I’m having a hard time figuring out what to make of “Fuller House.” When I was younger, I would watch repeats of “Full House” every day on ABC Family and it was one of my favorite TV shows. But, as I grew older, I stopped watching the same adventures of the Tanner family (after having seen them 10s or 100s of times by that point). When I heard about “Fuller House,” I thought about one key question that the show needed to answer: “Why?” Why bring back all these characters together besides a need for another set of paychecks? When watching the new episodes, once all the nostalgia from seeing all the characters back together in their old roles wears off (which happened for me around the third episode), there’s nothing left to support the series. The show is sketched around the weakest of pretenses and it struggles to tell stories with comedic payoff.
“Fuller House” follows a new generation of the Tanner family. Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin, “Full House”) and Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber, “Full House”) move in with their sister and best friend (respectively) D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure, “Full House”) to help her raise her three sons after seeing the amount of stress she was under at a family party, paralleling the way Jesse (John Stamos, “Full House”) and Joey (Dave Coulier, “Full House”) moved in with Danny (Bob Saget, “Full House”) after his wife died. It seems like creator Jeff Franklin (who also created and ran “Full House”) just said “fuck it” when coming up with a story and recreated the same show all over again.
The first episode brings back those six, as well as Becky Donaldson-Katsopolis (Lori Loughlin, “Full House”), and because of this, it’s the best of the four I watched. It relied on my having watched the original to get me involved, calling back to some moments and lines from the show’s past. I admit, it put a smile on my face to hear another, “Have mercy!” from Jesse, a “Cut it out!” from Joey (though, Coulier’s overuse of the phrase on social media did diminish the impact when hearing it onscreen) and the closing use of “The Flintstones” ’s theme song to put the baby to sleep. Also, the best joke came from the reunion, where Danny says “Michelle is busy running her fashion empire in New York” and the entire cast just looks at the camera, as if speaking directly to the Olsen twins (who declined an opportunity to return). It was the only big belly laugh the show got out of me during the run.
Once the older actors leave and the show is left to the new generation, “Fuller House” fails to justify its existence with shoddily put together stories that don’t bring any laughs. The fourth episode is the first without any of the core cast members from “Full House,” and it features such illustrious storylines as kids attempting to break out of school and Stephanie getting accidentally sprayed by a skunk. The jokes and “lessons” surrounding these stories are lazy (including a scene where we’re supposed to laugh at the sight of Stephanie and the baby in a barrel of tomato juice) and forced in there for the sake of having them. There’s a lack of interest in developing any unique or original stories, instead taking the lazy way out.
It doesn’t help that none of the newer generation of actors bring any sense of charm or screen presence. The series features four kids, three of D.J.’s and one of Kimmy’s. Newcomer Elias Harger, who plays D.J.’s middle child Max, gives a broad and hammy performance. He attacks each joke and punchline with enthusiasm, but it’s hard for one to land when he’s literally shouting it at you. He’s playing to the cheap seats in the studio, and not to the folks at home. Director Mark Cendrowski (“The Big Bang Theory”) didn’t reign in his young, inexperienced actor enough. In addition, twins Dashiell and Fox Messitt don’t nearly have the same level of cuteness as Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen did playing Michelle Tanner in the first season of “Full House,” and a shot putting the two next to one another didn’t help.
“Fuller House” is not a good comedy. It fails in pretty much every way in building any sort of comedic energy from its performances or storylines. Because of this, the show never really justifies a reason for existing. Sure, it brings the characters back together, but after the others move back to their careers, we’re left with nothing more than some shells of characters and sad attempts at humor.