Fuller House is not a good show. The jokes are of a bygone era, its unchallenged formula grows increasingly stale, and the writing is painfully predictable and often sloppy to the point of feeling wholly unedited.
Stephanie: No matter how hard the problem was, you always found a solution.
DJ: You were always so patient, and kind, and sweet with us.
Stephanie: And no matter how bad the problem was, you always found a way to make it better.
Yes, Stephanie, you just said that.
Fuller House is not a deep show. It’s not meant to be, nor does it pretend to be of course. But aside from conspiracy theories about cryogenically frozen writers, or the accidental yet rather trenchant meta-commentary that existed in its first season, there’s just nothing to unpack. You take it in for 25 minutes at a time, and can quickly forget it the second it ends. I suppose this is nice in a way.
I still have no idea why this was rebooted. It’s certainly not what I look for in my entertainment. To be fair, I guess you could say I’m not the target audience for this, but…aren’t I? I assume the basis of the reboot was Netflix hoping to tap into market of older Millennials and young Gen Xers who had watched Full House as children, and now have children of their own. I haven’t fulfilled that second qualification yet, true, but I do have two nieces, and certainly can put myself in the shoes of someone who wants kid-friendly entertainment that is somewhat enjoyable to them.
Season 3A tripled down on its hackneyed formula. I began watching the first episode without bothering to remind myself where things had left off. It doesn’t matter, I promise. DJ is with Matt, who I assume she had been with at the end of last season. Steve is with CJ. I vaguely remembered this. Kimmy is with Fernando? Not with Fernando? The plot can’t seem to make up its mind. Stephanie is still dating Kimmy’s horribly stupid younger brother. Jackson is with Lola, the girl he had successfully worn down at some point. Didn’t they break up last season? When did this work out again?
Do you want an overview of the plotlines? There’s no point, because it’s the same plotlines again. DJ is in a love triangle with Matt and Steve, Stephanie has money problems, Kimmy and Fernando don’t seem to have an understanding of what their relationship should look like and what the pragmatics of that are (good thing their kid doesn’t mind the ups and downs here), Max is incorrigible, Jackson is underperforming in school, and Ramona is just a normal teenage girl doing teenage girl things.
The only refreshing thing was Lola dropping Jackson’s Nice Guy™ ass in a way that was surprisingly endorsed by the narrative. Or at least mostly endorsed. Then she disappeared for the rest of the season.
It’s not political! Not everything is political!
Alright, fine, I should appreciate its merits. It’s a safe show for kids to watch. Yes…good.
Except, no. I’m sorry, but no! Who wants their kids watching shows that tell them Latinx accents should be mocked? Ditto for men wearing dresses. What about the messaging that every woman needs to have a baby?
Yeah, let’s talk about that last one. Because for the past two years Fuller House actually treated this topic somewhat okay. You see, Stephanie is infertile, which she told DJ at the end of one episode in the first season, and then it basically didn’t come up again until her boyfriend last year mentioned wanting kids. She tells him she can’t get pregnant, and he’s cool with it, so she says:
“I just wanna make sure it’s not a problem for you, because you know, if things work out between us, then we’re gonna have to consider other options. Like adoption.”
Or like not having kids, since part of this being mentioned at all in Season 1 was to highlight how Stephanie sort of viewed her auntly role as something very important to her, and something fulfilling in its own right. Either way, it seemed like the show was fine with that, which is kind of…rare in television. Infertility is not usually treated as something that can just be in our media, but instead a problem that always requires fixing, regardless of the head-space of the woman involved.
So of course, that’s exactly what Season 3 did! In one episode titled “Maybe Baby”, Aunt Becki (whose only distinguishing trait is still being baby-crazy) drags Stephanie to a fertility clinic, more or less against her will.
Becki: I asked you if you wanted an appointment with a fertility specialist.
Stephanie: Yeah, and I said I needed time to think about it.
Becki: Well, time’s up. I know how much you want to be a mom. It can’t hurt to get a second opinion.
Uh Becki, maybe she needs time because this desire you’re referencing is not in evidence. Or even if it was, it could be that she’s processing what this means for her in her own way, making it super not your call.
No, Stephanie wants to be a mother. Time’s up.
Then she finds out from the fertility specialist that unlike what she’s was told by her doctor, she has a few viable eggs and could possibly maybe have a child by using a surrogate. She tells Becki she’d need time to process this, because she’s not sure she can emotionally handle going through all of it if it might not work (also it’s a lot of money). Well, the news is accidentally outed to her family, who then tell her they’re going to pay for it!
She says yes, but I mean come on! This was basically bullying her into it. Not to mention, I somehow doubt that the damned studio audience would not have been applauding Stephanie’s assertion of her agency and prioritization of her mental well-being had her answer been “no.” Just one answer was framed as a positive, and that’s the problem.
The only thing worse was how in the next episode she’s searching for a donor from the clinic’s files because she hasn’t been with her current boyfriend long, plus he is so incredibly stupid that it’s to the point where brain injury shouldn’t be ruled out. He finds out, and she tells him that she doesn’t want to discuss this right now, because she’s got a flight to catch for Japan and probably wants the space to be able to think about it. So what does Jimmy do? He buys a plane ticket just so he can corner Steph about it on her flight, announcing to the whole cabin why he’s perfect baby daddy material. She’s says yes, because what else can you really do in that situation? This is more or less the same manipulative pressure as public engagements (that is, ones that haven’t been at least partially discussed beforehand) can be.
Kylie, you just said the show wasn’t deep. Why are you reading into this?
Because they took the only semblance of a validating plotline and shit all over it! Not to mention one of the themes of the season was celebrating male mediocrity!
It’s a sitcom. Stop taking it so seriously. It gives Netflix subscriptions and allows for them to experiment with shows like Sense8.
But doesn’t this still matter? Doesn’t messaging count? Don’t we not live in a cultural vacuum?!
It’s a show stuck in the 90s, complete with its moralizing messaging that’s bizarrely puritanical. The ‘wholesome family unit’ idealization, even with the unique ‘three mom’ arrangement, isn’t serving anyone anymore. This show doesn’t equip us to tackle anything of significance, which I suppose is fine. But it banks its entertainment on the notion that we’re okay going back in time. We’re okay going back to an era where jokes about gender norms land, where a South American immigrant (it’s unspecified which country, though the actor is Argentinian) is champing at the bit to do a Larry the Cable Guy impersonation on the Fourth of July out of a great love for this country, and where a ten-year-old can build a dividing wall in his room to get away from his brother, cracking a Donald Trump joke in the process.
Being apolitical today…it’s a privilege. It’s not as though media can’t be an escape, because of course it can. Of course you can just enjoy a damn bowl of popcorn and watch something else besides the agita-inducing news. But Fuller House goes well-beyond that, cynically capitalizing on nostalgia in a distressingly thorough manner, while unabashedly refusing to march on with the rest of society. This kind of escapism almost feels sinister, especially when you get down to the fact that there’s no redeeming quality or even new plotlines at this point.
There’s an episode where Bob Saget feels disposable and is struggling with his age. There’s one where John Stamos gets overwhelmed babysitting at his age. Kimmy has difficulty dealing with the concept of Ramona growing up. Dave Coulier’s children are shitty and out of control. DJ has resurgent feelings for Steve, to the dismay of Matt. I swear, every single episode of Season 3 is one I’ve seen before.
Why does this show exist? Why is it in its third year? WHY IS IT ACTUALLY 18 EPISODES AND ANOTHER 9 ARE GOING TO GET DUMPED ON US IN DECEMBER?
Yet somehow I can’t look away. There’s something about this intoxicating cultural passivity offered to the viewer, and I need to know how they plan on continuing to win us over. Because it’s sure as hell not the strength of its scripts, plot, actors, premise, or jokes.