There have already been a slew of reviews bashing Netflix’s revival of Full House, uninspiringly titled Fuller House, but after watching half of the season, the problem comes not just with the desire to revive something that never should have been, but specifically in Netflix’s dogged insistence that most of its original content needs to run for 13-episode seasons. Unlike broadcast, Netflix has the freedom to let their seasons run for as many — or few — episodes as makes sense. Reviving Full House wasn’t necessarily a great idea, but thinning it out for a full season was a huge mistake. And because of that, the show goes through three distinct phases, and ends up worse off than where it began.
As an exercise in nostalgia, the first Fuller House episode has a bizarre “Too Many Cooks”-like hallucinogenic feeling (thanks both to the canned laughter and the appearance of all of the main cast, save for the Olsen twins who receive a fourth wall-breaking admonishment). Sure, we get updates on their lives, and that’s fine (and in the case of some uncomfortable TMI between Kimmy and Danny Tanner, a little off). It’s also weird and meta enough that it’s not utterly terrible, although rewatching it isn’t encouraged. It powers forth on a sea of 90s references and cameos, and the juxtaposition of then-and-now is played up heavily visually, not only through the split-screen credits, but in scenes where the cast replays exact moments from the original show, side-by-side, in creepy unison. It’s so far into the uncanny valley that it produces both cringes and chills.
The second phase of Fuller House’s season can be called PC, or post-cameo. Once John Stamos, Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, Lori Laughlin, and (in a cameo no one asked for) Blake and Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit leave the scene as regulars, the show settles in to its gender-swapped conception of the original story. Candace Cameron Bure’s D.J. Tanner-Fuller is now a widow raising three boys, and is being helped by her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and her best friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber). But the younger set (D.J.’s three sons, played by Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Dashiell and Fox Messitt, and Kimmy’s daughter played by Soni Nichole Bringas) also get a lot of screen time, and this is where Fuller House fully sheds its nostalgic feel, and turns into a Disney Channel series.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the show going in that direction, though it would have helped if it had started that way (or contained even one actual joke). But the audience who tune in for the “look at how we’ve all aged other than John Stamos!” reveals of the first two episodes will tune out shortly afterwards. The series then shifts to its final stage — from boring to fully intolerable — where there’s not even enough there to make it a serviceable kids show. It’s clear the show doesn’t know who his audience is, and therefore doesn’t know how to cater to them. Because of that, it wastes some genuine talent from the younger actors — particularly Campion and Harger — who are trapped in a series that confuses nostalgia with humor, terrible writing with throwback fun, and humiliation for “lesson learning” (this mostly falls to Kimmy, who really gets dragged through it).
What would have worked for a Full House revival, potentially, would have been a movie or a two-part special. But Netflix’s gamble that kids of the late 80s and early 90s would be propelled through this misplaced series with the same fervor as a GIF-laden BuzzFeed list is a bust. I don’t even feel specifically betrayed by this new incarnation, even though I grew up liking Full House; it’s just more of a general disappointment that turns into a question of why anyone made this, and why I wasted my time watching it. Quality means more than quantity, and ultimately, Fuller House serves as a reminder that some things are better left to the past.
Rating: ★ Poor — Watch the first episode if you’re curious, and then cut it out.
Fuller House premiers Friday, February 26th on Netflix