'Fuller House': What Happens When Nostalgia Gets A Reboot

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
image

Watching Fuller House, which starts streaming Friday on Netflix, I felt exactly the way I felt when I used to watch the show it’s based on with my young children in the late-80s/early 90s: mildly amused, a little bored, and glad that it provided some harmless good laughs for its intended audience. Which wasn’t me.

Full House in its original incarnation was the cornerstone of ABC’s “TGIF” schedule of child-friendly shows that included Family Matters and Perfect Strangers. This was at a time when there were fewer prime-time network or cable kid options, and when parents still spent time watching what their offspring were consuming. (Do they still have time to do that?) As such, Full House — a show about three goofy guys overseeing a batch of tykes, learning how to parent on-the-job — fit the bill just fine.

Related: See ‘Fuller House’ Season 1 Photos

The new Fuller House is overseen by the original’s creator, Jeff Franklin, and he is wise to have stuck to the original’s mood. Which must have been a challenge: After all, stars Bob Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier, and Lori Loughlin aren’t going to be in every episode — Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned down the project flatly — and so Fuller is built around the supporting cast.

Thus, Candace Cameron Bure (as D.J.), Jodie Sweetin (as Stephanie), and Andrea Barber (as Kimmy Gibbler) are the stars of this show, along with a passel of new kids to take care of. The pilot episode plays heavily on nostalgia, with the original’s set faithfully reproduced. Saget, Stamos, Coulier, and Loughlin all appear to tee things up for the rest of the run before beating a hasty retreat.

The opening episode acknowledges the current era in glancing ways, such as having one of the little kids say that Donald Trump is “a bad word.” The studio audience was primed to supply the ooohs, the aaaahs, and the aaaawwws at the sentimental moments, and Coulier gets a hearty round of applause for saying, one more time, “Cut it out!”

In subsequent episodes, the big names fade away — Stamos, an executive producer on this project, makes a welcome cameo in the second episode, for example, but he’s there for just a few minutes. Of the other performers, Barber is a hopeless ham, mugging for the camera even more strenuously than she did when she was young Kimmy. By contrast, Soni Bringas, as her daughter Ramona, is probably the most adroit of the new kid characters, delivering her punchlines with smooth timing.

No one is ever going to say Fuller House is great TV, but as a nostalgia item, it will probably amuse its original, now grown, audience for an episode or two. The question is whether today’s children will find this genial cornball production diverting enough to keep them tapping their tablets for more Netflix episodes — that is by no means a sure bet.

Fuller House starts streaming Friday on Netflix.