Flashback Friday: FULL HOUSE

Oh, the 80s sweaters!

Courtesy ABC.

Introducing (yet another) new feature to TYLL! Join us on Fridays as we take a stroll down memory lane and remember some of our favourite shows from yesteryear. (Or last year. Whatever.)

Aaah aaah aaah aaaaaaaaaaah… Everywhere you look, everywhere…

Raise your hand if you get instant flashbacks when you see that!

It’s Three Men and a Baby, only with a couple of extra kids, various significant others, a trope-fulfilling neighbour, a dog, a completely unaffordable house in one of the most expensive cities in the world and hijinks galore! It’s the show that gave us Bob Saget before we knew he worked blue and Dave Coulier before he was a line in an Alanis Morissette song, and unleashed the Olsen twins unto the world.

Quick Synopsis: After his wife is killed by a drunk driver, widower Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) asks his brother-in-law Jesse (John Stamos) and best friend Joey (Dave Coulier) to move in temporarily to help his take care of his three daughters. One month turned into eight years and 192 episodes.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

I debated over what show to pick for this first post in this new column, as I thought to myself, “TGIF!” Then I had a brainstorm — TGIF. Just about every kid who grew up in the nineties in North America couldn’t wait for Friday nights, when they got to stay up late and watch ABC’s programming block geared directly towards them. Full House was the night’s flagship show for years, and everyone I knew at school watched TGIF specifically for it. Sure, there were other upstart shows like Family Matters or Boy Meets World that created some buzz, but nothing got us talking around the water cooler (or, in this case, juice boxes) quite like the Tanners.

As a kid, I always thought the show was so wholesome and despite the tragic premise (seriously, what is it about children’s entertainment and dead parents?), I kind of idealized their family. Living in a big, beautiful house in a city where the sun unceasingly shined and you always had someone to pick you up from karate and bake cookies for your Girl Scout Honey Bee meetings and your problems were solved in thirty minutes or less? Who wouldn’t want that?

Jesse was a bit of a fox. Courtesy ABC

Jesse was a bit of a fox.
Courtesy ABC

However, after seeing reruns as an adult, I realized it wasn’t always as innocent as it’d seemed, as is often the case when you revisit childhood favorites. In the first season especially, the writers seemed to make an effort to make the show as much about the men as it was about the kids, if not more so. We saw Danny struggling with his wife’s death. We saw Joey struggle to find his place in this makeshift family and this new life. We saw Jesse chasing skirts and acting like any other aimless twenty-something guy, his new duties interfering with his sex life. Quite frankly, some episodes had some pretty raunchy undercurrents and double-entendres for a family sitcom, and were a lot more mature than I ever remembered them being twenty years ago.

Even the kids weren’t quite as cutesy. Eldest DJ (Candace Cameron Bure) acted out like a normal eleven year old whose life was in upheaval, but got called out on it like she should have been. Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) was a sweet, precocious kindergartener who just tried to please everyone. Michelle (the aforementioned Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) was, well, a baby. She didn’t do much.

It’s wasn’t until the Olsens were a little older and the marketing machine took over that Full House really became The Michelle Show, and that’s a shame. Not to disparage on the Olsens, but I sometimes feel like the rest of the cast got the shaft in the wake of their popularity. In fact, back then I thought Jodie Sweetin would be the breakout star, but by the time Michelle hit preschool, it was basically Game Over for everyone else. Everything revolved around the youngest Tanner, and often it seemed like the rest of the family was written to serve her purpose.

Steph and DJ are not impressed.  Courtesy ABC

Steph and DJ are not impressed.
Courtesy ABC

It’s too bad; personally, Stephanie was always my favorite Tanner. She had moxy! She snarked! She rolled with the punches! She called bullshit! She could lay down some sarcasm like nobody’s business, without being mean about it. I feel like if Stephanie were a real person, she’d be giving baby sister Michelle the side eye for all the crap she got away with. DJ might have been the big sister I always wanted, but Stephanie was who I wished I could be.

Another thing that surprised me as a grownup is how my perspective changed on Kimmie Gibbler (Andrea Barber), DJ’s best friend. While the show was airing, I thought Kimmie was irritating and I couldn’t understand how cool, smart DJ could be friends with such a spaz. Now, though, I actually feel really badly about how Kimmie was treated. The adults were so awful to her! They frequently made mean-spirited jokes at her expense, like they were the ones in grade school. It actually kind of made me want to punch the guys sometimes. Kimmie may not have been book-smart, but she was plucky and a loyal friend to boot, not a punchline. How rude, guys!

Can you feel the 90s radiating off your screen right now? Courtesy ABC

Can you feel the 90s radiating off your screen right now?
Courtesy ABC

Full House usually ended with a hug and a canned, “AWWWWW!” and it’s true that as it went on it sacrificed sass for the saccharine. Yet I can still appreciate some of its nuances. Danny fell in love again, but ultimately had to break it off when he and his fiancée had different life plans. Jesse figured out a way to turn his dashed rock star dreams into a comfortable job at a radio station. (Though there was that bit where he was BFFs with the Beach Boys. It is TV, after all.) Joey — well okay, living with your best friend’s family of eight when you’re pushing 40 is a little odd. DJ dreamed of going to Stanford for college, but despite her exemplary school record, didn’t get in, and readjusted her expectations. Stephanie struggled with making friends when started middle school. Even bratty Michelle dealt with being the only person in the family who didn’t have any memories of her mother, because she was too young to know her. That’s the kind of thing that gave the show its heart, and why I can still remember it fondly despite the kiddie-pandering in later seasons.

It’s hard to explain the reach of Full House nowadays, when kids can watch the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon all day long and never see the same thing twice. When the show started, though, the Big Three (well, Four) networks were all we tuned into, and everyone on my school’s playground talked about what happened on the show on Monday mornings. When Jesse skydived into a tree on his wedding day? We screamed and hoped he’d make it to the church on time. When Becky (Lori Loughlin) went into labour? We all placed bets (in our own way) on whether the twins were boys or girls. (I lost that one — I should have seen it coming! The law of TV births says if the last kid was a girl, then then the next one is a boy, and vice versa, duh.) When DJ and Steve broke up, we all despaired. In the age of cable TV and Netflix and iPads, it’s hard to say if kids still get that kind of communal experience, but it definitely marked my childhood.

Courtesy ABC

Courtesy ABC

Full House wasn’t perfect, but you know what? It had a lot of heart, and for half an hour a week, it felt good to be part of a big dysfunctional family. (You know, other than my own.) It gave this latchkey kid a boisterous home after school. If nothing else, it started a lifelong love affair with San Francisco (despite never having actually been filmed there), so I have it to thank for that.

Shoo bee dee bop ba pow!

(Sorry, I totally messed that up.)

All images are from Fanpop.

Did you hang with the Tanners when you were growing up? Did they make you feel as warm and fuzzy as one of Danny’s sweaters? What was your favorite part of the show?



Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

One Response to Flashback Friday: FULL HOUSE

  1. […] some amusing timing after last week’s Flashback Friday post on Full House, TV Guide is reporting that the Tanners may be set to return to the small […]

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