TV review: Fun’s over after ‘Fuller House’ reunion
As a reunion episode, “Fuller House” is a welcome trip down memory lane. As a series, this “House” should be boarded up and abandoned in the middle of the night.
The business of “Fuller House,” the Netflix revival of the warm hug of an ABC sitcom that ran for eight seasons between 1987 and 1995, is all handled in its first episode. There we get to see the Tanner clan back in their picturesque tri-level San Francisco home, all spouting their signature catch phrases: Uncle Jesse (John Stamos, aging better than 99 percent of the human population) utters an Elvis-esque “have mercy,” Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) does his “Cut. It. Out” routine, and Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) fires off a “how rude.”
We also get to spend time with clean freak and hug aficionado Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), his daughter, DJ (Candace Cameron Bure); Uncle Jesse’s better half, Aunt Becky (Lori Loughlin); and annoying neighbor Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber). (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who played youngest daughter Michelle Tanner, are no-shows, and receive a fourth wall-breaking “really?” moment from the cast.)
Seeing them all back together in the Tanner family kitchen, every one of them earning a huge pop from the studio audience upon their arrival, is an occasion for the warm fuzzies. But there’s no reason to continue on to episode two and beyond.
There, “Fuller House” settles into its normal sitcom rhythms, its cheese-oozing moralizing making it feel like a lesser entry from ABC’s former TGIF lineup. It focuses on DJ’s efforts to raise her three children, the middle of whom, Max (Elias Harger), feels like he was grown in a child actor laboratory. She’s helped out by Stephanie (who is now a globe-trotting DJ, which makes for an amusing ‘DJ Tanner’ joke in the pilot) and Kimmy, both of whom move in to lend a hand.
From there “Full House” regulars only pop up in cameos: Stamos (who is on board as an executive producer of the series) shows up in episode two, Coulier in episode three. Without them, the nostalgia quickly wears thin, the iPhones and Coachella references feeling incongruous to the “Full House” universe.
The show does work in some self-reflexive humor; there are numerous throwbacks to the initial series, and the closing of the pilot episode is a direct callback to the “Full House” pilot, and is played side-by-side with the original. Bure’s stint on “Dancing With the Stars” is also referenced in an early episode. But the new characters and situations feel instantly moldy, and the attempts at new catchphrases (“holy Chalupas!”) are enough to make one long for the days of Coulier’s Bullwinkle impressions.
Netflix’s revival of “Arrested Development” altered the landscape for television revivals; we’ve since seen updates of “Boy Meets World” (“Girl Meets World,” on ABC Family) and “The X-Files,” and “Twin Peaks” is on its way next year.
But none of these projects have been able to capture the magic of the originals. It’s like when your favorite band reunites, but they’re a little slower and a little more paunchy than they were the first time around. Some things are better left as memories.
The impact of the “Fuller House” reunion was undercut last week when the cast made an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” The gang appeared in a sketch where Fallon played Donald Trump as one of the Tanner kids, putting a surreal twist on the Tanner family dynamics. The cast arrived, one by one, and all said their catchphrases, satisfying our Tanner family needs and leaving us feeling full. We don’t need to feel any fuller.
Starts Friday on Netflix