At the risk of slaughtering your beloved childhood memories, I’m just going to say it: Full House is terrible. It’s really, really terrible. Can’t-even-appreciate-it-ironically terrible. For those of you who don’t inexplicably own every season on DVD (um), the story goes like this: Danny Tanner’s wife dies, so his best friend Joey and brother-in-law Jesse move in to help raise his daughters DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle. (Yes, like most groups of three men living together in San Francisco, they’re family friends interested in collective child-rearing.) Eight seasons later, Jesse’s married with kids, Joey’s still creepily living in the basement, Michelle has gone from passively to actively annoying, and there have been maybe ten good jokes in the show’s history. And this is on a sitcom starring two comedians.
So if it wasn’t being funny (and I promise you it wasn’t), what did Full House do with its time? Well, it did create a weird parallel version of San Francisco as the most anodyne vision of suburbia imaginable. Uncle Jesse, the show’s rebel, shows what an outrageous badass he is by driving a motorcycle, having long hair, and…that’s it, actually. DJ, in the show’s Teen Drinking Is Bad issue episode, gets herself in big trouble when she – wait for it – holds a beer. No, she isn’t drinking it. She’s literally holding it. For a friend. And thus, as we all know, begins the primrose path to destruction.
There’s something pleasantly nostalgic in Full House’s shameless bartering of Every Sitcom Cliché Ever. The combination of the characters’ catchphrases covers virtually every situation, from romantic (Uncle Jesse: “Have mercy!”) to surprising (DJ: “Oh my Lanta”) to pretty much fucking whenever (Michelle: “You got it dude,” “Don’t worry, be happy,” “You’re in big trouble, mister” et al ad infinitum). Full House’s real claim to the cliché hall of fame, however, is in the music that plays when people learn lessons (which is always.) Warm and gooey and synthesized within an inch of its life, it’s the gentle reconciliation to any hijink gone too wacky, the musical equivalent of comfort food.
Ultimately, looking to be really entertained by Full House is just looking for moments when the show feels uncomfortable. Oh, you can seek out DJ dating a “bad boy” and Stephanie’s “cool” friends offering her cigarettes (and you should, because it’s hilarious), but there’s something mean about it. You’re working against its logic. The show wants to take you, a cynical Jesse Katsopolis, forgive you for your rudeness, and invite you to a family sing-along. It wants to teach you the error of your ways in gentle but firm tones before giving you a hug, synthesizers swelling, and reminding you that your family loves you and you love them.
Except possibly for Michelle. She still annoys the hell out of me.