Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
October 4th, 2002 – I'm seated in a green room at CBS Broadcast Center, waiting to enter the set to shoot the Jump The Shark game show pilot for King World.
I had made a career on my computer chronicling when good TV shows went bad. Now it was my turn to be on the other side of the camera. I was confident in the show concept we had come up with, but the butterflies were in full swing as I sat in front of the studio audience.
Greg Fitzsimmons did a great job hosting the game show. The panel of Kathy Griffin, Christian Finnegan and myself did our best at being fair and funny judges. The enitre shoot went off without a hitch. It was a good pilot. But would a Jump The Shark TV show make "jump the shark" jump the shark itself?
Oh, and there was one other issue I was unaware of at the time. King World planned to produce one new show for syndication that year, and the other contender was a talk show featuring some guy named Dr. Phil. I guess King World made the right choice.
A couple of years later, we tried again at TV Land with a Jump The Shark panel discussion show featuring Barry Williams, Tatum O'Neal, Dean Edwards and yours truly. Shot the pilot, but it didn't fly.
Two failed pilots gave me an appreciation for all that goes into making TV. I think twice when I see a "bad show" because that's never the intent of the creators.
Fast forward a few years and I'm privileged to be hosting two shows on cable. I auditioned for Fast Food Mania and traveled coast to coast profiling our nation's finest quick service restaurants. Destination America still airs this 10 episode series every so often, and although I get no residuals, I do get a kick out of it when someone lets me know that it's on.
I also co-hosted For What It's Worth on VH1 Classic with my SiriusXM Radio partner Gary Dell'Abate. We went around the country evaluating the value of "cool memorabilia" people were holding on to and profiling exceptional collections. Our pitch was Antiques Roadshow for pop culture. The six episodes weren’t seen by many, but I'm proud of the product we put out there.
For What It's Worth went away, but the idea didn't as you'll see in my picks below. A lot of today’s TV is recycled premises, but the show rarely works the second or third time around.
I loved being on TV, but I think I’m a little bit better writing about it and recommending programs worth watching.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Stanley Cup Qualifiers (NBC Sports Network)
All Week Long
Hockey in August? Bring it on.
The playoff grind is legendary, and nothing tops the quest for the Cup. It takes 16 wins to earn the right to hoist Lord Stanley's trophy above your head. This year, thanks to COVID, there's a qualifying round to determine which teams make it into the first round of the playoffs.
Even if you're not a hockey fan, the Stanley Cup playoffs are worth the watch. The skills on display are impressive, but these athletes play hurt, lay it on the line, stop shaving, and do whatever it takes night in and night out to make it to the next round.
The intensity of these games can't be duplicated. This new qualifying round gives us hockey all day long which is fine by me. Even though it's 100 degrees outside, it'll be cold in Toronto and Edmonton as the best in the business go for the Cup. Let's Go Pens!
What's It Worth? (A&E)
Tuesday August 4 9pm (Premiere)
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, considered me BEYOND flattered.
Jeff Foxworthy helps Americans across the country find out if their pop-culture keepsakes hold more sentimental or monetary value.
WTF?!! Do you recognize that premise?
I haven't seen a minute of this program (and I won't watch it), but whoever created this clearly saw a certain VH1 Classic show I co-hosted eight years ago. I understand that people can have similar ideas, but the same title?
Jeff Foxworthy and his production company can expect a fan letter. "You might be a ripoff artist if you..."
The Rain (NETFLIX)
Wednesday August 5 (Season 3 Premiere)
I've got a thing for Danish TV series. I loved The Twelve, so why not try an apocalyptic take on the world? Seems timely.
The Rain takes place in a world decimated by a plague, but there are no Walking Dead zombies to blame. A group of survivors bands together looking for an explanation and a solution that only an umbrella can rival.
Season three continues the quest to find a cure from those pesky raindrops. This six episode season is reportedly the last one, so let's hope Rasmus and Simone can finally work things out for all humankind.
We Hunt Together (SHOWTIME)
Sunday August 9 10pm (Premiere)
This big-time crime drama from across the pond follows a couple who loves to kill and an unlikely pair of police detectives trying to track them down.
Eve Myles, from the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood, leads the quality cast through the cat and mouse chase. Baba and Freddy bond over their love for violence as the mismatched detectives find common ground tracking the killer couple.
This checks all the Showtime mystery boxes – arguing couples, sex, violence and lots of dark shots at nighttime.
If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.
Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.