.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

Martha Jumps The Shark

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I'll admit it. Every once in a while, if I was, say, laid up in bed with a bad case of flu, I'd flip the channels and come to rest on Martha Stewart fixing up some yummies in the kitchen. Say what you will about how over-the-top white bread she is, about her arrogant monotone, about the fact that she always seems one misstep away, say, upon dropping an orange zester, from going Satanic, as she does regularly on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, but the bitch can cook. She can hold her weight against Emeril any frickin' day of the year.

For that reason alone, I wouldn't say that her career in TV has, until now, jumped the shark.

For the uninitiated, JumpTheShark.com is a website that catalogues the moment when TV series outlive their welcome - when the quality takes a nose dive. The term "jump the shark" is taken from a Happy Days episode when The Fonz jumps his motorcycle over a shark in a tank, an episode that, many agree, was the beginning of the end for the hit show.

The question now is: Can a TV show jump the shark before it even airs?

Well, if I was to nominate a candidate for a pre-emptive shark jump, it would be The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.

It's hard to know where to start on this. Reality TV, as a genre, is such a disturbing freak show phenomenon that I suppose one could argue that Martha's show doesn't jump because she's such a freak and is perfectly cast. True, but that would leave me with nothing more to write about. Wouldn't want that now, would we?

Don't answer that!

You gotta love this country. Commit a felony, host a TV show, make millions more dollars than you already have. The stint in prison will be a small blip for Martha, whereas for other, less privileged people it could mean the end of the road, a police record that will close doors on them faster than Donald Trump can put on his toupee.

I remember that when Martha was first convicted I had a notion that she was being made an example of, that millions of Americans lie and don't get caught. We cheat on our time sheets and expense reports at work, we claim fictional deductions on our tax returns, we make phony insurance claims, and we exaggerate personal injuries to try and make millions in a lawsuit.

But now I can't help reading about this new show, regardless of the fact that it was conceived of and agreed to by Martha before she entered prison, and conclude that this is one of the signs that a true aristocracy is alive and well in America. People like George Steinbrenner, George W. Bush, and Martha Stewart, can run afoul of the law and it won't harm them one bit. Their wealth, privilege, and influence are above the law.

Perhaps America has jumped the shark.