Theodore Martin “Ted” McGinley was born May 30, 1958 in Newport Beach, California, the son of Emily and Bob McGinley. He was a surfer and worked as a lifeguard in high school. In college he began modeling and was also the captain and two time MVP of the water polo team. He is known for his cinema roles in the Revenge of the Nerds franchise, Wayne’s World 2, and as Jefferson D’Arcy on the television satire Married… with Children and as Charley Shanowski on the ABC sitcom Hope & Faith. He was also a regular on Happy Days, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, Perfect Strangers and The Love Boat.
McGinley began his career in modeling. After a casting director spotted a picture of him in GQ, he was cast in comedy series Happy Days as Roger Phillips (nephew of the Cunninghams), a role he played from 1980-1984. During the run of Happy Days, he landed a role in the 1982 comedy Young Doctors in Love.
After Happy Days ended in 1984, McGinley appeared in Revenge of the Nerds where he played Stanley Gable, the head of the jock-run Alpha Beta fraternity and the primary antagonist of the Lambda Lambda Lambda nerd fraternity; he reprised the role in the third and fourth movies in the “Nerds” franchise, both produced for television.
He went on to appear in regular roles in television series including The Love Boat and Dynasty. He then went into the role of Jefferson D’Arcy on Married… with Children from 1991-1997. He had recurring roles on Aaron Sorkin’s TV shows Sports Night, as Dana’s boyfriend Gordon, and The West Wing as a TV news anchor. From 2003-2006, he played Charley Shanowski on Hope & Faith.
McGinley has been called “the patron saint of shark-jumping” by jumptheshark.com founder Jon Hein. This is a reference to the popular and enduring shows which have featured him in their declining years often to replace a departing regular castmember. Hein writes that this is not a comment “on Ted’s fine acting skills” and that “he has a great sense of humor about it, too.” In one episode of Married… with Children (a show that stayed on the air for six seasons after McGinley’s addition to the cast) McGinley himself spoofed this fact by asking Al, “Another picture, captain? I mean, Fonzie? ….Al?”.
A 2003 issue of People that focused on McGinley’s casting on Hope and Faith was titled “Ted McGinley is Not a Killer”, referencing his reputation for causing shows to jump the shark, though his long involvement with Married… with Children may have had the opposite effect: As Jefferson D’Arcy, a charming scam artist, and Marcy D’Arcy’s husband, McGinley’s contributions may have enabled the series to have a longer and more successful run with many fans preferring him to his predecessor, played by David Garrison.
More recently, in 2011, McGinley again made fun of his “shark-jumping” abilities in “Mitefall”, the final episode of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold animated series on Cartoon Network. In the episode, Bat-Mite (voiced by Paul Reubens) wants the show cancelled to usher in a new, darker Batman TV show. To that end, he starts replacing aspects of the show, including switching out Aquaman’s regular voice actor (John DiMaggio) with McGinley. Ambush Bug (voiced by McGinley’s Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler) helps to reverse the situation, in part by getting McGinley to break character (and mention his 6-year stint on Married… with Children) and leave, forcing DiMaggio’s voice back into Aquaman.
In 2008, McGinley became a contestant on the seventh season of Dancing with the Stars, and was paired with pro dancer Inna Brayer. Ted was the second contestant to be eliminated in the competition.
In a 2010 Los Angeles Times article, former Happy Days writer Fred Fox, Jr., who wrote the episode that later spawned the phrase, said, “Was the [shark jump] episode of Happy Days deserving of its fate? No, it wasn’t. All successful shows eventually start to decline. We feel “Ted the Show Killer” was the reason Happy Days was canceled.”