Full House went off the air in 1995, when I was only four and Bill Clinton was running for reelection. The economy was booming, and the political scandals that would come to define the late nineties were still in the future. Global terrorism was on nobody’s mind, you could still smoke on some airlines, and Kim Kardashian was still just the child of OJ’s best friend. What I’m trying to say is that the America Full House was a part of was perhaps a little less complicated, and certainly more innocent. The idea that Donald Trump would have a real shot at the presidency would have been the subject of a sketch buried at the back end of a bad episode of SNL. Full House makes a little more sense in that context. Which is part of the reason Fuller House feels very much like an artifact of the past. It’s culturally tone deaf. It’s a show completely bereft of cynicism or snark, untroubled by the weight of America’s last two decades. Which is a big reason why it doesn’t work. But there are many others.
Boy, howdy, is there.
Here are some thoughts.
1. Oh, good. A studio audience.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why this trope still exists in modern television. Canned laughter, sometimes known as a laugh track or “sweetening,” has been on the decline in America television since The Office became the funniest thing on TV without the help of a studio audience. The writ large discarding of laugh tracks allowed for sitcoms to grow and mature, leaving room to explore silence as a tool for humor as well as allowing writers to cram as many jokes as possible into a script (see: 30 Rock). The most successful show on TV with a laugh track today is the heinous, bullshit excuse for a sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, which nobody would claim to be a paragon of quality television. But this is a reboot of a show in which a laugh track was a central part of the set-up. That doesn’t mean it isn’t still incredibly irritating to hear the disembodied voices shout “woooo!” every time a new character arrives or says one of their catchphrases. To quote… I don’t know, one of them: “How rude.”
2. There is a very awkward reference to the absence of a central character
If you are a fan of the original Full House (which, full disclosure, I am not), you’ll be disappointed to learn that Michelle, the precocious child played alternately by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, does not appear on this show. The reasons seem fairly obvious to me (they are way too successful, they probably wouldn’t get paid that much, the script is terrible), but that doesn’t stop the writers and the rest of the cast from throwing some deep shade at the twins. Early in the episode, one of the characters asks after Michelle, to which Bob Saget responds by saying she’s “off in New York, running her fashion empire.” Then all of the characters on screen turn in unison and stare at the camera with a look that says “see what your missing, Olsens?” It’s a very clear and, frankly, childish dig at the two most successful people to come out of the show. It’s also a cheap stunt to pull, because it is the first and last time the fourth wall is broken in the episode. There’s no cohesion of style, making the moment feel like a bunch of petulant children pulling what they think is a brilliant prank on the popular kids. Instead, it’s just depressing.
3. Hey! A laugh!
Throughout the entire episode, I laughed but one time. There’s a moment when the whole crew is standing in the living room and somebody’s phone goes off. Instinctively, everyone checks their pockets, and Joey (a remarkably good looking John Stamos) pulls out his phone and says “it’s me!” What’s great about this moment is that 1) it acknowledges that we’re in 2016 now, and 2) basically anyone who has a phone has had a similar experience. Most of the show’s “humor” is predicated on being familiar with the characters (and I use that word very lightly), so if you’re not in on the show’s history, you’re probably not going to find any of it very funny. And I’m guessing it would be a stretch even if you are. So it was nice to have a moment where the writers make a genuine observation instead of relying on tired tropes and catchphrases. Which is what they do for the rest of the episode.
4. This show is one long, desperate pandering session
Over the course of the first thirty minutes of this new season, there are: 3 sing-a-longs, 1 dance number, 8 recitations of catchphrases, and 2 references to Donald Trump. It’s basically a bunch of guys in their late fifties sitting around a table and asking each other, “what do people like?” and somebody said “music? Stuff people know about?” “That’s good let’s just do that.” There’s no character building or striking out in interesting directions. It’s basic rehashing of what “worked” in the eighties and nineties.
5. There are some alarmingly grown up moments
That all being said, the show does occasionally try to have it’s cake and eat it, too. There are some moments that made me do a double take. There are a surprising number of sex jokes throughout the episode, none of them very good, and a couple of them extra creepy. At one point, Kimmy Gibbler walks into the house unannounced, to which Bob Saget asks “What if I had been in my underwear?” Kimmy replies, rather blithely, “Whatever. It’s not like it’s anything I haven’t seen before. I grew up with my window across from yours.” The implication of that is that Kimmy watched Bob’s character get dressed throughout her childhood. And, presumably, watched him have sex. Ew. Ew. But these moments go beyond just the weirdly sexual. DJ’s husband has apparently died in a fire (he was a firefighter), which is why everyone has gathered together to help raise her child. It’s sort of an inverse of the original show, with three women raising a kid instead of three men. But that’s a pretty depressing fact to share with the audience right out of the gate. Yeesh.
6. Kimmy Gibbler is Fuller Houses’ Anne Veal
Anne Veal is George Michael’s girlfriend on the show Arrested Development. If you’re not familiar with Arrested Development, first of all, shame on you. Go watch it right now instead of subjecting yourself to this show. It’s also on Netflix. Seriously go watch it. I’m not kidding at all. Here’s the link even. Anyway, Anne Veal is the plain Jane of the show, the character everyone else is constantly forgetting about. Every time someone mentions her name, they respond with “Her?” Kimmy Gibbler serves the same purpose. If she’s ever cast in a positive light by any of the characters, the immediate response is “This Kimmy Gibbler?” It’s weak and doesn’t have the same impact as AD’s “Her?” In fact, it just comes off as really mean. They grew up with this girl, why are they so flabbergasted that anyone would like her?
7. Joey has a terrifying woodchuck puppet
In attempt to quiet DJ’s squalling baby, Joey brings out a giant woodchuck puppet, which makes the baby even more scared. And no fucking wonder, that thing is a nightmare. Joey always struck me as creepy, but this is some next level business.
8. A dog goes into labor
Comet Jr. Jr. Jr. (gimme a break) is going into labor, so the whole crew has to pull together to help her! I assume Comet was the name of the dog in the original series, and this is the great-great granddaughter of the original Comet. Why we needed to see a dog giving birth is beyond me. But most of this show is beyond me, so maybe I’m not the person who should be asking these questions.
9. Steph and her accent
Stephanie has spent some time in England and has come back with a mightily insufferable English accent, to which she insists she doesn’t notice. But as soon as she smells Kimmy’s smelly feet, she drops her accent with a cry of “How rude!” and the audience just loses their collective shit. I guess all that is supposed to be funny, but it just makes Steph look annoying as hell and maybe a little bit stupid.
10. Flintstones… how timely
In an attempt to make the baby stop crying (again), every body circles around his crib to sing The Flinstones theme song. Suddenly, a split screen pops up with them singing doing the same thing all those years ago with Michelle when she was a baby. I get it, it’s supposed to illicit a warm feeling of nostalgia. But really it just feels deeply forced. At this point, a big percentage of the audience probably has never watched an episode of The Flinstones. But this isn’t a show for newcomers, is it? No, it’s very clear that this is a show for people who loved Full House and want to visit with their old friends. I guess I just don’t get why they wanted to hang out with them in the first place.
Tags: bob saget, Full House, Fuller House, John Stamos, Netflix, Netflix Original