Shutting off news reports of the Iran-Contra affair, turning down the abrasive rock stylings of the Beastie Boys, and peering through the perpetual mist of airborne cocaine particles that was inherent to 1987 California, film and television director Jeff Franklin dreamed of a simpler time. A time riddled with milkmen and paperboys, a time wherein three grown imbeciles could band together to raise a triad of blonde, plucky sisters together without incurring questioning unto their judgmental capabilities. Even in a time as cynical as the late ’80s and early ’90s, Franklin’s creation Full House managed to thrive on the simple, wholesome, drama-free bounties of pleasant West Coast tomfoolery. Back then, the Tanners and co. didn’t need postmodern satire, sociopolitical undertones, sudden character deaths, love triangles, or overarching themes of any kind — they relied (and thrived) simply on being pleasant. But today would be a different story.
With John Stamos pushing to revive the highly successful ABC sitcom (via TV Guide) — in the wake of the Disney Channel’s creation of Girl Meets World, no less — we are looking at the considerable, albeit presently quite tentative, possibility that such an entity might in time come to be. But we can’t help but wonder how a show about three ceaselessly well-meaning kooks and their frighteningly saccharine communal daughters would fare amid today’s TV slate: a community of shows where crooked and criminal, if not entirely amoral, heroes and heroine are the norm rather than the exception.
Cynicism is the life blood of today’s TV. Even in our comedic fare — think of Community, Arrested Development, How I Met Your Mother, and even The Big Bang Theory — do we see the proclivity to mock and deconstruct, to tear apart the very fabric of shows like Full House (happy family bouncing from one typical sitcom plotline to the next week after week). Our characters aren’t looking to reclaim the era of milkmen and paperboys the way Danny Tanner was, they’re looking to shoot down the blind-eyed peurility upheld by this allegedly superior past. So far gone into the muck of irony is today’s television viewer that Full House couldn’t seem earnest no matter how hard it tried… or, better yet, how naturally earnestness came to it.
But even if we can accept the Tanner/Katsopolis/Gladstone/Gibbler tribe as impeccably genuine, what would be our motivation to watch week after week? Full House, so appropriately named after an immobile edifice, was a show that celebrated its static nature. Every time you set foot into that San Francisco dwelling, you were treated to the same consequence-free merriment that you caught episodes and seasons prior. Yes, this was a treat, not a relegation. But today, we yearn for that through-line momentum. We watch, if for no other reason, to find out what happens next in the chaotic and kinetic, oftentimes toxic, forward narratives of Walter White, Carrie Mathison, and Tyrion Lannister. Hell, one of the most popular shows on today is called Scandal. If that’s not telling, then I don’t know what is.
Without even a central romance into which to sink our teeth — could we really see Danny, Joey, or any of the girls upholding one half of a riveting will-they-won’t-they? — we’re hardly draw to “find out what happens on the next exciting episode of Full House,” at least not with the same verve to which modern TV has fueled our communal addiction.
Lacking that intertwining drama, today’s Full House could seem devoid of life force. Without the scathing bite of sarcasm, it could come off lazy and unclever. And with such an adherence to the traditional format — that which today’s comedy routinely turns inside out for sport — it could render not nostalgic but wholly outdated. When Full House came to be in 1987, it was then a throwback, a revival of a simpler time. So what would it be now? A throwback to a throwback? A revival of a revival? A tribute to a time simpler than a time that was simpler? See, just trying to identify it feels like a lost cause.