When Star Trek: The Next Generation began airing in 1987, it took awhile for the series and for the new crew of the USS Enterprise to find their footing and break out from the shadow of the show’s iconic predecessor. Many early episodes of Season 1 were rehashes of episodes from the original series, and The Next Generation‘s freshman season is often regarded as its worst. Fans noticed an increase in quality starting in Season 2, which coincidentally coincided with Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) growing a beard. Riker’s beard became a mainstay in the Star Trek universe from that moment on, and fans widely regarded it as a moment that the Star Trek spinoff matured.
It was a change that inspired the trope of “growing the beard,” the opposite of “jumping the shark,” in which a series becomes noticeably better in quality. In fact, an Urban Dictionary entry lists Riker’s beard as “The opposite of jump the shark, i.e., when a TV show goes from unspectacular/boring/outlandish to completely awesome.