In the third episode of “Fuller House” — which, if you get that far, means you’ve been unconscious for at least two-and-a-half episodes — Kimmy Gibbler, the goofball Tanner family neighbor who grew up and became a goofball Tanner family mother (kind of), tries to recall a memory from the original show, one of many callbacks to the late ’80s heyday of “Full House” (and one of the many efforts to make up for the Olsen twins’ absence by referencing their catchphrase). After a brief, forced moment of contemplation, Stephanie says, “But you weren’t even there?” “Yeah,” Kimmy replies. “But I’m pretty sure she walked in there and said that.”
Many fans of Jeff Franklin’s family friendly sitcom would be better served to experience “Fuller House” as Gibbler lives most of her life: absently. After all, you’ve seen the trailers. You’ve heard the laugh track. You’ve met these characters. You know the show. Well, you know the show you want “Fuller House” to be, which is the same show you grew up watching, fell in love with as a parent or were forced to witness repeatedly with your friends as they “oooed” and “awwed” at the cute kids and playful puppy.
Well, not to be overly morbid, but Comet is long dead, people, and the kids who have been hired to try to replicate Michelle’s adorable little face aren’t just bad actors, but bad at being cute. In other words, “Fuller House” isn’t “Full House” — far from it. This new series would never have survived in the ’80s or ’90s, and it certainly wouldn’t have made it to Netflix today if not for the “cultural icons” that came before — and who keep popping up throughout these 13 episodes.
These cameos are as close as the series comes to recreating what it was, but they’re not free of odd new flaws — including a freaky run of meta humor that’s as inexplicable as it is awkward (including Bob Saget referring to himself and castmates as the aforementioned “cultural icons”). But let me back up. As I’m sure many of you know, “Fuller House” tells the story of an older D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure) after her firefighter husband dies, leaving her a single mother with a full workload as both a successful veterinarian and lone parent to three kids. Overwhelmed by her loss (presumably) and responsibilities (again, presumably), she accepts the kind offer of her sister, Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), and best friend, Kimmy (Andrea Barber), to come live with her and help out.
In theory, this would set up a show very similar to the hit that spawned it, in which Danny Tanner accepted the assistance of his family and friends in raising his daughters after losing his wife. But whether you love the original series or suffer from PTSD after years of syndicated reruns, you need not worry about checking out the sequel to “Full House.” For the latter group, “Fuller House” wasn’t made for you. For
better or worse, the Netflix incarnation is unapologetically made as fan service, constantly flashing back to old footage — including the painfully long opening credits that pop up for every single episode — and bringing in John Stamos, Bob Saget, Dave Coulier and Lori Loughlin to trick viewers into believing what they’re watching is the real thing.
And, in fairness, parts of it do feel like they’ve been pulled straight from the heyday of broadcast sitcoms — but only the era’s worst elements. For one, the main source of humor in “Fuller House” is of the “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” variety, as viewers are practically begged to laugh at statements that aren’t even jokes. Even though the line readings and behind-the-scenes footage make it clear “Fuller House” was indeed shot in front of a live studio audience, there’s simply no way as many people laughed at lines like, “Aunt Stephanie is not a morning person” as we’re made to believe.
But for those who do hold a special place in their heart for San Francisco’s closest clan, do not be fooled. “Fuller House” is the TV equivalent of “Dumb & Dumber To,” a sequel so out of touch, ugly and confused, it bears little resemblance to what you once loved. While there are too many groan-inducing, pull-your-hair-out moments to list here — feel free to ping me on Twitter with questions about specifics — perhaps this is the best way to sum up the utter failure that is “Fuller House” for parents who want to watch with their kids: You’d have to be okay with explaining countless sexual innuendos — including why brothers and sisters meeting in a club is “kinky hot” — but also why DJ, a grieving widow, moves so quickly from expressing reservations about dating to recreating a scene from “The Bachelorette” to choose between suitors.
The show might have been able to get away with such awkward situations if there were more Danny Tanner-esque sit-downs at the end of each episode, but “Fuller House” only occasionally tries to dole out life lessons, leaving too many examples of bad behavior (let alone good humor) for the kids in the story and the kids watching at home. It also would have been better off had its creators simply chosen to tell a more mature story in general, rather than fumbling a transition from forced family bonding to a preposterous romantic comedy — seriously DJ, you have nothing in common with Steve anymore. Stop trying to make us believe he’s anything more than another excuse to fill the minutes with “Full House” flashbacks.
And therein lies the main issue with “Fuller House”: The blend of genres that subtract from each other speaks to the overall lack of effort from the series’ writers (self-evident), actors (who can’t even master one choreographed dance sequence among many) and producers (who are clearly in this for the money). Had they actually tried to create a show passably good at just one thing — a family comedy, a romantic comedy, a straight throwback to the ’80s or a modernized version of “Full House” — perhaps this could just be a guilty pleasure none of us would admit to watching. But by lazily throwing everything at the wall without a single element sticking, “Fuller House” stands as a threat to memories of an older generation and future memories of a younger one. How rude, indeed.
P.S. If you’re looking for a more family friendly, more relevant to the modern day and a more, you know, enjoyable version of “Full House,” we kindly suggest you check out “Grandfathered.” The Fox comedy offers multiple generations under one roof, a baby and at least one man-child, plus it’s legitimately funny, sweet, thoughtful and offers the opportunity to stare at John Stamos on a regular basis — guilt free.