Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear/And it shows them pearly white.

When The Shark Bites
Ratings for the broadcast networks have taken another tumble this fall ó down an overall 3% from last season. And it’s not just new shows that are having trouble; a surprising number of old favorites have slipped badly.
Frasier has dropped 21%; Will & Grace is down 16%; and even CBS’s hot CSI fell 11%. Nor can it all be blamed on the unusually high ratings for the baseball play-offs. In times like these, TV fans are reminded of the famous Happy Days episode in which Fonzie jumped over a shark while water skiing in the Pacific Ocean. At that instant, even the biggest Happy Days fan knew the show would never be the same.
Now “jumping the shark” is the term used for that moment when a series hops the track and starts its inevitable downhill slide. A look at some of this year’s waning hits, and why they’re wobbling. (The more sharks, the bigger the creative slide.)
Ratings: [down] 23%
The Joey-and-Rachel storyline didn’t ignite, and after everything from Phoebe’s triplets to a Barbados getaway, the show seems out of ideas. A nice time to exit.
Ratings: [down] 23%
It jumped the shark in Season 6 (it’s now on 10), when Sipowicz’s wife was killed by a stray bullet. Now Andy’s on his fourth partner ó and getting remarried. The edge is gone.
Ratings: [down] 9%
Ray’s spine has continued to shrink, Debra has got nastier, and Robert has found a wife. Despite a sameness to the episodes, the CBS hit comedy is holding up.
Ratings: [down] 16%
Ever heard of trauma fatigue? Everyone on the floor has been hit by a life-threatening condition or assaulted by a whacked patient. Oh, the plague again? Yawn …
From the Oct. 27, 2003 issue of TIME magazine