adding an alien to a prehistoric cartoon was a terrible idea, but that didn’t stop the producers of Viva Rock Vegas (a horrible, horrible movie you should never watch) from not only reviving the character but giving him a major role.
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man was a little before my time and I’ve only seen a handful of episodes (I’m much more familiar with The Bionic Woman) but its shark-jumping Sasquatch/Alien episodes are legendary. That’s right kids, in Season 3, Austin encounters Bigfoot who is revealed to be a bionic protector of a band of aliens. Oh yeah, there was also an earthquake. You can’t make this shit up.
Okay, so here’s something embarrassing I need to admit because it explains why I was such a big fan of seaQuest: I used to have a huge crush on Jonathan Brandis. We’re talking Tiger Beat posters all over my walls. But even for a show I watched almost exclusively to catch a glimpse of Lucas, I lost all interest toward the end of the second season when an alien starship sucks up the seaQuest and its entire crew and warps them all away to the planet Hyperion.
Jonathan Brandis obsession aside, I used to think seaQuest was a pretty cool show and unique for being a futuristic sci-fi series that didn’t involve aliens. Used to.
In my own personal idea of hell, I’m trapped in a darkened theater for all eternity where my eyelids are forced open by machines as Space Jam plays on repeat. In the mid-90s, Looney Tunes reached the height of popularity by teaming up with Michael Jordan and capitalizing on the space/aliens theme that was so popular at the box office during that time. I love Looney Tunes. I love Michael Jordan. What I don’t love is Looney Tunes and Michael Jordan in space battling it out with cartoon aliens who aren’t Marvin the Martian. It has a horribly contrived plot even for a cartoon movie, and the fact that its entire conception was based on a Nike ad campaign is really all you need to know about it.
The Looney Tunes haven’t been as popular ever since. And if I never hear R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” again, it will be too soon.
Some things are meant to be mysterious and better left unexplained. But Highlander II: The Quickening attempted to provide an unnecessary and extremely over-complicated origin story for Conner MacLeod and the other Immortals by–yup, you guessed it–making them aliens. We’re suddenly supposed to accept that Highlander is an alien from the planet Zeist who was exiled and reborn on Earth, and as punishment for his rebellious actions on Zeist must compete for The Prize, thus setting up the events of the first film. It’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds.
It’s worth noting that the Director’s Cut of Highlander II completely omits the alien origin, which is never mentioned again in any of the later Highlander continuities.
Dukes of Hazzard
Like many, I stopped watching Dukes of Hazzard after Bo and Luke were inexplicably replaced by a pair of pretty boy imposters–and good thing, too, because it means I wasn’t around to witness the batshit insanity of this seventh season episode that introduced a teleporting alien. Seriously.
Married With Children
Most Married With Children fans would probably point to the introduction of a Cousin Oliver-like character named “Seven” (who was introduced in Season 7–hurr hurr, get it?) as the show’s definitive jump-the-shark moment, but something much worse happened back in Season 5. After a severe head injury, Al begins to see aliens who steal his socks, which they need to fuel their ships to stop a cosmic disaster. Al’s unwitting help saves many worlds from destruction… including Earth.
Even for a show as goofy as Married With Children, aliens were an unwelcome direction. Bud’s stint as Grandmaster B, on the other hand, was a very welcome direction.
A collective “WTF?” was felt around the interwebs when we all heard that Battleship, the 2012 movie based on the iconic Hasbro series of games, would be about aliens, but I guess that’s to be expected whenever Hollywood puts its greasy, creatively bankrupt fingers on beloved things from my childhood (see also: Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles).
It might be a stretch to call Battleship a “pop culture series” unless we’re counting board games (Electronic Talking Battleship totally counts, right?) but the movie was such a drastic departure from the game’s thematic history that I felt it deserved a spot on this list. I’ve never actually seen the movie but knowing that the plot revolves around aliens is enough to make me not want to watch it. Ever.
What, you mean you don’t wear a leather jacket when you go waterskiing?
Wondering what this is all about? This week the League of Extraordinary Bloggers was tasked with writing about a pop culture series that “jumped the shark” and lost our interest. Here’s what some of them said: