Actor Ted McGinley has a killer reputation. For more than 20 years, he's been a featured player on some of TV's most popular series, from The Love Boat to Married...With Children. Usually brought in relatively late in a show's life, McGinley has come to be seen by some as a sort of prime-time grim reaper: If McGinley's mug appears on screen, a show's deathwatch has officially begun.
''Anytime I talk about Ted, I tell people first of all I think he's a good actor,'' says Jon Hein, who's operated jumptheshark.com since 1997. The site is named after the infamous 1977 episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie strapped on water skis and jumped a shark tank, a moment that has come to symbolize the desperation that hit shows exhibit when they finally run out of ideas. Jumptheshark.com is dedicated to chronicling such notorious television milestones, and Ted McGinley is the site's patron saint. Says Hein: ''When he signs on, the show is going to jump the shark, and there's just countless examples of it.''
The site points to McGinley's roles on such canceled shows as Dynasty, Sports Night, and last year's Charlie Lawrence, in which he starred opposite Nathan Lane. (Oh, and by the way, it also notes his star turns as frat guy Stan Gable in such films as Revenge of the Nerds I, III, and IV.) Yet not all of McGinley's shows have wilted upon his arrival.
''Look, it took me three and a half years to kill The Love Boat, four and a half years to kill Happy Days, seven and a half years to kill Married...With Children,'' McGinley said recently while promoting his new show, ABC's Faith Ford-Kelly Ripa sitcom, Hope & Faith. ''So I'm hoping it takes me 10 years to kill this one.''
So how come McGinley gets singled out as the ultimate show killer when there are threats like Alison La Placa and Scott Baio still wandering onto studio sets? ''Everyone's looking to take a potshot,'' says McGinley, pointing not just to Hein's jumptheshark.com but to other sites as well. (On AmIAnnoying.com, 57.64 percent of respondents find Ted McGinley annoying!) ''I've got big shoulders, I don't care. I love my wife, I love my kids. Go ahead, bring it on. I don't know why, but I'm an easy target. And I don't do anything to dispel it.''
As of now, it hardly seems to matter. About 11 million viewers tuned in to each of the first two episodes of Hope & Faith, in which McGinley plays Charley, a wisecracking-but-loving orthodontist father of three and the husband of Faith Ford's stay-at-home mom, Hope. The show gave ABC its largest audience on an opening Friday night since 1996's Sabrina, the Teenage Witch -- and the highest for any network since CSI first showed itself on CBS three years ago. A successful run would go a long way to proving what McGinley's costars past and present already know: He is not a show killer.
''I think any man that's as good-looking as he is has to take their amount of crap,'' says Ripa, who on Hope & Faith plays McGinley's annoying sister-in-law, a failed soap star who's come to live with him and his family in their Ohio home. ''If I was him, I wouldn't change a thing, because it works.''