I am 30 years old. Thus, the era of Full House was an important one in my life. I’ve seen every episode several times, and while I can look back and admit the show was quite cheesy, it is still an important cultural touchstone for me.
Such nostalgia goggles do not effectively haze Fuller House into being so loved.
The plot only needs to be described for you if you missed out on the original series, because it’s identical: our main character loses a spouse and is left alone with three adorable children, so a family member and best friend move in to help out. Adorability ensues. In this case, DJ Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure) is widowed by her firefighter husband (we know this because she says “my husband died doing what he loved—fighting fires”) and left with three children. Her dad, uncle, and Joey (don’t call him “Uncle Joey”) have moved on (but not so on that they won’t be making frequent appearances) so her best friend, Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber), along with her daughter, and sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) move in to the old Tanner home.
The whole thing felt like a very long Jimmy Fallon reunion sketch. In the first minute and a half, Uncle Jesse lifts up a baby he has dressed in an elaborate Elvis onesie and Joey enters in full Bugs Bunny pajamas, his first line delivered via a Bullwinkle impression complete with hand-antlers. Jesse sings “Forever” with The Rippers. Joey’s “cut it out” and Mr. Woodchuck appearance are so forced they should come with a trigger warning. There’s a split-screen recreation of a scene from the pilot where the family sings the The Flinstones theme song to a baby. Scott Weinger makes an appearance, punching us in the skull with a Steve/DJ resurgence as hard as possible. References are thrown with the speed and force of machine gun bullets but without the subtlety.
While ramming us with callbacks, it also manages to be the pilot-est pilot that ever pilot-ed. This is a real exchange mere minutes into the episode:
“You guys must be so pumped. Moving to LA to host your own national morning show?”
“Let’s not forget about my new job. I’m moving to LA because I’m the new music composer on my favorite soap opera, General Hospital.”
It’s clunky and saccharine to the point of being insufferable. And I lack the ability to accurately determine whether or not the original show was quite this bad.
That’s not to say the show was completely devoid of cute moments. Stephanie is a DJ who goes by “DJ Tanner.” One of DJ’s sons refers to “Donald Trump” as a bad word. Sweetin is easily the best part, the most natural performer with an easy humor, Barber hasn’t changed in appearance or performance since 1995, and the kids are great. The middle brother, Max, a well-dressed and tiny version of Danny Tanner, is outstanding.
The second episode fares better; the references are not laid on nearly as thick. While still your bland, standard sitcom fare, the show is vastly more watchable when it slips into its own groove rather than that of “THIS IS A SEQUEL TO FULL HOUSE. REMEMBER FULL HOUSE? NINETIES NINETIES NINETIES.” However, this serves to Bure’s detriment, highlighting her limited range. As the star of the show, she’s also the least skilled performer, far more suited to her present-day career in Hallmark holiday movies. Fuller House would do well taking a page from the so superior it’s insulting to even compare the two Girl Meets World and focus more on the kids, sidelining the parents (though still leaving space for Sweetin to dominate the show like Stamos did in the original version).
How strong does one’s commitment to nostalgia have to be to appreciate Fuller House? Somewhere between “I have a Wings tattoo” and “I named my son Dauber.” But I’m still watching as I type this, so there’s no accounting for taste.