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‘Fuller House’ is heavy on nostalgia, light on substance

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By Will Camillo

Netflix has recently released the first season of “Fuller House,” the sequel series to the 90’s classic sitcom “Full House.” While it does seem forced, “Fuller House” definitely feels like a sequel to the beloved original series, with almost the entire original cast returning and sliding right back into their characters with little to no difference. The original cast members still have the same chemistry they did back when “Full House” first aired. That being said, “Fuller House” is not without its problems.

“Fuller House” stars Candace Cameron Bure as the newly-widowed D.J. Tanner-Fuller, a veterinarian with three young sons. Returning to the Tanner home are Jodie Sweetin as the jet-setting DJ Stephanie Tanner (Yes, the “DJ Tanner” pun is made many, many times) and Andrea Barber as D.J.’s childhood best friend and neighbor Kimmy Gibbler. The three girls fit right into the molds left by Bob Saget, John Stamos, and Dave Coulier, with each being eerily similar to their predecessor. One of my friends watched a few episodes with me, and they remarked that the writers could have simply taken unproduced scripts for “Full House” and changed a few pronouns. While it is obvious (sometimes glaringly so), fans of the original show should find few qualms with the three leads of “Fuller House.”

The pilot episode begins as if “Full House” never ended. All of the staple actors and actresses return in the classic San Francisco house for one last family dinner before they all move on to the next chapter in their lives. Saget’s Danny Tanner is moving to Los Angeles to star on a nationally-broadcasted morning show, “Wake Up USA.” Accompanying him to LA are Stamos’s Jesse Katsopolis, who is now the music producer for “General Hospital” while Jesse’s wife Becky (Lori Loughlin) continues to be Danny’s cohost. Alongside Jesse and Becky are their twin boys, Nicky and Alex, who are on their “sixth year of college” and have become stereotypical surfers with dreams of opening a fish taco truck.

I have to mention just how frozen in time Stamos and Loughlin seem. The two do not appear to have aged a day since the last episode of “Full House.” Given that their characters’ children are in their early 20s, it borders on downright creepy.

In addition, Dave Coulier’s Joey Gladstone is now a Las Vegas comedian who still throws out his trademark aged pop-culture references. While his references were dated when “Full House” aired, they have moved on from being outdated to being genuinely charming. It is reminiscent of a grandfatherly, “back in my day”-esque aside that provides some genuine laughs whenever Gladstone appears.

Not only do the original cast members appear in the pilot, but all four of the original adult characters return for guest appearances throughout the 13 episode season. Even minor characters like D..J.’s high school boyfriend Steve make an appearance. And, for those “Full House” fanatics reading, he is still raiding the Tanner family fridge. Even Uncle Jesse’s bandmates, The Rippers, make an appearance in the pilot.

Where the premise of “Fuller House” starts to falter are the new cast members. Michael Campion and Elias Harger star as D.J.’s sons Jackson and Max, respectively. In addition, Soni Nicole Bringas plays Kimmy’s daughter Ramona, who has also moved in with the Tanners. While the show tries to set up the three kids as loveable, modern interpretations of the classic sitcom kids, only Max comes off as any bit likeable, with his lines harkening back to some of Stephanie and Michelle’s best one-liners. He also acts like a tiny version of Bob Saget’s neurotic neat-freak.

D.J.’s eldest son Jackson feels the most disappointing cast member. Not only does the character have to fill his mother’s shoes, but he also has to walk the tricky line of being a 21st Century kid in an old-school sitcom. The actor does an admirable job with the material he is given, but it seems that the writers simply did not know what to do with the character.

Another interesting development for “Fuller House” is the direction in which the writers take the character of Kimmy Gibbler. Once the annoying neighbor, the character has grown into a much more mature person, though she still maintains many of her original mannerisms and catchphrases. Her soon-to-be-ex-husband Fernando, on the other hand, is a rather blatant Latino stereotype. While many would take offense to this, it is refreshing that their daughter Ramona is portrayed in a much more realistic light. As she points out, Ramona is a Latina “moving in with the whitest family in America.” The show dances around the racial politics it could address, for better or for worse.

Finally, the tone of the show must be addressed. “Fuller House” is most definitely a love letter to fans of “Full House,” and feels far more like a reunion miniseries than a full-fledged series in its own right. Not only that, the show is very tongue-in-cheek and often winks at the audience during callbacks to the original series. For example, when one character asks where Michelle is, the entire cast looks at the camera as Bob Saget responds that she was too busy with her fashion empire to see her family. Fans with a nostalgic love for “Full House” will get a hearty chuckle out of these jokes, but more casual fans will groan.

Overall, I enjoyed “Fuller House,” for the most part. Is it amazing television? Of course not. But if we are being honest with ourselves, neither was “Full House.” Fans of the original series will welcome D.J.’s new family with open arms, but anyone who is not completely enamored with “Full House” will find the sequel series to be overhyped, cheesy, and predictable. But, as a “Full House” fan, I do not seem to mind. It is truly a sequel series in scope, tone and theme to “Full House.”

Unlike the recent “X-Files” revival, it really does feels as if the show never ended. The cameras merely turned off while life for the Tanner family moved on. It is comforting in a way, as if this fictional family never changed.

Those looking for deep, impactful television in the vein of Netflix’s other offerings such as “House of Cards” and “Daredevil” are sure to be disappointed in the shallow fluff of “Fuller House.” But, as I said earlier, let us not pretend that the original “Full House” was some sort of high art. It was an average sitcom that just happened to strike a chord with people when it aired and then reaired on Nick at Nite.

So, yes, “Fuller House” is a fluffy, predictable sitcom just like its predecessor, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As they say in the opening credits, “Whatever happened to predictability?” All 13 episodes of “Fuller House” are available to stream on Netflix.

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