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TV Writer Behind Happy Days' Jump the Shark Scene Dies

Date November 11, 2012

Bob Brunner

Bob Brunner, a writer and producer on Happy Days who both named Fonzie and also reportedly suggested that the character jump the shark, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 78.

Brunner died of a heart attack on Oct. 28 near his home in Northridge, Calif.

Brunner got his start in the entertainment industry as a publicist in the early '60s when he worked with Tony Bennett and Louis Armstrong. He then transitioned to TV writing for The Odd Couple, executive-produced by his childhood friend Garry Marshall. The two frequently worked together, next when Brunner wrote for Laverne & Shirley and then when he wrote 15 episodes and produced 37 episodes of Happy Days.

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Brunner came up with both the nickname "Fonzie" for Henry Winkler's iconic character as well as his famous catchphrase "Sit on it!" Brunner was showrunner at the time of Happy Days' now infamous "jump the shark" episode where Fonzie travels to Hollywood and engages in a water-skiing challenge. Since then, the phrase "jump the shark" became known as the point where a TV show begins its decline.

Brunner went on to co-create and executive-produce Brothers and Sisters and Working Stiffs, and executive-produced Diff'rent Strokes, Webster and Love, Sidney. The Emmy nominee also co-wrote the 1999 film The Other Sister and Exit to Eden, both with Marshall.

He is survived by his three children, Robert Jr., Elizabeth and Jennifer, and six grandchildren. A private service was held Tuesday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where his wife was laid to rest in 1987.

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