[This is a review for the season 1 finale of Fuller House, there will be SPOILERS.]
For eight seasons between the late ’80s and early ’90s, Full House brought television viewers into the home of the Tanner family, who came together at the end of every episode no matter the wacky hijinks that ensued through the preceding 20 minutes. The catch phrases and message about the importance of family helped catapult Full House to one of the most beloved sitcoms from the era – and earned a sequel series from Netflix and original creator Jeff Franklin, called Fuller House. With almost the entire cast of Full House returning – though Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen notoriously did not return as the youngest Tanner daughter Michelle – Fuller House delivered a pilot episode so full of nostalgia that it didn’t leave room for any original storytelling or character development.
The first episode simply set up the premise for the new series: Danny (Bob Saget), Jesse (John Stamos), and Becky (Lori Loughlin) leave for new lives in Los Angeles, while Joey (Dave Coulier) has already moved to Las Vegas, and the recently-widowed D.J. (Candace Cameron-Bure) is left to care for her three young sons, Jackson (Michael Campion), Max (Elias Harger), and Tommy (Dashiell & Fox Messitt). Seeing D.J. overwhelmed by balancing her family with her duties as a veterinarian at a local pet clinic, Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Kimmy (Andrea Barber) – along with her daughter Ramona (Soni Nicole Bringas) – move into the Tanner’s San Francisco home to help out.
In the season finale, ‘Love is in the Air’, written by Franklin and directed by Joel Zwick, Jesse and Becky return to the Tanner home to renew their vows. However, with Kimmy now engaged to her ex-husband Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace), she decides to piggy-back on the ceremony and marry the father of her child – again. Additionally, after too much tequila at the bachelorette party, both Stephanie and Kimmy plot to help D.J. finally make a decision between two suitors: her first love Steve (Scott Weinger) and her new business partner Matt (John Brotherton).
Unlike the season premiere, ‘Love is in the Air’ is a more accurate measure of how much time the season devotes to the adult generation from Full House versus the younger generation and the children – which is to say that Danny, Joey, Jesse, and Becky show up once in a while but are never the true focus of Fuller House. Of course, that sometimes leaves the viewer wanting more from the eldest generation since they are relegated to supporting roles with little to no character development. Unfortunately this leads Danny, Joey, Jesse, and Becky to largely come off more as archetypes of their original characters than anything else.
But, Fuller House choosing to focus on the two youngest generations rather than attempt to follow all three was a necessary choice and gives the series its best chance to stand on its own. While the premiere episode, ‘Our Very First Show, Again’ felt stretched too thin to introduce and re-introduce all the characters of Full House and Fuller House, the rest of the season, including ‘Love is in the Air’, allows D.J., Stephanie, and Kimmy to lead their own stories – with their children also helping to balance the series.
As a result, ‘Love is in the Air’ doesn’t have the manic pace of ‘Our Very First Show, Again’ and is able to tell a self-contained – if cheesy – story that focuses more on bringing the romantic plots and emotional arcs of Kimmy, D.J., and Stephanie to a satisfactory conclusion. ‘Love is in the Air’ also capitalizes on the season-long storyline of their blended family with Kimmy and Fernando’s marriage potentially causing them to move out of the Tanner home. But, as viewers would expect of any sitcom (and any episode of Full House), the story resolves in a manner that doesn’t upset the status quo while providing a decent amount of closure to the season.
Although Fuller House attempts to wed something old with something new, the show is most successful when to leans toward the new. Kimmy’s relationship with Fernando that is complicated by their past and the daughter, as well as D.J.’s indecision between Matt and Steve mixed in with the question of whether she’s ready to date following the death of her husband, are both strengths of the season and ‘Love is in the Air’. When Fuller House steps away from the nostalgia-driven scenes – like D.J., Kimmy, and Stephanie drunkenly yelling Full House catchphrases into a phone, and ostensibly Michelle’s voicemail – and allows the main three characters to explore more facets of their characters, the spirit of the original show shines through.
Of course, the spirit of Full House is still a cheesy sitcom with schlocky performances, but Fuller House delivers much of the same, simply with a new generation of characters. To their credit, Cameron-Bure, Sweetin, and Barber each easily return to their old characters in kind, while offering something new to viewers. But the new characters, especially Campion and Bringas as the eldest children of the respective Fuller and Gibbler clans, are what truly fill out Fuller House and give the show whatever freshness it achieved in its first season. Together, the cast may not make a sitcom family as beloved as the Tanners, but they do bring some heart to Fuller House.
All in all, the first season of Fuller House managed to establish new storylines that fit and made sense for the returning main cast members from Fuller House. The show posed the question of “Where are the Tanners 20 years later?” and went about answering that question throughout the season, leading to a satisfactory conclusion in ‘Love is in the Air’ while leaving room to continue telling the story of the Fullers. Season 1 also incorporated the new characters in ways that helped to update Full House for a more modern audience.
That being said, Fuller House was never intended for viewers other than Full House super fans – of which we can count many of the sequel series’ cast members. In that regard, Fuller House fully delivers on further developing the story of this San Francisco family while paying lip service to Full House through direct references, catch phrases, and meta jokes. Fortunately for those that enjoyed Fuller House, there seem to be enough viewers invested in the Tanners, now Fullers, to keep this Netflix sequel series going for at least another season.
Fuller House season 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix in its entirety. We’ll let you know when season 2 gets a premiere date.