When I created "jump the shark" back in 1997, here's how I defined it:
"It's a moment. A defining moment when you know from now on...it's all downhill...it will never be the same."
That moment changed my life – creating a web site that would alter the course of my professional life based on a Happy Days episode I saw 20 years earlier.
These precious moments are what makes life worth living. When you think back on how you got to where you are these days, pivotal milestones clearly stand out.
My moments include hitting a home run in the all-star game when I was 9 years old, meeting my wife at Michigan freshman orientation, our subsequent wedding day and the birth of our two daughters, and countless others.
Another one of these moments happened during the summer of 1980. I was 12 years old, and my mother recommended an 823 page book by an author who was catching some heat - Stephen King. That book was The Stand.
My mom shaped my pop culture instincts (dad was responsible for the sports). She sat me in front of the TV at two to watch a new kids show, Sesame Street. She had me listen to The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd. Mom has good taste.
She realized summer TV was garbage and her oldest son needed something to occupy his time and fertile pop-culture mind. She recommended my first Stephen King book (Christine) the year before, so she knew I was a budding fan. She could not have known what reading The Stand did for me.
The Stand is an epic revolving around survivors of a pandemic that wipes out most of the population. King was writing a Lord of the Rings for contemporary America. I couldn't get enough of it.
I re-read The Stand every summer for the next decade, wondering who would be the right people to play Stu Redman, Mother Abigail, Tom Cullen and the Trashcan Man. I even took on the 1,152 page complete and uncut edition years later which taught me the value of having a good editor (apologies to Stephen).
The Stand is tailor made for the screen. Every attempt to translate this literary classic has failed. The 1984 ABC miniseries came up short - this tale cannot be told on network television. Warner Brothers recently spent 5 years trying to get a feature film made - no dice, and the rights reverted back to CBS TV.
This week, there will be another attempt at tackling The Stand. It's a 10-part miniseries on CBS All Access with episodes dropping weekly (that's a mistake). The casting is hit and miss - love Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abigail and Alexander Skarsgard as Flagg, iffy on James Marsden as Stu and Amber Heard as Nadine.
This isn't the greatest time for a miniseries based on a global pandemic and Stephen King has rewritten the ending. The story is great, so this will all come down to the execution on Captain Trips.
For me, it's a teenage summer at the end of a lousy year. I'll take it.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Tiny Pretty Things (NETFLIX) Monday, December 14th
The marketing department came up with this title, right? This new 10-episode drama is a cross between Black Swan and, wait for it, Pretty Little Liars.
It's the story of three young dancers at an elite ballet school who battle to be the prima ballerina and they'll do whatever it takes to get on top.
Based on the book of the same name, expect plenty of cutthroat competition in the roughest part of Chicago - the Archer School of Ballet.
The Ripper (NETFLIX) Wednesday, December 16th
This British docuseries focuses on The Yorkshire Ripper who terrorized London in the late 1970's killing 13 women and failing to kill 7 more.
The investigation is one for the ages. The actual killer was interviewed by the police 9 times, but the investigators let him slip away time after time.
The serial killer was nicknamed after the legendary Jack the Ripper from 1888. Everyone was a suspect until the Yorkshire Ripper's eventual capture after an ugly killing spree. True crime is just as disturbing across the pond as it is in our own backyard.
If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.