Why the Critical Hate of ‘Fuller House’ Misses the Point

From House of Cards to Jessica Jones, Netflix has proven to be one of the most reliable destinations for quality original programming. However, the streaming service — which has earned countless awards and critical acclaim for its films and series — received a very different response when it released Season 1 of Fuller House, its sequel to 1987-1995 family sitcom Full House.

The new show turns its attention to the now-adult younger stars of the original run, centering on widowed mother of three D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure) whose sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and best friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber) move in to lend a hand. With the notable exception of breakout stars Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, the entire original Full House cast makes at least brief appearances throughout these new 13 episodes. Critics savaged Fuller House, and though the show doesn’t set any lofty goals for itself, it certainly doesn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of such wrath.

Fuller House
Fuller House | Source: Netflix

On one hand, Fuller House is a full-on assault on nostalgia and the most blatant embodiment yet of the “hey, remember this?” sentiment that seems to be at the forefront of most films and television series these days. This attitude is further supported by the overwhelming prominence of corny catchphrases, unnecessary callbacks and random character reappearances. The humor on the show is among the broadest in years, and the storylines are almost universally as predictable as most other network sitcoms of the 1990s. Even the existence of a laugh track seems to underscore the show’s efforts to tap into the foregone era of television comedy.

However, Fuller House‘s only reason for existence is to capture the spirit and tone of the original show. In that respect, it succeeds tremendously. Sure, the pilot episode and too-frequent reappearances of original stars Bob Saget, John Stamos, and Dave Coulier tend to bog the show down in applause-worthy moments from the studio audience (yes, they actually filmed this with a live audience, just like the good ol’ days). However, when Fuller House has the chance to stand on its own, its three leading ladies do an excellent job of picking up the mantle left behind by their predecessors, and the show resurrects the wholesome ideals that make it a worthy viewing experience for the whole family, even if Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad are more narratively satisfying.

Fuller House
Fuller House | Source: Netflix

Like the original show, the kids vacillate between cute and obnoxious at the drop of a hat, and the conflict is so squeaky-clean that the show does slip into cliche as much as would be expected. It’s easy to see why non-fans of Full House would roll their eyes at the forced love triangle D.J. finds herself in or catchphrases as insipid as “Holy chalupas!” Still, considering the fact that the show so clearly marketed itself as more of the same, it seems unfair for critics to slam it as hard as they have.

The cast has publicly dismissed the critical hatred of Fuller House, declaring that the show is strictly meant for the fans, and for once, that explanation actually rings true. The new show never really made any effort to capture new fans and is instead relying on the 30-somethings that grew up with the first show to decide its fate. Seeing as Netflix promptly renewed Fuller House for Season 2 (ham-handed jokes and all), it’s plain to see that fans were overwhelmingly pleased with the result. As for those critics who continue to bad-mouth its success, Stephanie Tanner said it best herself: “How rude.”

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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