I Watched Fuller House So You Don’t Have To: Episode 1

My mother once told me that she enjoyed watching Full House to see Michelle “grow up” alongside me, as I’m a year younger than Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, almost to the day. Of course, now they’re fabulously wealthy and successful in their chosen industry, and I crank out words for whoever will pay me while subsisting largely on 7-11 pizza. Take that, Mom!

I vaguely remember watching some of the later seasons as a kid, but I didn’t really get into the show until I was 16-17, when I started catching it obsessively in syndication. Even then, I recognized it was hokey and sentimental beyond belief, but I was a lonely and alienated teenager and to be quite honest, I didn’t care. It was soothing, a nepenthe for someone with a weird home life. One of my best friends got pregnant and had her first child when she was 18 and I was 17, and it was fun for a time to imagine being the Joey to her Danny, helping out and watching her daughter grow up. (Then I moved to Chicago instead and became the wacky absentee aunt to her kids, who are now 11 and 9 because time is a ceaseless horror.)

While I’m still reminiscing and in a somewhat charitable mood, I will say a few nice things about Full House:

  1. The actors were, by and large, charming and watchable even with the material they were given.
  2. The show did its part to champion unconventional family structures and challenge accepted gender roles in parenting, even if only accidentally. (1:10 in this video, from an interview with John Stamos and Dave Coulier back in 1987, is… not a good look.)
  3. San Francisco is one of my favorite places, even if techbros have ensured I will literally never be able to afford to live there now.
  4. Cute dog.
  5. …I’m thinking.

Anyway, the ouroboros of pop culture continues to devour itself. As you can’t avoid knowing, Fuller House debuted on Netflix a week ago and has already been renewed for a second season. I mainlined the entire first season over the weekend and am now rewatching it in finer detail, because I love you too much to make you do it. More importantly, I did it because I hate myself. Most importantly, I did it to mock and overanalyze it for the sake of internet validation.

I’ll be recapping one episode per post, and I’m going to try to make a post per day until it’s done. I’ve also been strenuously avoiding thinkpieces elsewhere online, in order to provide you with relatively unadulterated ~hot takes~.

Have mercy. On my mortal soul.

Episode 1: Our Very First Show, Again

A note before starting: these episodes vary in runtime by as much as 10 minutes. Clearly the showrunners are reveling in the flexibility Netflix affords them. Why not an hour? Why not FOREVER?

We open with the first twenty seconds of the original opening sequence, presumably to trigger our basest impulses of nostalgia before the “29 Years Later” segue.

There’s a baby alone in the kitchen! Why have they abandoned this poor child to the ravages of the world? What horrible catastrophe could have befallen – oh, never mind, there’s Danny Tanner.

The cast members are entering the kitchen one by one at carefully spaced intervals, like normal ordinary humans do in the morning. I’m starting to realize why this episode is so long: they had to allow enough time for cynically calculated audience reactions.

Less than 90 seconds in, we’ve already hit Uncle Jesse’s Elvis obsession and Joey’s Bullwinkle impression. They’re really not wasting any time here.

Danny, Becky, and Jesse are all moving to Los Angeles. Danny and Becky are going to be hosting a national morning show, while Jesse is the new composer for General Hospital. “They always hire the best actors on there, don’t they?” John Stamos, you handsome dog.

Stephanie has apparently just returned from overseas and is speaking with an exaggerated English accent. Is it RP? Is it Cockney? lol who cares

“Michelle sends her love, but she’s busy in New York running her fashion empire.” Cue ten seconds of Kool-Aiding through the fourth wall with a row of exasperated stares. It’s going to be THAT kind of show.

I will digress here, because the “where are Mary-Kate and Ashley?” question has been such an object of interest. First, as has been endlessly discussed, the Olsens don’t really act anymore. Ashley effectively retired from the business at 18, and while Mary-Kate pops up here and there, her last credit on IMDb is in 2011. It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine that people who were pushed into acting while still pre-verbal, spent their childhoods skirting child labor laws as sacred cash cows, and have moved on to an entirely different career might not be so excited about taking the mantle back up. Second, if reports are true, Ashley is also suffering from Lyme disease. Guilt-tripping someone with a potentially debilitating chronic illness is kiiiiind of a dick move, you guys. Even apart from all of this, the Olsens really don’t look alike anymore; having them both playing Michelle would be jarring at best. Could Mary-Kate swing by for an episode by herself? Sure. The question is, should she feel obligated to?

Anyway, back to the endless “where are they now?” parade. Joey apparently has a residency in Las Vegas, and is “kicking Carrot Top’s butt.” Most impressive achievement since “successfully consuming oxygen.”

Speaking of “acting while still pre-verbal,” Nicky and Alex are here! And, apparently, super-super-senior surfer bros. And barely post-verbal.

DJ is a veterinarian now. In other words, she’s pretty much the only member of the family who isn’t inexplicably famous. Good to know that the wish fulfillment and weird semi-solipsism of the FH universe continues apace.

“Damn, we all still look good.” And the narcissism. Can’t forget the narcissism.

Kimmy’s here! (Also, Danny has apparently been putting off getting that lock fixed… for 29 years?) She claims to be having an acid flashback, then quickly backpedals and says “But I never dropped acid!” No one believes you, Gibbler. Hold your horses with the “antacid flashback” joke and fess up. In any case, she’s an event planner now, with the unexpectedly risqué slogan “Do it… Gibbler Style!” Danny says he doesn’t know if he wants to do anything Gibbler Style. Saget, you filthy fuck, I see you choking back a smirk.

Stephanie is now a DJ (again with the wish fulfillment). Her nom de spin? DJ Tanner. Tee-hee. Also, are we meant to believe that the real DJ didn’t already know this, despite Stephanie apparently being successful and this family being two steps from codependent?

Here are (the real) DJ’s other two sons coming down the stairs. More grist for the child-star mill. MOAR. Stephanie is giving them flash drives filled with “the hottest dance hits from the clubs of London,” filled with sex, drugs, and violence. GO TEAM BAD INFLUENCE. Max, the middle child, says he already knows the bad words: “dumb, booger, and Donald Trump.” Dear reader, I chuckled. The creeping horror will consume me from the inside.

We find that DJ and her boys have been living with Danny, who is selling the house. Kimmy reminds us that she spent more time there than her own home growing up. As always, we feel a pang at how her loneliness and poor relationship with her family must have affected her behavioral development. Of course, then she puts her feet up on the table and makes us question our goodwill. This gets us our first CATCHPHRASE ALERT! Stephanie spits a “How rude!” so forceful that it breaks the hold of the dreaded accent once and for all. Max adds that Kimmy’s feet “smell like Trump.” Seriously, if we take nothing else away from this show, can we co-opt that?

It’s time for the theme song! The new version is performed by Carly Rae Jepsen, which makes as much sense as anything in the screaming chaos of this world possibly could. CRJ is Full House in human form: wholesome, cavity-sweet, and forever beholden to the ‘80s. The older cast members are all faithfully recreating their opening shots side-by-side with the original. “Remember this? Do you? DO YOU?”

DJ and Stephanie are up in their old bedroom, getting ready for the going-away party and, again, reminiscing about things that happened in the original show. (Get used to it, folks. They’ve got eight seasons to milk.) Stephanie asks how DJ is holding up, and we learn that the departed Tommy Sr. was a firefighter who died on the job. DJ asks Stephanie why she doesn’t spend more time with her nephews and prods her with the “don’t you want kids?” question familiar to every childless woman of a certain age. Stephanie is having none of it and reminds DJ of her love of music, travel, and the life she leads. GO, STEPHANIE. Live your best life. It’s a foregone conclusion that she’ll give it all up to rejoin the family compound home, but nonetheless, I’d like to preemptively get the #saveStephanie bandwagon rolling.

Danny, Jesse, and Joey come upstairs and “punish” the sisters for a curtain pratfall calling back to the original first episode. CATCHPHRASE ALERT: Jesse decrees that they’ve decided to “have mercy.” The ladies hug it out and go downstairs, Danny thanks Jesse and Joey for all their help over the years, and we get our second hug in under a minute. Joey offers to watch Tommy during the party and takes the opportunity to subject a captive audience to Mr. Woodchuck, thus passing the legacy of suffering on to another generation. Tommy, of course, bursts into tears. I’m with you, kid.

We are now downstairs at the party. Danny apparently got remarried at some point and is canoodling with his wife. Spoiler: she disappears after the party and doesn’t reappear once in the following episodes. She isn’t even named, except in the credits. (Teri, for the record.)

The Katsopolis twins announce their plan to open a fish taco truck entirely bankrolled by their parents, and their intention to move back home until Becky and Jesse cave in and foot the bill. You created these monsters with your incessant self-regard. YOU DID THIS. We get a spit-take from Becky and learn that Max has inherited his grandfather’s obsession with cleaning, because we couldn’t let that old chestnut die.

New arrivals! Kimmy’s daughter Ramona is at the door, accompanied by Fernando, her father and Kimmy’s estranged husband. Holy fuck, you guys, this dude would have been a cringeworthy stereotype even during the original show’s run. He is the embodiment of the “overzealous Latin lover” trope and we are intended to laugh at his five names. Apparently he’s still head-over-heels for “Kimberlina,” but she hasn’t quiiiiiite forgiven him for fucking everyone in sight. He informs everybody of her gifts in the arts of the Kama Sutra, then blessedly leaves.

It’s time for a gratuitous throwback dance sequence. The ladies are doing the choreography for “You Got It (The Right Stuff).” Including Ramona, who, if we’re following the timeline to the letter, was born in 2003. Just go with it.

DJ’s high school boyfriend Scott shows up! Remember him? I bet he’s still hungry! Oh, he is! What a card. Apparently he owns Comet Jr. Jr., who is due to have puppies any day now, continuing the dynasty in accordance with the prophecy. He tells DJ that he realizes she’s probably not ready to start dating again, but when she is, “I’ll be right here waiting.” Totally not an unfair amount of pressure to put on a recent widow. I mean, it might be kind of sweet if it weren’t so presumptuous. But at least he’s trying to leave some respectful distance, right? Right?

Uh-oh, Jackson doesn’t like Ramona due to her Gibblerian antics at his sixth birthday party.  DJ presses him to say hi anyway, so they swap hellos and immediately pull out their phones to avoid talking to each other. KIDS WITH THEIR GADGETS THESE DAYS, am I right? A stunningly original observation.

Becky won’t let little Tommy go, because despite her horrible sons sucking helium in the corner and plotting how to get their hands on the inheritance sooner, she’s somehow still baby-crazy. Maybe she wants a chance at redemption?

DJ makes a big, heartfelt speech about everyone going away and the house being sold. But she’ll be FINE, you guys. “There’s lots of single moms!” And many of them aren’t even veterinarians who can afford to live in the most expensive city in the U.S. and count on support from a network of wealthy relatives!

“Forever” singalong. WHY.

After the party, Jackson has convinced Max to take out the trash by convincing him there’s a tiny explosive in his brain. Ramona calls him on it. I like Ramona. It helps that I think her actor is the strongest out of the children.

In the kitchen, Scott takes all the leftovers and continues to guilt-trip DJ. We learn that he’s divorced and regrets not just asking DJ to marry him at prom, because getting married straight out of high school always ends well. He keeps needling her about what “great single friends” they are. This is going to get exhausting fast.

Stephanie got the upgrade for her flight to Brazil tomorrow. LOOK, SMARTPHONES, WE ARE MODERN. She’s booked solid for several months. (Not for long!) So is DJ, as she ceremonially updates the whiteboard schedule. Who will help her? The suspense is killing us all.

The next day, everyone is getting ready to leave. Danny confirms that he was “Gibbler satisfied” with last night’s party, and I so badly want him to follow that with an ear-splitting “THE ARISTOCRATS!” Kimmy finally gets the hug she’s wanted for twenty years and finds it anticlimactic. Now I feel bad for her again.

Problems! Not only does Tommy have an ear infection, but Scott shows up with Comet Jr. Jr., who has been in labor all night and needs DJ to save the day. (Danny admonishes DJ to deliver the puppies in the backyard because he’s showing the house on Wednesday, and we learn that Kimmy gave birth to Ramona in a rental car. In a world of DJ Tanner-Fullers and Kimmy Gibblers, I have come to terms with being a Kimmy.) As soon as the first puppy is delivered, Max starts pestering DJ to let the family have one. This leads an argument where DJ rightly points out that she doesn’t have enough time to handle a dog right now, even though Max asserts that “Grandpa taught me to remove stains.” Nature or nurture?

DJ realizes she forgot to give Tommy his ear drops and refuses everyone’s help because it’s “her responsibility.” I understand you think you need to prepare yourself to go it alone, Deej, but it must be awfully splintery up on that cross. She ends up having a mini-meltdown in the kitchen and is asked if she’s okay. “Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Because you’re obviously freaking out? She runs upstairs.

Meanwhile, Becky is still desperately offering to take care of Tommy. Seriously, you’re a successful, post-menopausal television host with two grown children; is “baby-crazy” going to be your defining character trait throughout this series? We do get an “all seamen lost” joke from Jesse as he explains how that ship has sailed, though. Scandalous!

CATCHPHRASE ALERT: In the midst of all this, we get a “Cut it out” from Joey. Now is not the time, Gladstone.

Upstairs, DJ is crying to Tommy, telling him, “I just hope I can give you the beautiful life you deserve.” Here, we come to the elephant in the room, something that’s been sitting weirdly with me throughout the episode.

Now, I rewatched the beginning of the original series to confirm that I was remembering correctly. Unless I didn’t watch far enough, Danny never expressed this level of doubt that he’d be able to balance work and parenting. Sure, he invited Jesse and Joey to move in and help out, but the invitation itself happened offscreen before the first episode. I understand that they’re trying to manufacture tension in an episode with a foregone conclusion, but the difference in the level of self-recrimination is jarring. I’m not sure if this whole thing is intended to deconstruct the guilt trip given to women who try to “have it all” or to reinforce it, but I can’t say I’m inclined toward the benefit of the doubt here.

Of course, everyone has conveniently heard DJ’s worries over the baby monitor. When she comes back downstairs, it’s time for an emergency family meeting. Danny and Becky say they’re going to back out of the show to stay and help out. (Awfully flexible contract there.) Joey says he’ll move back into the basement and commute to Vegas. (That’s a nine-hour drive, and also please god no.) Instead, Stephanie and Kimmy step up, as was inevitable. Goodbye, Ibiza.

Danny also announces that he’s taking the house off the market, completing the upholding of the status quo. Jesse is dubious: “You know how much this house is worth now?” (According to a real estate agent in San Francisco, over $3 million, despite the possibility that it’s a spatial abomination. More on that later.)

Kimmy excitedly announces that she’s always wanted to live here, shocking no one. Of course, no one is allowed to break the news to Ramona yet, because directness is the enemy of sitcom humor. DJ finally (after less than ten minutes) acquiesces to Max’s puppy request. The family gathers around to serenade Tommy with the Flintstones theme song in a direct parallel of a scene from the premiere of the original series, which a split-screen helpfully points out for you. DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy shoo the other adults out in a symbolic passing of the torch, though Becky is still trying to kidnap the baby. As soon as everyone leaves, Tommy begins crying again, and we end on another Flintstones performance by the next generation. All this has happened before. All this will happen again. This is the song that never ends, and it is the song that will end the earth.

(Future recaps won’t be nearly this long, but this was the longest episode of the season and there was a lot to unpack. Episode 2 tomorrow!)

Next: Episode 2: Moving Day

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