Monday, July 22, 2024

Fuller Review

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Two weeks ago, I wrote a review of Fuller House where I encouraged everyone to watch it because of how deliciously disturbed its meta commentary is. However, I also noted that in and of itself, it’s a bad show. Today, I’m here to explain why, as I have to assume most of us who would be willing to watch such a thing have done so by now.

In some ways, I wonder if this piece is cheap. It’s an easy target, isn’t it? There’s a goddamn studio audience. But I don’t see why sitcoms should be immune from analysis, especially one with the potential reach Fuller House offers, thanks to the popularity of Netflix originals.

In general, 90s comedy has not aged well. It’s cringe-worthy to rewatch Friends and experience the audience laughing at “Joey arranging flowers makes him a girl!” The one show that seems to be immune from this is Seinfeld, because the jokes are all about four rather despicable people getting negative social feedback. However, Full House was firmly in the “sympathetic characters” camp. It was a wholesome family show, after all.

And that’s exactly what Fuller House tried to be too. Except it still tried to rely on jokes that would have landed in the 90s, for reasons yet to be explained.

It also tried to rely on dated storytelling conventions. DJ’s oldest son, who I think is named “Jackson” but I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure, has a plotline revolving around trying to escape the “friend zone” with a girl who is clearly not interested in him. Yet that randomly changes; she suddenly feels amorous towards Jackson when he spends someone else’s money to buy her a nice Giants jersey. I wish I was making this up.

DJ is given a love triangle between a hunky guy whose face she clearly wants to sit on, and her pathetic, bordering on stalker, high school boyfriend, Steve. What a conundrum right? I mean how could she possibly pick?

Steve was maybe one of the biggest missteps. For one, his schtick of always being hungry and eating the Tanner’s food from the original show relied on the whole “earnest, growing, teenage varsity boy” thing. As an adult, continuing this joke makes you wonder if he’s in horrible debt and can’t provide for himself. He also is presented as just a loser in every respect, someone who was unable to move beyond his high school glory days. As if to emphasize this point, they make jokes about how he’s a podiatrist, because it’s an unsexy career. Flattering. All throughout this, Steve hits on DJ and makes horribly creepy jokes. For instance, they walk their dogs together and he says:

And I wouldn’t have cared, because DJ demonstrated absolutely no interest in him for the first half of the episodes. I actually rather enjoyed their relationship for this reason, because it was refreshing to see a woman in media just totally reject a “nice guy” and feel no shame about it. It was very Asha/Tris, for any A Song of Ice and Fire fans. DJ was two clicks away from telling Steve to go bang someone else, because she certainly had.

But no, this randomly changed when DJ decided to break it to him that she was seeing Hunksicle (I guess to be sensitive to his feelings?) and Steve forced a kiss on her. And wouldn’t you know, but that kiss was the one thing she was waiting for, and suddenly DJ realized she had feelings for Steve. Yum.

And thus the love triangle was fully launched. I am no fan of love triangles. I roll my eyes pretty much any time they appear. So trust me when I say that this particular one was executed in the worst way imaginable. The men found out about each other, and were instantly hostile, stopping just short of pissing on DJ. They referred to each other on their dates with her as “the competition.” Hunksicle was whatever; maybe a little stupid? But otherwise innocuous. Steve, however, only continued to up the creep factor. He tried to take DJ on a date to their high school, but they got thrown out because he brought a pocket knife for them to carve their initials into the bleachers. Then shit like this happened:

Nothing like a good date rape joke.

And yet, the show presented both these men as completely viable options. Even though DJ ended up choosing neither, it would have seemed perfectly reasonable for her to give either one the “final rose,” which is past disquieting.

Kimmy hardly fared better. Her plotline centered on her trying to obtain a divorce from her philandering husband. Who by the way, seemed to be a character that existed so that people could make fun of his accent.

He was presented as a complete asswipe, but he and Kimmy had that sexual tension. Which okay, whatever. She was rather steadfast about divorcing him. Until he started acting cute? Like, nothing fundamental changed and none of her concerns were gone. He just bought her a nice dress and did clichéd romantic gestures, and she suddenly agreed to marry him again (his biggest gesture was signing the divorce papers so he could propose).

Now, the good news is that Kimmy left him at the altar due to her misgivings. Except that the misgivings she cited had diddly squat to do with the issues that broke them up in the first place. It was that she didn’t want to displace Ramona (her daughter) from her new life in San Francisco, away from the school and friends she had grown up with and was ripped away from because DJ’s husband had died (don’t worry though, after a few episodes Ramona suddenly decided she loved it there). And until Kimmy ran away from that altar, again, the show gave no indication that this was going to happen. I could just have easily seen the wedding take place and saccharine music playing.

It’s weird, because both these narratives were subverted, but they were done so in a way where the audience was never meant to care about their subversion.

Alright, let’s get through the kids (other than Jackson, who was already covered). Ramona is fine, the best of the bunch. She’s unapologetically thirteen, and how she behaves is totally reasonable. She’s worried about blending in at school, so she tries to ditch it, and getting suspended earns her popularity. The messaging is a bit weird, but in the scheme of things, I’ll take it. She feels like an actual person.

The baby is the baby. I’m not 100% convinced it had a name. Then there’s Max, DJ’s incorrigible middle child who says shit and behaves in a way that absolutely no one his age (8ish?) would do. He’s the “cute” child! He likes things clean because his grandfather may have emotionally scarred him. However, I did like that Max sort of bucked gender trends. He was very Steven Universe-ish in his optimism and unabashed expressions of love for an indifferent brother, or his aunt, or puppies, or whatever.

And then, in the last four seconds, they decided to make him toxically male.

I never understood why sexualizing young boys was supposed to be funny in the first place, but given his scripting prior to this, it’s a slap in the face.

However, in truth, the children are barely characters in and of themselves. Whatever the writers were trying to recreate just fell flat, and I wanted these kids off my screen as fast as possible. Maybe this is how adults felt watching Full House and I just related to DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle? Who knows, but it actually had the effect of making me feel completely self-conscious for watching this show as a single, childless adult. That’s what I look for in my media!

Stephanie was the one bright spot of this show. For starters, I think Jodie Sweetin may be the only person there with any sort of comedic timing. Or acting capability. Once Steph dropped the British accent of the first five minutes (what), almost everything she said felt totally organic, and she was a rounded character. She had spent her time as an adult partying and traveling the world, dating a multitude of people, and she was absolutely unapologetic about this. Fuck, she remained unapologetic about this through the season, and I love that.

Her choice to move in with the Fullers was entirely self-sacrificing and about sisterly love, which is something I’m okay getting behind. However, once there, she didn’t magically become a different character. It’s also kind of felt as though she had warped in from another show, because she actually seemed of the year 2016. And of a better show, I’d say. I want to watch that show.

Steph didn’t really have a subplot, unless you count Jodie Sweetin rather baldly trying to get recognized for her singing talent. The way Steph would randomly burst into song literally every episode never got less bizarre, but it was so much better than the other plot lines, I can hardly complain.

However. There was the one episode. It was the episode I knew was fucking coming, too, where Steph was given the opportunity to go back to her old lifestyle, and she chose not to. In this case, it was because she had bonded with Max and felt guilty about missing his trombone recital, causing her to realize she wanted to be there for this family.

Like, whatever, that’s fine, albeit a tad stale. Yet in the closing minutes of the episode, this happened:

Then, it was absolutely never referenced again. I’m not trying to say that it can’t be upsetting to find out you’re infertile, but even Steph said “when I found out I didn’t want kids, so I didn’t really bother telling anyone because it didn’t matter.” But now, five episodes of bonding with her nephews and she has a complete about-face, one that suggests her life is utterly incomplete because she can’t fulfill her biological function? What even is adoption.

I guess I’d give this more of a pass if we saw Steph continue to struggle with this, or like…do anything at all that wasn’t randomly singing. Oh wait, that’s her career path, so why did she not call up Uncle Jesse or go to LA with him? And then she winds up working for Kimmy and party planning, and I have no clue what the show wants us to make of this. I guess we’re supposed to be happy that she can now buy her own muffins from that coffee shop, but it was such an asspull, and somehow I doubt it was to provide commentary on the fickle nature of the music industry.

Writing this out, I’m not sure why I actually do enjoy Steph’s character, other than the fact that she’s the one person who won’t slutshame DJ (DJ included) for *gasp* kissing two guys on the same day. It actually made me think that maybe these writers hadn’t been frozen in carbonate since Full House went off air.

Moving past the characters, we can talk about the show as a sitcom itself.

Because the jokes are so dated, it’s really easy to be able to tell what they’re going to be before they’re delivered (the exception being the fourth-wall breaking jabs).

Here, I’ll test you. Let’s say Danny just came in after ringing the doorbell:

Is Danny going to respond with:

  1. “You’re welcome; that’s kind of you to say.”
  2. “Yeah. I hate people who do that.”
  3. “Well I was afraid I might interrupt an orgy.”

If you answered “B,” well done! Though maybe fill-in-the-blank would have made my point better.

In fact, the scripting was so hackneyed that the few times I actually did laugh, I was filled with instant self-loathing. I’m better than this…we all are.

I don’t know what anyone was thinking when Full House was selected for a reboot. It was fine, in the way 7th Heaven was fine, for what it was, but it’s not as though any of us were bemoaning its end. And the fact that they seemed to bend over backwards not to change the formula at all can hardly be considered a good call.

I really don’t know what anyone was thinking when Fuller House got renewed for a second season. That’s the kind of news that actually makes me doubt my perception of reality.

All I can say is that if you watch it, it will be exactly what you expect. If you don’t watch it, your life won’t exactly be lacking. At least Netflix has other boundary-pushing shows; I doubt this one will be remembered.

Images courtesy of Netflix

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