No, what Fuller House is is familiar television. Even when you watch a few episodes in a row — as Netflix surely hopes you will — it feels like just leaving the TV on as rerun after rerun piles up. The laugh lines are predictable. The gags play out exactly as you'd expect. Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) still says, "How rude," even though she's now in her 30s.
Even the show's premise is a gender-flipped reworking of Full House. Instead of three men, three women come together in the wake of one of their husband's deaths to raise the widowed woman's three sons (instead of three daughters, as in the original). And of course that woman is Candace Cameron Bure's DJ (Tanner) Fuller, the eldest of the children from the original. And of course she's joined by her sister Stephanie and her best friend from the original, Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber).
Imagine finding a favorite old stuffed animal in the back of your childhood bedroom's closet, hugging it, and then breathing in its slightly musty, dusty scent. It's not the same as it used to be, but you might experience a nostalgia contact high for a few moments.
That's Fuller House in a nutshell.
Run. Run far away. The Tanners have spotted you, and they have no mercy.
Even the familiar has its limits. Watch enough Fuller House in a limited period of time — like, say, all 13 episodes in a little under 36 hours, as I did — and a creeping terror starts to crawl beneath your skin. Something about this show, something about these characters, is fundamentally wrong. It must be stopped. You can see how I felt after only sampling the pilot.
Fuller House made me feel like I was an empty burlap sack shaped like a man, and I was full of bugs, and the bugs moved me around.— Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti) January 17, 2016
Watch enough Fuller House and you'll start to realize that many of the physical laws of reality we hold so dear simply don't apply to the Tanners of San Francisco. Reality warps itself around them, drawn toward their center of gravity. Horrible things — disease and death and sorrow — can happen to them, but nothing truly affects them.
What I am saying is that watching too much Fuller House will make you feel like you're part of some sinister experiment, presided over by beings from another dimension who are waiting to see if you'll crack under the pressure. Will you continue to resist the show? Or will you give yourself over to it? Can you, too, love the Tanners?
"Whatever happened to predictability?" are the first words of the famous theme song that opened the original series, and they open Fuller House, too. But eventually you'll realize that Fuller House is not about the good old days, it's about what happens when predictability is literally the guiding principle of your life — when every joke, no matter how weak, is the funniest thing ever, and every childhood love interest is the truest of all time.
In other words, Fuller House is about what it would mean to be trapped, forever, inside of Full House, and how horrible that might be. Here are 29 moments from the new show's first season that explore that idea.
1) Fuller House begins with a scene that repeats literally every major catchphrase from the original series in under a minute
The audience applauds as the characters shuffle in one by one — older but no wiser. They all say their most famous lines, and it just feels tired. It's like The Walking Dead: Live Studio Audience Edition.
2) Stephanie speaks with a British accent for a while — until Kimmy's feet break the spell
One of Fuller House's reliable go-to "jokes" is that Kimmy possesses many mystical properties. Among those mystical properties are feet so stinky that they can literally rouse Stephanie from a seeming psychotic break — one that makes her believe she's British — so that she reverts to her good old, "How rude!"-spouting self.
3) The awkward acknowledgement that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen did not sign on for the new series
The twins who played Michelle Tanner aren't part of Fuller House, which the pilot acknowledges via everybody else saying Michelle couldn't make it, and then staring at the camera for 15 seconds, like a strange, creepy flash mob.
4) Every time more than three women are in the same room on this show, they dance
There are so, so many dance numbers, including one in the premiere to New Kids on the Block's "The Right Stuff," a song as fresh as the show. It's as if the Fuller House writers don't really know what women do in large group settings.
5) Everybody performs the Flintstones theme in split screen with their younger selves
This happened in Full House's pilot, so a variation on it has to happen in the new series, even though The Flintstones doesn't have much cultural cachet anymore. Maybe the characters should have performed the Full House theme song?
6) Stephanie answers her cellphone through a possibly poopy baby diaper
The logistics of this are too hard for me to believe. While administering a diaper change, Stephanie drops her phone in the new diaper as she's putting it on the baby, somehow fastens it around the baby with the phone inside, then has to answer it through the diaper — all as the baby is seemingly filling it up. This seems to defy the basic laws of physics.
7) A cameo from Macy Gray?!
In one episode, DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy (the three women who take the place of the three men at the center of the original show) go out clubbing — insert obligatory "Wooo!" from the audience at the sight of them in dresses, and steel yourself for several dance scenes — and they run into Macy Gray. Poor Macy Gray! Forced to live in the Full House universe!
8) Uncle Joey's Neil deGrasse Tyson impression
The second Dave Coulier says he's going to do an impression of Neil deGrasse Tyson, you might find yourself saying, "No no no no no," as I did, until he adds, "cutting the cheese," before making farting noises. Let no one say Fuller House didn't break ground in bringing Neil deGrasse Tyson fart impressions to American television.
9) "We'll do our Dirty Dancing routine from the fourth-grade talent show"
This line — spoken by DJ to Kimmy at the club — is everything Fuller House stands for: pointless evocations of the 1980s, needlessly expositional dialogue, references to the original TV show, and unnecessary dance numbers.
10) THE CREEPY MAN STANDING JUST OUTSIDE THE WINDOW
Ramona (Kimmy's daughter and the only girl among the kid characters) makes a plan to escape her classroom with the help of DJ's oldest son, Jackson. (The two will have an inevitable will-they/won't-they once they're older.) Her plan is foiled because her exit route is blocked by a security guard. But after a split-second shot of the guy, we then switch to an angle where we don't see his head, which ends up making him seem like some creepy, headless being lurking in the school.
11) Ramona hypnotizes her mom
One episode features a series of post-hypnotic suggestions that Ramona has implanted in Kimmy's brain. But Ramona only uses her new "power" to make her mother cluck like a chicken, which isn't even useful. The idea is never once revisited, squandering its potential.
12) Max plays Coachella
DJ's middle son, Max, struggling with his trombone solo for a recital, is flummoxed when Stephanie takes his lucky scarf to Coachella, where she's playing a DJ set. (Stephanie is a minor celebrity in the world of Fuller House.) Stephanie takes his call in the middle of her set, then blasts video of him farting out his solo for a crowd of thousands. Said crowd is not into it — until she remixes it. Sure.
13) "Wrong little person"
There's an entire episode where DJ's two oldest sons somehow get wrapped up in San Francisco's underground luchador scene. At one point, DJ confuses a masked little person for one of her sons, and he barks the line of dialogue above. The episode concludes with DJ beating the hell out of a bunch of wrestlers because she just loves her son that much. Again, sure.
14) "Full house!" "Fuller house!"
When Danny Tanner and his grandson, Jackson, play poker against each other, can you guess which hand Danny ends up with? And can you guess what Jackson might say when he beats that hand with one that's the same — but a little better? He might as well get behind the wheel of a big rig and shout, "OUTTA MY WAY, OLD MAN!"
15) Stephanie makes Danny a jacket ... from his old couch
So enamored is Danny of his old couch that he must wear it always.
16) People fall in love in childhood, and then never again
One of the more horrifying things about living in the Full House universe seems to be that once you find your first childhood crush, you are destined to be with that person forever. The show clearly wants DJ to end up with Steve (her boyfriend from Full House), and there's even an episode where Stephanie ponders getting together with Harry — whom she "married" as a tiny child in an episode of the original show.
17) Aunt Becky is slowly losing her mind
Lori Loughlin is having a grand old time, but the psychic weight of living in the Full House universe has clearly taken its toll on Aunt Becky. She spends a lengthy portion of one episode putting on a baby fashion show, complete with a baby in a Viking helmet.
18) "Hootie-hoo to you!"
My favorite character on Fuller House is an unpleasant man who sits next to the Tanners at a baseball game and has no patience for their antics. I would watch an entire TV show centered on this gentleman, provided the above dialogue became his catchphrase.
19) EVERYTHING IN THE FULL HOUSE UNIVERSE REVOLVES AROUND THE TANNERS
I typed this in my notes in all caps after Stephanie got to sing at the ballgame for some reason, and I stand by it. How horrible must it be to live in this universe and never have anything happen to you until one of the Tanners draws near, and then you're suddenly participating in a dog wedding or something?
20) Poorly CGI'd baseballs
21) The characters flash back to earlier events — then enter each other's memories to comment on them
A late-season episode involving the love triangle DJ finds herself in (between co-worker Mark and dependable ol' Steve) plays out with both men explaining how they first fell for DJ — only to then have those scenes play out with color commentary from each other. It's like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, only Kimmy Gibbler is there.
22) "Oh, Mylanta"
Fuller House borrows this catchphrase from the original series but hammers it into the ground. Initially, it might seem like a way for deeply Christian Candace Cameron Bure to avoid saying, "Oh, my God" — until every character is saying it, and some characters are guzzling Mylanta straight from the bottle. Cutesy way to avoid swearing? Or desperate cry for help?
23) So many items in Kimmy's wardrobe have her face on them
24) Everybody does a Bollywood dance number
Full House was always a super-white show. Fuller House is a little better in this regard — Kimmy's ex-husband is Latino, and, thus, her daughter Ramona is biracial — but that "little" is literally the smallest "little" in the world. So when one episode ends with everybody (sigh) dancing Bollywood-style, it feels like a fun trip back to that year we all spent arguing about whether Miley Cyrus twerking was cultural appropriation or not.
25) There's a character named Magic Fingers Boris
Sadly, he's just a masseuse and not part of an elaborate Mr. Clean role-play that Kimmy and her ex used to partake in together.
26) Stephanie takes part in a weird remake of Cyrano de Bergerac that ends with her and Kimmy making out
Everything about Full(er) House's premise is, let's say, LGBT-adjacent. Three men (now women) living in a house together, raising kids? The whole thing has potential to explore, say, comic misunderstandings about their relationships. Fuller House occasionally touches the third rail of this premise, which is how Kimmy's ex's attempt to re-seduce her ends with Stephanie and Kimmy kissing — all so Kimmy can end up back with her comically disastrous ex, because that's how things work in the Full House universe.
27) The girls shout catchphrases into a phone in an attempt to wake up Michelle
Perhaps everyone held out hope that the Olsen twins would return for Fuller House's finale. They didn't, which is why there's a scene in which the other two Tanner sisters and Kimmy shout Michelle's old catchphrases into her voicemail inbox, while Michelle, unseen by us and presumably thrilled to have escaped all of this torment, dozes peacefully in her far-off home. The scene is the entire show in a nutshell.
28) Uncle Joey loves a puppet
When everybody is turning to the object of their affection during the double wedding that concludes the season, Uncle Joey makes eyes at a woodchuck puppet. He doesn't even do the voice!
29) "We've formed an impenetrable circle around you!"
First, it's important to note that Kimmy and her ex got officially divorced just so they could get remarried. But when Kimmy tries to run from their wedding, her ex chases after her, then drags her down. All of the couple's wedding guests surround her, and when she protests that she doesn't want to get married, the groom utters the line above. The audience roars its approval.
In the back of her mind, Kimmy must surely dream of bolting for the door, of racing off toward whatever escape route Michelle found. But instead, she agrees to stay engaged to the guy, instead of marrying him right then. And the status quo is preserved.
As Thomas Wolfe said, you can't go home again. As Kimmy Gibbler might say, you can't go home again, because if you do, you might become trapped, haunted by hollow laughter from unseen phantoms ringing in your ears. And the next episode starts in 15 ... 14 ... 13 ...
Fuller House is streaming on Netflix.