Update: Fuller House Season 3 is now available to watch on Netflix. This story was originally published on February 26, 2016.
Everywhere you looked over the past few months, there was some sort of news about Fuller House, Netflix’s reboot of the T.G.I.F. classic, Full House. That show, which is basically a more saccharine Three Men and a Baby, ran from 1987 to 1995 and gave us such catchphrases as, “You got it, dude,” “How rude,” “Have mercy,” and “The Olsen twins are billionaires.” Actually, that last one isn’t a catchphrase so much as a reality of life that we’ve all come to accept.
Millennials love them some nostalgia, though. We’re precious as fuck about our youth and we love nothing more than talking about shows we watched during our formative years. We will also click through many GIFsticles about this topic on sites that rhyme with Fuzzbeed and we’ll take infinite quizzes to find out if we’re more like Stephanie, D.J., or Michelle. (I’m a D.J.) We do it on Refinery29 as well, because it's really fun to talk about the TV shows that shaped our identities.
The nostalgia obsession has actually led production companies and networks to reboot several popular shows and movies from our youth, like Disney did with Boy Meets World — another T.G.I.F. classic that’s been revived as Girl Meets World. We’re also getting an all-female Ghostbusters, more Gilmore Girls, and The X-Files just returned.
And now, after months of teasing, trailers, and talk, we’re finally getting season 1 of Fuller House. And oh my goodness, is it terrible. No, really; it will actually depress you to watch it. You will ask yourself the following questions during the pilot and second episode, both of which I subjected myself to, so you don’t have to:
1. Was the original this bad?
2. No, really, was Full House this terrible and I just didn’t realize because I was a child whose standards for television were much, much lower?
3. Why are all of the jokes so sexual? Did Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) really just say, “My eyes are up here” and “I know this might look like lunch, but this Dairy Queen is closed,” while she was holding D.J.'s (Candace Cameron Bure) baby at chest-level and wearing an extremely revealing top?
4. I remember there being family sing-alongs and group dancing, but were they this annoyingly self-aware about it on the original? Is there any way it can feel more organic and less “WE KNOW WE ARE DOING THIS FOR AN AUDIENCE THAT SITS IN OUR LIVING ROOM AND LAUGHS AT OUR ANTICS AND ISN'T IT CUTE?!”
5. While I’m on the topic of breaking the fourth wall, did they have to straight-up slam the Olsen twins this way? Here’s how they acknowledge Michelle’s (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) absence:
Stephanie strolls into the house after some time away in England, where she’s been trying to make it as a DJ. (She goes by the name of DJ Tanner, isn’t that hilarious?) Anyway, Stephanie asks where Michelle is. Danny (Bob Saget) responds that Michelle is in New York, running her fashion empire.
It’s extremely on-the-nose, because we all know that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen really do run a fashion empire. They’re extremely good at it and they’ve even got the CFDA awards to prove it. Regardless of whether the Olsens could predict what a treacly mess Fuller House was going to be when they were asked to be involved, they decided to opt out. The cast should respect them for their decision.
Does Stephanie simply nod and move onto her next line? Nope. The entire family — Stephanie, D.J., Danny, Joey (Dave Coulier), Becky (Lori Loughlin), and Jesse (John Stamos) — has now assembled in front of the kitchen island, where devoted fans of the series will remember the cast taking its final bows when Full House ended in 1995. They turn directly to the camera and deliver looks that say, “Those twins we raised up from infants when their mother was killed by a drunk driver couldn’t even make the time or effort to come pack up the house? They don’t write. They don’t call. They don't text. They don’t send us free pieces from The Row or Elizabeth & James. Can you believe this shit?”
Yeah. The cast members know that they didn’t actually raise Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, right? And the twins actually made the smartest decision ever by not appearing on this drivel of a reboot?
But I digress, because the pointed Michelle snub is just one moment in time when it comes to numerous ways in which Fuller House will disappoint you. Although did I mention the uncomfortable scatological humor in what is really a show that should be watched by 7-to-15-year-olds? Because that’s really up there with the number-one reason it will. The A.V. Club’s Joshua Alston hilariously titled his review “Netflix’s Fuller House is like a porn parody without the porn” — and that is a spot-on analysis.
I think the main reason Fuller House fails, though, is that it doesn’t know who its target audience is. Yes, the series came into being because Netflix wanted to answer what it thought was the clarion call of millennials eager to see the Tanners reunited on the small screen. I think what many content creators are slowly realizing when it comes to these reboots, though, is that the supposed thirst and nostalgic noise in the ether (read: on the internet) is much, much larger than the actual desire to take action when there’s something to do or see.
When Disney announced it was rebooting Boy Meets World, every outlet ever wrote about it; but are we actually watching Girl Meets World? Nope. Who is? Tweens and teens. Disney got smart and revived the show for a younger generation, knowing that fans of Boy Meets World now have their own kids and they can enjoy Girl Meets World together. The formula has proven successful, and it helps that the series is on a network where it has to impart educational teachings in each episode. The show was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program in 2015.
That won’t be happening with Fuller House (though Netflix is trying to create a new, T.G.I.F.-esque slate with Fuller House and future family friendly offerings). Fans of the original will see some of Full House’s warm-and-fuzzy formula in the reboot, but no one in the family will be gathering around the Netflix viewing portal of choice to watch every episode of Fuller House. Once the pilot, which is a frantic mess that contains a cast reunion (minus Michelle), clunky exposition, and setup for the rest of the series, disbands with the special guest appearances from the older generation (Danny, Jesse, Joey, and Becky), the series is left with a similar setup to last time. Like her father, D.J. is now a widow, and Stephanie and D.J.'s childhood best friend, Kimmy (Andrea Barber), moves in to help raise D.J. and Kimmy’s children.
Yep. The song remains 100% the same, only the jokes are cheap, the characters over-styled within an inch of their lives in the way that all TV characters are these days (and it’s just way too jarring on a show where the original was so happily messy and unfussy), and you can time the segments of each episode — establishing problem, escalation, very special talk, resolution — with an iPhone, which is at the center of so many of the plotlines you’d think Apple was sponsoring the show.
Listen, I wasn’t expecting Fuller House to be Veep. I just wanted it to be watchable — especially considering that it's coming to us from Netflix, purveyor of such fine programs as Orange Is the New Black, Jessica Jones, and Bojack Horseman. I feel like "just wanted it to be watchable" is a pretty low bar for a devoted fan of the original (I taped the finale on a friggin’ VCR because I had dance class when it aired; that’s the level of commitment we’re talking here) to have. Instead, it’s a disappointing, unfunny reminder that maybe the trend of rebooting the objects of our most nostalgic desire needs to end. One might even say they need to...
Okay, I’m done.