TV Review: ‘Fuller House’

Fuller House renewed Season 2
Courtesy Netflix

No reboot is more happy to draw attention to its own return than “Fuller House,” an exercise in nostalgia that leans heavily on knowledge of the show’s past life as a prototypical ’80s (and ’90s) family sitcom. Old catchphrases are pulled out of storage, past stars stop by for strategically deployed visits, and a new crop of kids delivers corny lines. Those who enjoyed the original “Full House” and who don’t mind its patented blend of cloying sentiment, cutesy mugging and predictable humor might find enjoyment in this unspectacular retread. However every time John Stamos wanders through “Fuller House,” we’re reminded that it’s possible to see a better version of this sitcom — in Stamos’ “Grandfathered,” for Fox. 

Stamos and other original cast members (including Lori Loughlin, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier) are present and accounted for in the “Fuller House” pilot, but they cycle through only sporadically after that. The center of the new version of the sitcom is Candace Cameron-Bure’s D.J. Tanner-Fuller, who returns to the familial San Francisco home after the father of her three sons dies. Her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and her friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber) pitch in to help her raise her three boys, the youngest of which is a baby played by twins.

That element of the new show is, of course, a gender flip of part of the premise of the original, in which Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen portrayed the youngest of the family, Michelle. The Olsen twins did not agree to be part of the reboot, and there is a pointed comment about their absence in the pilot, after which the cast looks directly at the camera with exasperated expressions. But that scene — one of many meta moments in this self-obsessed revival — only fuels the idea that it may have been a good idea for the Olsens to avoid the reboot, given that it’s mainly concerned with painstakingly re-creating and celebrating a program that was, in its heyday, a compilation of some of pre-millennial TV’s loudest and most contrived tendencies.

Cameron-Bure, a skilled and likable actress, is a solid foundation on which to build this version of the show, and there are a few laughs to be had, especially whenever Stamos is around, which isn’t often enough. Moreover, there certainly are reasons to celebrate the idea of a streaming service spending money on a mainstream multicamera comedy: In this era of niche-ification, there’s no reason that storied TV format shouldn’t get a chance to thrive.

Still, given the array of multicam classics potentially worth reviving, it’s a little deflating to know that this is the old sitcom Netflix chose to bring back. Sure, thanks to the rise of streaming services, it’s now possible via weaponized nostalgia to get attention by bringing back programs people liked in the past (see also “The X-Files,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Twin Peaks,” etc.). But ideally, every reboot should prove its worth by offering substantial reasons for the program’s renewed existence. Despite Cameron-Bure’s charm and the occasional well-timed zinger, “Fuller House” doesn’t pass that test.

In general, it’s simply odd for a show this derivative to frequently give the impression that it’s taking a victory lap simply for existing. It’d be nice if “Fuller House” had taken the DNA of the original and freshened it up a bit for the era in which it finds itself, and it’d be even better if the  new version had more lines that were actually funny, but effective jokes are few and far between. Laughs centered on Kimmy’s “wacky friend” persona, dialogue about hot-to-trot Latin lovers, and humor that relies on farts and baby poop abound, and there’s also a nudge-nudge joke about how Kimmy now knows all about the Kama Sutra. The third episode has a series of extended dance sequences that serve no discernible purpose, and that installment also has an awkwardly inserted guest appearance from Macy Gray. The most notable concession to the conventions of the streaming era are episode running times that stretch well past 30 minutes. As Stephanie used to say, “How rude!” 

There is a nimbleness and familiarity to the way that Cameron-Bure, Sweetin and other members of the original cast work together, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a show that celebrates the loyalty and solidarity that a family can share. Group hugs are nothing to sneer at, and this show has a lot of them. But “Fuller House” continually goes to the well of having cute kids mug for the camera as they practically yell their lines, and just a little of its self-congratulatory, blaring obviousness goes a long way. There is some real affection that sneaks through, but much of it is too obviously and laboriously manufactured. 

At one point, the show stacks the deck by having one of D.J.’s cute young sons frolic with a litter of puppies as a tow-headed baby looks on. Viewers not blinded by nostalgia for an overly idealized past may find that it is very possible to resist such obvious, if adorable, enticements.

TV Review: 'Fuller House'

Series; Netflix, Friday Feb. 26.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Miller-Boyett Prods. and Jeff Franklin Prods. in association with Warner Horizon Television for Netflix.

Crew

Executive producers, Bob Boyett, Jeff Franklin; director, Mark Cendrowski.

Cast

Candace Cameron-Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Soni Nicole Bringas, Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Dashiell Messitt, Fox Messitt, John Stamos, Bob Saget, Dave Coulier Lori Loughlin, Scott Weinger

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  1. Megan says:

    How dumb do you have to be ask why a tv series is back? Full house never got a proper series finale for one and two it deserve a spin off series after 8 seasons. So it is giving fans who loved watching the old series want the series deserved.

  2. Fuller House is adorable. I loved Full House as a kid and I watched all the first season episodes with my daughter yesterday as we talked about the series. There’s nothing wrong with this type of series, I think people like to applaud gore and darkness and put down whatever is genuinely innocent fun. Different people appreciate different things. It’s all I can say.

    • Megan says:

      ^plus the creators of full house wanted to continue full house with fuller house and give full house what it deserved which is more than 8 seasons and a proper series finale of full house which is somewhere in the pilot of fuller house. Since full house never got a proper series finale before it ended. Plus Netflix was the one who was smart enough to step up and give full house a spin off because it deserves one.

  3. sandy says:

    I pay for cable and understand why there ae movies off cable to pay for but why new tv shows?i am not going to pay to watch tv shows on my computer that’s going too far.

    • Megan says:

      ^Netflix was the one who stepped up to stream the series fuller house no tv channels would air
      It they tried pitching the idea of fuller to just about every tv channel they could think of but none of them would do it. Plus the pilot of fuller house was written as the series finale of full house since full house never got a proper series finale before it went off air.

  4. Me says:

    “Why is it back?”

    because it’s a massively requested/demanded sequel to an incredible, iconic piece of TV history you pathetic moron troll.

    Go watch actual horredous crap Game of Incest with the rest of the tasteless, loser sheep.
    Godawful trash like that is MUCH more your speed ; )

  5. Meghan says:

    Excuse me, but HOW RUDE!
    This review was obviously written by someone the reboot is not intended for.
    Great job on this one, Variety.
    I and hundreds of thousands of other “millennials” are loving the heck out of this show!
    And btw- they HAVE taken the central idea/premise of “Full House” and updated it for the age we live in now, so I really don’t even know what you’re talking about there. At all.
    I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that you’re a great writer but you were definitely the wrong choice to write this particular review.
    Disappointing:(
    It fills me with joy and ease, the kind of stuff I grew up on that’s been impossible to find for years and years.
    It’s all about love and family and savrafice…
    I’m just not feeling you, sister.

    • Megan says:

      Plus whoever wrote this review would know that fuller house gave full house it’s proper series finale which should of been deserved back in 1995 somewhere in the pilot of fuller house and then full house now has a spin off series.i mean honestly if people are going to bash a series especially a spin off they should able to get their facts straight before reviewing a show.

    • I agree, Meghan. The reboot was definitely not meant for whoever wrote the review.

    • Meghan says:

      *sacrafice

  6. Scott from Detroit. says:

    My wife and I are watching the show and we enjoy it. Parts are cringe-worthy, but that’s part of the Full House experience. I can’t stand it when that kid says “Holy Chalupa”, but at the same time, I smile and roll my eyes when he says it.

    I don’t like that the little kid screams out his lines sometimes. I don’t understand why he was selected, he’s not anywhere near as talented as other young actors at the same age.

    Like I said earlier, it’s the cringe that’s part of the experience, and we still enjoy the show.

    Also, Jodi Sweetin’s boobies.

  7. Maria says:

    I enjoyed the show. Not everyone wants to watch sex and violence and vampires and whatever else is out there. Sometimes, you just want to watch clean, fun family entertainment. That’s what the show gives us.

  8. onesh says:

    What a load of bollocks. It’s a great show. Haven’t come across a single real person who hasn’t enjoyed the new shows.

  9. I wish they plot was different? Why have the whole series focus on “D.J. Tanner”?

  10. Ruby says:

    I don’t think people are looking for Emmy Award-winning entertainment. They’re looking for familiar characters and situations they loved growing up. I’m sure this review won’t turn the fans of the original away. It’s one person’s opinion. The watchers of the show will determine if they agree or not. And those that already do? Well, they probably weren’t going to watch it, anyway.

  11. Jason M says:

    Geez. Lighten up lady. Regardless, this show will be a hit with the fans. The ones actually watching. And thankfully, this isn’t Network TV so we WILL most likely get a second season.

  12. jazz says:

    i agree that the original show was cheesy family entertainment…but i also agree that there are people out there that really like that kind of stuff and god bless ’em…so now they have this new gig to enjoy…me personally…i won’t probably ever see it, maybe once just for curiosity…but on a positive note, kimmy’s back, so how can anything be really that wrong with it…

  13. Gage says:

    This reboot looks worse than the original show. All the trailers were “Hey remember these stupid obnoxious catchphrases we use to say”.

  14. Jonathan says:

    As a critic for one of the most respected publications in the industry you should know the correct use of the word reboot. You use it incorrectly and frequently.

    To reboot something is to start again after failure. Think about its most common use, “I had to reboot my computer.” There was a problem with the computer, so you turn it off, restart it and then start anew. Marvel didn’t like Hulk (2003) so they rebooted it with The Incredible Hulk in 2008, WB wasn’t happy with Superman Returns and rebooted the franchise with Man of Steel. Sony’s Spider-Man, which was scheduled to be a 6 part franchise was ended after the second installment do to poor performance and will be rebooted by a Marvel/Sony collaboration.

    Revival, remake, reunion show are all words you can use for Fuller House, but it is not a reboot.

    • Jacques Strappe says:

      Whatever! Fuller House should be rebooted back to hell from whence it came. It’s far worse than the original. There is no hard and fast rule for the use of reboot w/r/t to new versions/iterations of television series. Ms Ryan and many of her peers are correct in their usage of it. Don’t be a douche about this.

    • JacksonM says:

      The show wasn’t a failure. It was on for MANY years.

  15. Pookie says:

    “Grandfathered” is NOT better than “Full House”…. not by a long shot!

    • Jedi77 says:

      No, and no one is saying that. What they are saying, however, is that it’s better than “Fuller House”. Learn to read before commenting.

  16. Bill says:

    I’ll never understand why Variety so often assigns critics who hated the original to review reboots or sequels.

    If you didn’t enjoy the original why would you like the revival?

    People ask “why” – because with myriad media outlets why not serve the millions who love the original?

  17. 1980s says:

    This review is pretty much what I expected given the original show was not that great either, despite the high ratings at the time. I am still curious about it since I grew up watching Full House on TGIF. It is disappointing they went with Candace Cameron as the lead since she was one of the least appealing young characters in the series. She has tried very hard to polish her outward appearance, but she comes off as disingenuous and 20 years later her voice still sounds underdeveloped and grating in the trailer.

  18. Will McCauley says:

    I’m with the author of this review. There may be an intense nostalgia for all the old ABC TGIF-era line-up but that’s not necessarily a reason to go ahead and create some sequel series. I honestly wouldn’t expect the writers to know what to do with these characters. One thing I hated about the original series was a lack of any real progression for most characters except maybe Jessie. He grew up, got married, had his own business and started a family BUT was still living in the attic apartment he built in the Tanner house when the show went off the air. Danny (Bob Sagget) and Joey (Dave Coulier) had girlfriends but no wives, even though Danny was engaged for a time. Poor Joey was never in a serious relationship. Teenaged D.J. had a steadier romantic relationship with Steve (Scott Weinger) than Danny or Joey ever did.

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