In an eerily mature voice, my two-and-a-half-year-old turned to me with sad, disappointed eyes and said, "Kipper-shar ... Kipper-shar," which translates into Adultese as, "Kipper Jumped the Effing Shark."
It took a moment for me to realize she was right. It's not that I have anything against a good alien invasion / first contact story. In fact, my favorite Spielberg flick is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. What bothered me most was that the show had, heretofore, strove for a measure of verisimilitude. You know, Kipper loses his balloon, or Arnold has a birthday party, or the gang goes on a lovely picnic. Things like that. I respect that kind of gritty realism in a show. It takes bottle to find drama in the quotidian, but when it's done well, it makes for compelling TV. You know, like on The Wire. On a show where reality is king and the writers typically respect the audience, suddenly throwing a UFO into one of the storylines is like ... suddenly throwing an alien into one of the story lines.
It bothered Fiona that the extraterrestrial visitor was not a malevolent, would-be conqueror. Excitedly, she said, "Steve Hawk! Steve Hawk!" Of course, she was referring to Stephen Hawking's recent warning about first contact with aliens. As Mr. Hawking posits, "the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans." We all know that if aliens visit, they'll have vastly superior technology, which will leave us at their mercy.
But I'll take it a step further. The chances that we will ever make contact with intelligent life from another planet are close to zero. Yes, I know there are billions of stars and billions more worlds out there and all that math means there is probably life out there. But the chances of that life evolving into something intelligent enough to traverse the vast universe and come to our planet, while we are still around ... that's a sucker's bet that the house in Vegas could turn a tidy profit on.
But back to Fiona's criticism of the show, I didn't know whether to be proud of her for calling out the sloppy writing or embarrassed at not having caught it myself. But Sweet Fee was right: Kipper had jumped the shark. And we faced a difficult decision: overlook the artistic gaffe so we could enjoy future episodes or take a hard line and tune instead to more intelligent programming. The jury is still out ...