Fuller House Season 1 available February 26 on Netflix.
Let’s get one thing straight: Full House was terrible. The long-running sitcom, which helped launch ABC’s family-friendly TGIF comedy lineup, was a morass of bad jokes, hammy acting, overused catch phrases, disingenuous moral lessons and excessive group hugs. When it finally ended in 1995 after eight shamefully popular seasons, TV was better off. But the rampant, toxic nostalgia of the generation that grew up watching shows like Full House, fueled by lazy memes and pandering, content-free clickbait, has kept the show’s memory alive. Now Netflix, driven by algorithms that dictate what viewers want put in front of them with the least amount of effort, has added Full House to its long list of TV and movie revivals.
In one sense, the team behind Fuller House, which is led by original Full House creator and executive producer Jeff Franklin, has done a fantastic job: They’ve successfully recaptured all of the terribleness of Full House, while updating it with new terribleness marketed at a self-aware, pseudo-ironic audience of millennials. The first episode reunites nearly every major actor from the original Full House run, with the exception of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who have moved on from acting to oversee a billion-dollar fashion empire. As such, the extra-long pilot is like a live-action BuzzFeed listicle, cramming in every catch phrase, nostalgic callback and self-referential wink (the mention of the Olsens’ character Michelle is accompanied by all the actors literally looking right at the audience) it possibly can.
From there, the show settles into its basic premise, as the now grown-up sisters D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure) and Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) move into their former family home in San Francisco to raise D.J.’s three sons, with the help of childhood friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber) and her daughter. It’s an inversion of the original concept, which found D.J. and Stephanie’s dad raising his three daughters with the help of his brother-in-law and best friend. While Bure, Sweetin and Barber form the core of the cast, fellow original stars Bob Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier and Lori Loughlin basically disappear after the pilot, making only sporadic appearances in later episodes.
Those later episodes are on the level of a lesser Disney Channel or Nickelodeon sitcom, with the annoying kids taking up far too much of the spotlight (D.J.’s son Max even has his own inane catch phrase: “Holy chalupas!”). There are belabored jokes (including some clumsily risqué humor), overwrought messages and lots of disconcertingly uproarious laughs from the (certainly enhanced) studio audience. Bure, Sweetin and Barber, close friends since their tenure on the original show, seem to be having a lot of fun spending time together, and those fans who simply want to see old friends back in a familiar place will probably have fun, too. But Fuller House is like the childhood friend who never grew up, who still lives at home, still hangs out at places frequented by teenagers, still makes the same dated pop-culture references. Visiting that person usually isn’t fun; it’s just sad.