I was just as excited as anyone else when I heard the news that Full House was returning with a brand-new start on Netflix last winter. It had been my favorite TV show from 4th-7th grade. I still remember when it went off the air. Like anyone else who had warm, fuzzy memories of watching the sitcom during its heyday in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I binge-watched that entire first season of Fuller House in a day. The Tanners were back to fill a void in my heart, but I had mixed feelings. I was left wondering if you really can go home again. The same old beautiful house was there with familiar faces waiting just around the bend to lend me their hearts and hands to hold on to. And yet quite a few things felt wrong in this otherwise blissful scenario.
I loved that the show’s producers chose to update the story by focusing on widower DJ (Candace Cameron Bure) raising her three kids on her own with some help from her best friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber) and her younger sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin). It was a nice nod to the original series in which widower Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) was seen raising his three kids on his own with some help from his best friend Joey (Dave Coulier) and his brother-in-law Jesse (John Stamos). This felt satisfyingly cyclical. Sure, the spin-off was full of too many awkward hugs, insufferable laugh tracks and cheesy Dad jokes, but let’s not forget that the original also relied upon such tactics as its main source of comedic bread and butter.
However, the new series made several “interesting” choices with cameos from former cast members that felt a bit forced in places, not to mention some revealing wardrobe choices among the leading ladies and jokes that felt almost too “adult-like” for a family-oriented program that left me wondering whatever happened to predictability? Which audience was the show trying to pander to – the 30-somethings who grew up with DJ, Kimmy and Stephanie, or their kids? At times, I was left scratching my head because it was difficult to figure out. The show seemed to be struggling through an identity crisis, and I feared it wouldn’t be given a second season for redemption.
And to be fair, maybe it was partially me. I’m no longer the 10-year-old child I once was waiting for a new episode of Full House to come on so I could struggle through the ups and downs of adolescence with other kids who were roughly the same age as me. I enjoyed the adult love triangle building to a crescendo all season between DJ, former high school flame Steve (Scott Weinger) and newcomer Dr. Matt Harmon (John Brotherton), but the actual plot lines revolving around DJ’s kids Jackson, Max and Tommy and Kimmy’s daughter Ramona not-so-much. Kimmy’s ex-husband Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace) was also a tough sell with his bad Ricky Ricardo accent and womanizing ways. Why was Kimmy allowing herself to be swept off her feet by him again? Did she learn nothing from their failed marriage? And how could DJ tell both great guys in the end that she needed more time to discover herself and reach a decision about when and whom she was ready to date? Surely, she didn’t expect them to wait around forever. (I’ve had a huge crush on Steve since middle school. How could DJ possibly pick anybody but Steve? To quote DJ, “Oh, Mylanta!” When Steve gave DJ that Pillow Person for her birthday, pulled some strings to get the front-row NKOTB tickets or rescued her at her reunion, my heart melted all over again. #TeamSteveForever.)
The first season of Fuller House was full of highs and lows, and it ended on a bit of a romantic cliffhanger that left a bitter taste in my mouth. And yet, I was relieved and excited when I found out the show was greenlit for a second season and I didn’t have to wait until next year for another dose of Tanners, Fullers and Gibblers. The timing on the second season is just right. This time around, the gang’s able to be a bit more festive with episodes centering around everyone’s favorite holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Everyone’s back (except Michelle – are the Olsen twins ever going to return? Not likely.) and I think the camaraderie among the new cast has noticeably improved. The story arcs and surprise cameos have also improved by leaps and bounds. Here are a few of the season’s highlights (spoilers ahead):
- Alan Thicke as DJ’s much older blind date is hilarious. I loved that he kept referencing himself as “Mike here.” That was a definite throwback to Growing Pains, which starred Alan Thicke and Candace’s cute older brother Kirk Cameron as Mike Seaver. While it was fun for a while, Alan’s character would’ve grated on my nerves beyond the one episode. It is bittersweet now however with the sudden and untimely passing of Mr. Thicke shortly after this season premiered.
- Bruno Tonioli (my favorite flamboyant judge from Dancing with the Stars) makes a guest appearance as Ramona’s dance coach in a memorable episode. His cameo is much better than Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy’s of last season. The best part? Bruno dancing with DJ and Stephanie (who both appeared on the dancing competition) while being critiqued by Fernando and the kids. When Tommy awards them a score of 2, Bruno declares there’s always one judge in the bunch who has to ruin it. (Haha!)
- The New Kids on the Block still have the right stuff – I knew the beloved boy band was set to make a cameo, but nothing prepared me for how awesome it would be. What girl wouldn’t want the New Kids to sing happy birthday to her or the opportunity to be personally serenaded by Joey McIntyre and Jordan Knight on the stage during a concert? The only thing that bothered me about this episode was its lack of Donnie Wahlberg. Sure, I can buy that he may not have been parading around town in the limo with the band all day, but why would he fail to appear at an actual NKOTB concert? I know he has a busy acting schedule in real life, but couldn’t he have squeezed in a tiny appearance on Fuller House with the rest of his boys? At least we got to see him on their iPad I guess.
- The reunion of Girl Talk! It was especially fun to see Stephanie and Kimmy reunited with Gia (Marla Sokoloff) to re-form their girl band, Girl Talk, and equally amazing to see DJ fill in on the drums because their former drummer was on tour with Beyoncé. Ace of Base has never sounded finer. It was also good to see Marla again because back in the day, she was seen guest-starring everywhere: Full House, Boy Meets World, Step by Step, Third Rock from the Sun, Home Improvement, The Baby-Sitters Club, Party of Five, etc. She was certainly a blast from the past! I thought it was funny that DJ and Gia still couldn’t get along because DJ will forever view her as Steph’s bad influence. (Ha!)
- DJ and Kimmy’s high school reunion made me feel a bit old, but it brought some hunky cameos. DJ was reunited briefly with Viper (David Lipper, looking as good as ever) and Nelson (though sadly not portrayed by Jason Marsden who decided to pass up the opportunity for an appearance at Dragon Con instead. Nelson was actually portrayed by another favorite actor of mine – Hal Sparks – who did a pretty convincing imitation). Kimmy was also briefly reunited with her old flame Duane (Scott Menville … he’s now a motivational speaker, whatever). Kathy Santoni was also disappointingly recast with Anne Marie McEvoy filling in. However, those M.C. Hammer moves on the dance floor make this one of the best episodes!
In its sophomore season, Fuller House finds Steve and Matt both with replacement girlfriends after DJ unceremoniously dumped them last season. Naturally, one of those relationships doesn’t stick and the guy goes immediately running back to DJ. But I’m not going to ruin it for you if you haven’t yet watched. Let’s just say it’s still a love triangle all season, and I feel bad for the guy who ends up being the third wheel in his own relationship. I also find Fernando to be quite likable now (though he is a bit stereotyped) and I would miss him if he ever left the show. I adore him and Kimmy together – their couples costume at Halloween is kitschy perfect. And here’s a bit more good news: The kids are far less annoying this time. Someone must’ve told Max (Elias Harger) to dial it down a notch, and this is greatly appreciated. He can be a cute kid when he isn’t trying too hard. Meanwhile, Jackson (Michael Campion) finally wins the affections of Lola (Ashley Liao) and proves that he has Ramona’s back against cyber bullies (a topic that’s very relevant among today’s youth). And little Tommy (played by twins Fox and Dashiell Messitt) is seen walking and talking.
But let’s talk about my favorite addition this season: Stephanie finds kismet with Kimmy Gibbler’s younger brother Jimmy (Adam Hagenbuch). This new couple oozes so much sweetness that they’re either going to grate on your nerves or you’ll find yourself longing for a love like theirs. Their pet names for each other are adorably ridiculous – Steph-a-Sketch, Jiminy Cricket, Steph-Boyardee instantly come to mind). By season’s end, it’s really good to see Stephanie so happy and settled after what I presume were many lonely years of wandering. I enjoyed watching their love story unfold and look forward to whatever’s next for these lovebirds.
The cameos of the original Full House cast (Becky, Joey, Danny, Jesse, Nicky and Alex) are fewer and further between this season, which feels like a smart decision. Whereas it felt like the show was relying too heavily upon the nostalgia of the original series the last time around, Fuller House has finally found its stride and is coming into a show of its own. It no longer needs to rely on the gimmick of having Danny, Joey and Jesse around to solve every problem because the “She-Wolf Pack” finally seems to have things under control. I hope they get a third season on Netflix because there’s still so much more room to grow for these wacky but wonderful characters.
Stephanie’s music career could take her places, as could her relationship with Jimmy Gibbler. Will DJ ever make the right decision between Steve and Matt? Will Kimmy and Fernando ever re-marry? The kids are growing up before our very eyes. And let’s not forget about the big news from Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky that has further expanded the Full House clan. Remember, when you’re lost out there and you’re all alone, a light is waiting to carry you home. And everywhere you look is a familiar Tanner/Fuller/Gibbler face and that’s a welcomed sight in such an uncertain world.