[This is a review for the series premiere of Fuller House, There will be SPOILERS.]
Fuller House, the sequel series to beloved late ’80s/early ’90s sitcom Full House, has a strange history here at Screen Rant since it started out as an April Fool’s Joke. But, when interest in a Full House revival gained steam, the sequel first became a possibility, then a reality when Netflix officially acquired Fuller House from Full House creator Jeff Franklin. Most of the original cast was on board for Fuller House – except for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, whose involvement in the show was rumored and heavily discussed leading up to the premiere. Still, Fuller House was set to continue the stories of the Tanner family.
In ‘Our Very First Show, Again’, written by Franklin and directed by Mark Cendrwoski, the Tanners are all back under the same roof again for Danny Tanner’s (Bob Saget) going away party. He’s set to start a new talk show with Becky Donaldson-Katsopolis (Lori Loughlin) in Los Angeles, while Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) will join General Hospital as its composer. Meanwhile, Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) is working the Los Vegas show circuit, Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) is a famous DJ touring the world, Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber) is a party planner and D.J. Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron Bure) is a widowed veterinarian. Additionally Jesse and Becky’s twin sons, Nicky (Blake Tuomy-Wilhoit) and Alex (Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit) are college-aged slackers and D.J.’s ex-boyfriend/good friend Steve Hale (Scott Weinger) is a pediatrist.
The first episode follows D.J.’s struggle to raise her three sons, Jackson (Michael Campion), Max (Elias Harger), and baby Tommy (Dashiell and Fox Messitt) with much of her family either already spread across the world or about to move to L.A. Establishing the premise of the series, the series premiere ends with Steph and Kimmy – along with her daughter Ramona (Soni Nicole Bringas) – vowing to move in with D.J. and offer their assistance. Largely, ‘Our Very First Show, Again’ is a serviceable episode in terms of setting up the season, but the influence of Full House is inescapable as Fuller House heavily relies on nostalgia for the original sitcom.
In fact, the majority of Fuller House’s first episode is comprised of clear-cut callbacks to or exact replicas of scenes from Full House – sometimes with a new spin. For instance early on in the episode, D.J. and Steph reminisce about the day they moved in together, but the scene turns into a direct reenactment of the one they’re referring to from Full House. It essentially negates any ground Fuller House may have gained as its own series, reducing the grown-up versions of D.J. and Steph into the characters audiences knew as children on Full House, rather than develop how they’ve changed as adults.
A later scene takes this a step further, as Danny, Joey, and Jesse lead D.J. and Steph in singing the theme song to The Flintstones in order the calm Tommy. The show splits into a double screen, with the exact scene from Full House playing alongside the one in Fuller House. This scene is again recreated with D.J., Steph, and Kimmy leading Jackson, Max, and Ramona singing the Flintstones theme in a not-so-subtle passing of the torch. The reinvention of the scene would be sweet if not for that fact that it seems very unlikely any of the children – or any viewers younger than those who watched Full House – have ever seen The Flintstones, let alone know the words to the theme song.
Therein lies the problem for much of the Full House references on Fuller House: many of them were rooted in ’80s or ’90s pop culture – like Joey’s Bullwinkle impression – and now feel outdated, that is if viewers understand them at all. Even jokes that were unique to Full House, such as the characters’ various catch phrases, feel ham-fisted into ‘Our Very First, Show’ just for the sake of inclusion as if the episode was an experiment in how many references to its original series a TV revival can fit into 30 minutes. (The result of this experiment is that writers can fit a lot of references into an episode but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should.)
Still, all that being said, Fuller House does deliver in returning fans to the Tanner family after Full House has been off air for more than a decade – which is largely the only thing the show promised in its various promos. Each cast member’s first appearance to thunderous applause from a live studio audience is a reminder that these characters were, and still are, important to many fans. But, certain actors return more seamlessly to their characters than others. While Cameron Bure and Barber bring humor and heart back to their roles as D.J. and Kimmy, Saget is especially clunky in his return to Danny.
However, with the older generation of adults leaving D.J., Steph, and Kimmy in charge, what’s more important is the new youngest generation. Though Campion and Harger aren’t given much to work with in ‘Our Very First Show, Again’ as Jackson’s interest in motorcycles and Max’s proficiency in cleaning position the two boys as new versions of Jesse and Danny, respectively. But the new dynamic of a fourth and unrelated child in Ramona, as well as the humor Bringas brings to the role, offer something new in an episode so heavily reliant on the old.
‘Our Very First Show, Again’ was given an impossible task. The episode needed to re-acquaint viewers with the characters of Full House, explain what they’ve been up to for the past decade, send off the oldest generation, introduce the young generation, and make viewers care about the premise of the show, even if it borrows the same one as Full House. To tackle this task, Fuller House dives so whole-heartedly into Full House nostalgia it’s almost forgivable – so long as viewers forget the series isn’t actually a reunion show and should, at least on some level, stand on its own two feet.
There are some hints from ‘Our Very First Show, Again’ that Fuller House may be up to the task in future episodes, but using the series premiere episode as a vehicle for callbacks to Full House rather than establishing why fans will enjoy Fuller House beyond its ties to the original sitcom feels like a huge misstep on the part of Franklin. Instead of giving viewers something new with the same spirit of the beloved original, the Fuller House series premiere attempts tongue-in-cheek nostalgia that does not land and ultimately comes off as more insulting than cheeky – much like the episode’s fourth wall-breaking reference to Michelle building her fashion empire in New York. It may have seemed witty at the time, but all the ’90s nostalgia in the world cannot sustain Fuller House for its 13-episode season – though, based on ‘Our Very First Show, Again’, the show may attempt such a feat.
Fuller House season 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix in its entirety.