I’m 30 years old, which means I was peak target demo when Full House was at its zenith (the show ran until 1995). So I admit that I was one of those that gathered around the TV with my family every Friday (TGIF) to watch the continuing adventures of the Tanner family. But it’s been over 20 years since the show has been off the air and the landscape of TV, both what is shown to us and how we watch it has fundamentally changed since then. How could a show so delightfully 80s as Full House be relevant in our modern times? Fuller House, a new multicam sitcom from Netflix and a sequel/reboot to the original series attempts to answer this question.
The truth is that the question was kind of already answered. Since Full House was added to Netflix instant streaming a while back, a whole new generation has found the show and obsessively watches it. My girlfriend teaches 5th grade, and every single one of her students has binged on the show from beginning to end. There’s something timeless that kids find relatable in this silly little show. Maybe it’s the fact that multicam sitcoms have gone the way of the dodo, so Full House feels different and unique. Maybe it’s because baby Olsen twins saying “You got it, dude” will never not be adorable. Regardless, Netflix looked at these results and decided that it was time to bring it back. The entire cast agreed and just about everyone is back, to varying degrees, for the 13 episode run. But is Fuller House any good?
The short answer is no, it’s not. Fuller House is poorly written. Most of the jokes aren’t funny and delivered with a lack of any comedic timing. High Definition has also not been good for multicam sets, as the Fuller household looks incredibly fake. This is a TV show in which I rolled my eyes so many times that I got a really bad headache. And yet, all these things could be said about the original as well. If you remove your rose colored glasses for a moment and look at Full House objectively, you’ll find that it wasn’t a very good show either. So, while Fuller House is bad (really bad) it’s also an aggressively true to it’s source material.
20 years after the end of Full House, DJ Tanner-Fuller (Candice Cameron Burr) loses her fireman husband suddenly in a fire. She finds herself a single mother with 3 kids and moves back in with her father Danny (Bob Saget) still living in their old house. A year later Danny is moving to LA to start his new nationwide morning show with co-host Becky (Lori Loughlin). Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) is also moving to LA for independent, yet convenient reasons. Uncle Joey (Dave Coulier) is somehow a successful Vegas performer even though he remains the least funny person of all time. Everyone is leaving DJ and she finds herself overwhelmed. That is until her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and childhood friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber) decide to stay and help her out, and all 3 of them move into the house to live together.
If this all sounds really familiar, it’s because it is. This is basically the identical set up to the original show, complete with the brother/sister and childhood friend characters. DJ is the straight laced Danny Tanner type, although thankfully not as obsessed with cleanliness as her father. Stephanie is the Uncle Jesse stand in, somehow working a way to sing or DJ (yeah, they make a joke about that too) into just about every single episode. Kimmy remains Kimmy, but is clearly the Uncle Joey stand-in, behaving more like a child than any of the children characters in the show. Those are just like the old Full House too! The older child is the normal one, the middle child is the adorable spunky one, and the youngest is just there to look cute in really tight camera zooms. The only curveball here is Kimmy also has a daughter, Ramona, who comes and lives with the family. But because she doesn’t really fit in the normal mold, the show is never really that sure what to do with her and she’s mostly resigned to the background.
While the first episode fills the screen with just about all the old characters from the TV show (Mary Kate and Ashley are noticeably absent), they mostly disappear after that point, resigned to guest appearances that I swear just exist so we can hear the audience cheer hysterically each time they step on set. The show revolves around DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy and the problems they face. These problems, like the characters, are ripped right out of classic Full House ideas, and usually end with some kind of long talk at the end where everyone realizes their mistakes and we’re all happy again. Crazy things happen. Character’s say all their classic catchphrases, make all the classic jokes and show that none of them have really changed at all in the past 20 years.
If it sounds like I’ve been ragging on this show for 800 words, it’s because I have. Fuller House is not good TV. Television has changed a lot since the 1980s and moved past this kind of mediocre work. But if I’m being honest, as much as I shook my head and rolled my eyes at every stupid cheesy joke and dumb moment, I have to admit that I didn’t hate Fuller House. There’s just something about it. Maybe that it perfectly taps into your sense of nostalgia. Maybe its that that damn little kid is so freaking adorable. But despite how bad it is, it’s also enjoyable to watch.
There’s an episode about halfway through the season in which Danny Tanner (guest starring) is upset because the old family couch is ripped up by the dog, Cosmo (aka Comet Jr. Jr. Jr.). When told that the couch is going to be reupholstered, Danny is besides himself. How can everyone just casually throw away all these classic memories?! At the end of the episode Stephanie reveals the newly upholstered couch to her father, but to his surprise it’s covered in identical fabric to the old one. The couch is new but it looks and feels just like the old one. That is Fuller House. A modern show that, for better or worse, goes out of its way to look and feel exactly like that which came before it. But underneath that new sheen, it’s just the same old worn out couch.