Watching Netflix’s “Fuller House” is a lot like eating too much grocery store cake — you know you should stop, but you can’t. The cake is cloyingly sweet and not particularly appetizing. “Fuller House” serves viewers sticky, viscous nostalgia sprinkled with some underwhelming 21st century jokes. While you know it’s bad for you, you don’t hate it and you’ll probably eat more in the future.
With a glamorous, buoyant Carly Rae Jepsen cover of the “Full House” original theme song, “Fuller House” brings back the “Full House” cast, sans Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, who are subject to not-so-subtle shade throughout the show. Along with newcomers who play Kimmy’s and D.J.’s children, the original gang blasts viewers with nostalgic feels and an anachronistic laugh track for 13 episodes on Netflix.
While lovably campy, the show isn’t without faults. It is a little too stuck in the past to the point where present day is explained with awkward introductions. In the first episode, D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure) tells Danny (Bob Saget) and Becky (Lori Loughlin) — but really the audience — that they must be so pumped to move to L.A. to host their own national morning show. Jesse then tells everyone that he’s moving to L.A. because he’s the new music composer on his favorite soap opera. Of course, Michelle’s not there — she’s too busy in New York running her own fashion empire. After they drop this joke, the cast breaks the fourth wall and stares into the camera. Totally natural and not awkward at all.
The reimagination of the series lacks creative plot development, which makes the show feel comforting, albeit lackluster. The plot is exactly the same as the original series. Like her father, D.J. Tanner is now a widow with a white collar job and three children. She lives with her childhood best friend, Kimmy (Andrea Barber), and her little sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) … in the same house. Sure, we love throwbacks, but admittedly, there could’ve been more effort to change things up.
The show clumsily attempts to be self-aware and socially conscious, though without fruition. The romantic relationships in the show, save for maybe Jesse (John Stamos) and Becky, are as uncomfortable as they are unhealthy. D.J.’s suitors, her fellow clinic veterinarian Matt (John Brotherton) and Steve (Scott Weinger), her old high school flame, are obsessed with her to the point of being possessive and invasive of her personal space. Kimmy has a husband who constantly lies to her, yet she falls for him almost every damn time.
Unsound relationships aren’t the only faux pas in “Fuller House” — its approach to race is also unfortunately tone deaf. Okay, it’s a redux of “Full House,” so we anticipated it to be pretty white. But wait, there’s a main person of color on the cast! It’s Ramona (Soni Bringas), Kimmy’s half-Latino daughter, whose ethnic ethos comes from her occasional Spanish rants and her one precocious criticism of whiteness — that the Tanners are like “albino polar bears. Drinking milk. Watching ‘Frozen.’”
Yet, perhaps these are the only few flickering reminders of race in the show, aside from the disastrous Indian-themed retirement party that Kimmy and Stephanie throw for D.J.’s boss. There was a random sacred cow and lots of white people dancing in saris. Need we say more?
But the Netflix revival does have redeeming aspects. For one, there are convincing and adorable performances from Elias Harger, who plays D.J.’s spick-and-span son Max, and Andrea Barber, who plays Kimmy. Despite its many gaffes, “Fuller House” also proves to be competent in the arena of emotional intelligence. In the first episode, one scene in particular sets the series’ tone of familial resilience. Trying to hold back tears, D.J. says to her baby son Tommy (Dashiell and Fox Messitt), “It’s just that everyone’s leaving … and for the first time, we’re going to be all on our own.” Ultimately, the revival shows three strong women who undergo changes that resonate with a lot of families. And they survive on their own — and together.
Replete with lovable but also cringeworthy moments, “Fuller House” encompasses the good, the bad and the ugly of revival television. But we’ll see what else it has in store. The Netflix revival, after all, is due for a second season renewal. And we’ll probably watch it nonetheless.