As humans, there are certain things we hope for in life: love, health, success, and, apparently, the resurgence of the undisputed king of 90′s cheese, ‘Full House’. Wanting new episodes of the iconic American sitcom was something I often mused about out loud as I sat on the couch watching it with various friends of mine. The show had evolved into a personal litmus test of sorts – I put it on to see if people were compatible with me. Male or female, romantic interest or friend, I simply didn’t want to be around someone who wasn’t down for late night binging sessions of overwhelming wholesomeness. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I get into the glorious cultural moment that is the return of this show, now packaged under the kinda idiotic, kinda brilliant name of ‘Fuller House’ (Fuller being DJ’s new last name through marriage, get it?), I have to explore my history with it, as it had the same beautifully slow forming but then suddenly burgeoning explosion of passion that’s usually reserved for relationships.
It’s difficult to remember a time when ‘Full House’ wasn’t a part of my obsession Rolodex, but I have vague adolescent memories of it being a pillar of utter sitcom corniness. Therefore, to watch it initially was a towering act of the highest quality cliche irony. ‘Oh, look how cheesy this is, let’s laugh at it!’ The beyond-digestible, soothing nature of the show led me to start using it the way one might use the sound of a fan to fall asleep at night. To have ‘Full House’ on was, very simply put, cozy. Forgive me for not remembering the exact timeline, but in 2007, when I moved out to California, I was into the show enough to ask for the holy grail that year for Christmas: the complete series box set. That was when it all changed.
We now had access to every episode ever, packaged in a box that was shaped like the actual house (again – so digestible!). This brings us up to the first part of this article, when it became not only compulsive nightly viewing, but also a way to see who could kick it with me. Years before ‘Netflix and chill’ became a pop culture behemoth, I was asking people if they wanted to blaze up and put on ‘Full House’. But then, a funny thing happened.
I don’t know if it was the repetition of endless viewings or the fact I was slowly getting older, but I started to realize something: there was nothing ironic about my fixation. I legitimately loved ‘Full House’. Suddenly, I couldn’t see anything but a well-oiled machine, spouting out jokes that weren’t corny as I’d originally thought, but actually pleasant, playful punchlines, the likes of which might have come out of the mouths of Abbott and Costello back in the day (OK, the jokes were still corny, but there was a method, a flow to it, damn it). The show zipped along with a breezy, easy-to-love tone that dared you not to smile. I gave in every time. Then came the dreamy wondering: can you imagine if there were new episodes of this?!
Well, here we are, in 2016, almost three full decades later (pun intended), and our favorite family is back, with classically polarizing results. What I’m going to attempt to do is break down why ‘Fuller House’ isn’t the disaster many claim it to be in a way that doesn’t reek of fanboy fervor (in that particular aspect, I may happily fail), while also dissecting what actually made the original show so popular and gave it such a lasting appeal.
Let me say something right off the bat: ‘Fuller House’ is ‘Full House’. Not only did the entire cast return (sans the Olsen twins), but the creator and writers and directors of the past all came back, keeping very much in tone with the family-centric theme that is the show’s backbone (more on that in a bit). I often found myself cracking up simply from going, “My lord, that is a ‘Full House’ joke if ever I heard one!” The cheesy nature of the jokes is so classically on point, so perfectly aligned with what the made the show what it was in the first place, that I can only imagine the wave of dissatisfaction comes from expecting something new. As my brother succinctly put it, “This is ‘Full House’ in 2016.”
To be fair, there are some minor changes. The ridiculously fan-friendly nature of the show (a detractor for some, to me it feels good to know they know who this is for) has led to perhaps the newest element of ‘Fuller House’, the breaking of the fourth wall. In the basically-a-reunion-special first episode, the entire gang, as I’m sure you’ve heard about on social media, gives an eye-rolling and strangely extended look directly at the camera after saying Michelle couldn’t make it because she’s off running her fashion empire. Another dig at the Olsen twin’s overpriced clothes comes later in the series, and the pathetic nature of reunion shows is winkingly referred to. Candace Cameron’s involvement with ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and ‘The View’ are also referenced, and while this may feel like cheap pandering to some, I just see it as, like I stated above, knowing who their audience is.
There’s also a somewhat more adult tone (although never stronger than a weak PG-13), most clearly seen in jokes revolving around Jodie Sweetin’s enhanced breasts. Some critics thought this to be jarring and distasteful and yet, I feel there is close to an entirely separate article to be written here about the fascinating way the first three seasons of ‘Full House’, all released in the 80′s, have the same slightly more adult tone to them, with words like ‘damn’ and ‘hell’ used and a few mildly risque sex jokes thrown in. By season 4, which coincided with the 90′s kicking off, it’s almost shocking to see how quickly the new decade ushered in a lighter tone.
That being said, I cannot see how any true fan could think this was anything other than a glorious, completely on point revival of everything that was loved (or hated) about the original show. Beyond the cheesiness, ‘Fuller House’ also perfectly captures the polarizing feel that defined its predecessor (is it so corny it’s good, or so corny it’s bad?). When the show premiered last month, it was an absolute wet dream for those involved hoping to make a splash in these modern Twitter-obsessed times. Whether it was from eye-rolling or sheer glee, ‘Fuller House’ got the comments flowing in, and was trending as soon as it premiered. From the random and painfully awkward Macy Gray cameo, to the impromptu ‘New Kids on the Block’ dance number, so many scenes on the show were the pinnacle of social media obsession fodder. Something else happened with insane speed once it premiered – a second season was green lit. To me, it was this instant success that summed up the perfect nature of the reboot, for, if ‘Full House’ has always been seen as the apex of watered-down sitcom mediocrity, why did it last for eight seasons and warrant a continuance that was also immediately gobbled up?
To find the deceptively simple answer, we need look no further than the classic theme song, beautifully redone by Carly Rae Jepsen for the new series (just chew on the fact that Ms. ‘Call Me Maybe’ is doing the remake of this iconic theme song and tell me everything doesn’t seem right with America). We don’t even need to delve that far into it. Just look at the opening line: whatever happened to predictability?
Has anyone ever actually taken the time to ruminate on that lyric, rather than just mindlessly singing along to it? The blatancy is shocking. Whatever happened to predictability?! That’s like walking into a wild frat party and screaming, ‘Whatever happened to abstinence?!’ In the world of art and entertainment, where there’s an endless supply of self-important people making self-important work that, you know, matters, ‘Full House’ had a set of balls big enough to spit it out right off the bat. Let’s be predictable and give ‘em what they want. Say what you want about the show, but that line is a damn near Andy Kaufman-level of fourth wall-breaking head games. To get mad at the nature of the jokes when that lyric brings you into every episode means that the joke, dear haters, is on you. The creators put their intentions right there on the table, as unsubtle as a well-endowed flasher at a restaurant.
So as the jokes land with beautiful, predictable rhythm, each episode builds toward the other thing it’s known for besides cornball zingers – the sappy moment. You know, that part right around the 20 minute mark where the music kicks in and tells you it’s time for the lesson to be force fed to you and everyone grumbles at the obviousness.
The thing is, after they roll their eyes, they go out into their own real lives and end up wanting exactly what’s being preached on screen. For most humans, life revolves around love, family, and caring for and being there for one another. Nearly everyone’s biggest personal quest is to find love and start a family of their own. It intrinsically beats inside of us whether we want it to or not. To have your eye roll be legitimate and validated, you’d have to never want to be hugged or comforted in your life.
But you do, don’t you? We all do. We all want to know someone is going to be there to care for us, to love us, to tell us we’re special. We want to rely on that, to know it’s always going to be there. We want it to be…predictable. Not jarring. Real life has too much of that. We want, no, need comfort, love, and routine. And really, in the end, what is the message of ‘Full House’? Well, simply, love. Family is important. More important than anything else. Everything we do, we do for our families. But wait…wasn’t that the main theme behind another series, one that was miles away from the critical groans ‘Full House’ receives? You see, when you boil it down, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Full House’ really aren’t on opposite ends of the spectrum at all – they both essentially show what humans will do to love and protect those who mean something to them. Just because they never had Danny’s head on the back of a tortoise doesn’t mean the shows aren’t remarkably similar at their nucleus.
So why was ‘Full House’ so popular and why are we getting a second season of its new incarnation? Because the show is us. This supposedly brain-dead, routine sitcom perfectly encapsulates what keeps us all going through life, which is the love and kinship of friends and family. When you watch ‘Full House’, you have, quote Johnny Depp in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, “found the main nerve”.
War always seems to be on the verge of breaking out, terrorists are endlessly threatening to kill us, and half of the world is losing their minds over a man who is really nothing more than a narcissistic and capable showman. What will happen to us? Will the world be ok? Will we be OK? That’s not just the tone of today. Those sentiments have prevailed throughout our history. You see, when all life is throwing at us is constant uncertainty and fear, one show had the balls, the heart, and, dare I say, the maturity, to get over the pathetically vain and puerile need for entertainment to be edgy and say, ‘Hey, whatever happened to predictability?’
‘Full House’ was and always will be your mom’s meatloaf: comfort food for a scared race. Throughout the years, millions of families around the world have had a show they can watch with their kids, laugh at, and be reminded of why exactly they get out of bed in the morning, and you want to rail against it for being too safe, too mild, too predictable?
As Mr. Gladstone would most likely say: Cut. It. Out.