If you're the kind of person who thundered and Bible-thumped through the 80's, preaching family values and evil media, and you're shocked by the ensuing popularity of such disparaging television like Seinfeld, South Park, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or anything else of a vicious and crude nature, you have only yourself to blame for for them. It was you, after all, who helped transform a witless, biteless, and by all accounts mediocre TV sitcom called Full House into a cultural icon.
I can't expel myself from the guilt of thrusting that status on it, though. Hell, I watched it myself. In my defense, I was a lot younger at the time, too young to really know the difference between good TV and bad TV. My sister actually swears by its awesomeness to this day - and she's 28 years old with a radical political streak which is only slightly more conventional than my own and a Master's in ecology and animal behavior (and she's going for a Doctorate to boot, which she WILL receive). The two of us have gotten into a few tongue-in-cheek arguments over the quality of Full House, with her taking the stance that it's cheesy-bad at worst, and me taking the fiery anti-Full House stance at its best. As I matured, I turned from liking Full House into wanting to shove a stake through my skull every time that fucking music starts to play.
Oh, yeah. You KNOW the music I'm talking about. The tiny, dramatic, tear-jerker shit which accompanies the Lesson of the Week, sappy and synthesized for when the writers apparently just now realized the audience hadn't Learned anything just yet. This music exemplifies the ethos of the Family Moral and Lesson sitcom so aptly that Full House has turned into its trope codifier. The Morals and Lessons are all part of the Full House package. So is a sickly form of cuteness and precociousness so unrelenting that when little Michelle started to actually grow up, the producers introduced more cute little kids to keep cute freaks watching the show. When Full House started its run, it of course had the reigning queens of a tween empire playing Michelle, the ubiquitous Mary-Kate Olson and Ashley Olson, there to be exploited as the drooling, pooping little girl to give the show a cute quotient. The cute quotient was upped by young Jodie Sweetin, playing middle girl Stephanie, and spewing the catch phrase "How RUDE!" until she grew out of age where it could still be called cute. Then there was a dog - of course there was a dog! - named Comet. Later, another character, Jesse, fell in love with a woman named Rebecca, married her, and they had a pair of twins. Most of the characters had catch phrases: Jesse's "Have mercy!," Kimmy's "Whoa baby!," Joey's "Cut it out!," DJ's "Oh my Lanta!," and Stephanie's "How RUDE!," could always be counted on once or twice an episode when the show began its run. When Michelle grew up, the writers decided they could exploit her more by spewing a shitload of cuted-up phrases like "You got it, dude!" and "You're in big trouble, mister!"
Credit where it's due, Full House introduced its morals via one of television's more unconventional family situations, and it slipped under the Reagan radar thanks to the sappiness of everything else. The situation in the show is about a single father, Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), whose wife is killed in a car crash, so he has to raise their three daughters. Fortunately, he isn't going on it by himself: He enlists the help of his brother in law, Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) and his best friend, Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) to live with him and help him raise his three daughters, DJ (Candace Cameron), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), and Michelle (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen). I do award credit for this, because it does cause occasional friction which probably comes to its apex in one episode in which Michelle tries to set up Danny with her teacher, and is forced to face the fact that she may never have a new mother. It blew its untraditional look in the last few seasons, though, mostly because Jesse married Rebecca, which gave the girls a motherlike figure. Jesse and Rebecca didn't even move out of the house.
The mother's death, however, doesn't come into play that often. It does, but it's mostly there as a backdrop. The Nostalgia Critic put it best when he described Full House as the life of the people in picture frames. The general themes of the show were typical family-friendly 80's fare, with a Disneyworld episode, a wedding episode, and a prom episode. Other fare includes an episode where Danny receives a new car for his birthday, an episode where the family was offended after being the butt of stand-up routine delivered by Joey's new girlfriend, and one where Stephanie loses her teddy bear. There are power after-school episodes, though, like one in which Stephanie takes up smoking, but for the most part I'm not going to argue with The Nostalgia Critic.
I gave Saved by the Bell quite a bit of shit for the way it presented its all-world teenage lessons, but to that bad, tacky old show's credit, it at least acknowledged the fact that some of those issues existed. Full House regularly drums up its ridiculous conflicts from nothing at all; these conflicts really couldn't be conflicts anywhere other than Reagan America. The episode where Stephanie gets her ears pierced in secret and cries that her father is trying too hard to treat her like she's her older sister doesn't exactly smack of urgency. Full House has another one of those severe cases where it tries to ignore the fact that teenagers are teenagers, despite there being a full episode dedicated to DJ turning 13 and thus, being a teenager. The Tanner girls are angelic little cherubs, and most of the things they do that are wrong aren't exactly universal. In some cases, that makes the show more interesting because their offenses can be brought so far over the top. But Full House decides against recognizing drugs and sex, too. Maybe that can be chalked up to the presence of Candace Cameron who, like her insufferable dumbass brother Kirk, is a highly conservative born-again Christian waiting with a moral whip.
There is a certain faction of people who believe that if it's cute and family friendly, it must be the funniest thing ever, and this has to be the only reason Full House managed to survive for eight years. And this was basically the only thing Full House had going for it. Spewing cute-ized catch phrases all over the place, the sweet little girls wormed their way into everyone's hearts with snarky deadpan humor and some mispronunciation. I'm fairly sure the girls had personalities of their own, but it's very difficult to tell when corporate cute ends and they begin. It's hard for me to think of a situation where DJ and Stephanie couldn't be exchanged for one another outside of their age differences, and one could make a strong case for Michelle being the same way in the later years. When Michelle started to grow up a little, the producers replaced her by introducing a pair of twin children for Rebecca and Jesse named Nicky and Alex. And of course, there's a dog.
The male characters aren't quite left to the backburner like that, but they do have problems. They all have personality quirks: Danny is, as Joey once puts it, a psycho with a dust mop. Joey is a stand-up comic with an array of voices to shame Meryl Streep. Jesse is obsessed with his hair and Elvis Presley, and has a side gig as a rocker with a band called the Rippers. He tries to be a tough guy, but if this show is to be believed, there's a wide difference between tough in San Francisco - where the show is set - and TOUGH, because I knew hipsters in Chicago capable of kicking Jesse's ass. These personality quirks are literally the only thing standing between the male characters and interchangeability.
It's hard to believe this is what people know Bob Saget is primarily known for now. Saget got his start in stand-up comedy, and he's said part of the reason he chose to star in Full House was to present a friendlier image to the audience. If anything, it worked a little TOO well. Saget is still doing stand-up, and his act, as it always has, features a level of raunch and vulgarity which would leave George Carlin taken aback. Dave Coulier is known well to be a former flame of singer Alanis Morissette and is widely rumored to be the target of the scathing lyrics of her breakthrough song, "You Oughta Know." (Morissette maintains complete silence about the subject, but Coulier claims to be the subject, and admitted some of the lines "hit very close to home.") A lot of the cast members fell into drugs, I was told, but I've only been able to confirm this about Sweetin. I doubt the show itself ever intended to start a television revolution of any kind, but it appears to have triggered a wave of darker, edgier, less family-friendly shows which continues to this day. Terrible as Full House was, we may actually have it to thank for quality television.
An ABC Sitcom about a family living in San Francisco. A family with father Danny Tanner and children DJ, Stephanie and Michelle Tanner live together with Danny's friends Joey Gladstone (comedian) and Jesse (rockstar) Katsapolis and his wife (Becky, also cohost on Good Morning America alongside Danny Tanner). In later episodes Jesse and Becky also have twins, Nicky and Alex Katsapolis. The token annoying next door neighbor is Kimmy Gibler, best friend to DJ Tanner.