Reboots, remakes and spinoffs of cherished media are a tricky thing; especially when they arrive 21 years after the original. It's a delicate balance between proper homage and unique contemporary continuation. The smallest detail could cause a total failure or the tarnishing of a brand. Because of this, some 80's and 90's lovers were thrilled, but nervously speculative, about a Full House (1987-1995) sequel coming to the streaming service, Netflix. Would it get across the thin reincarnation ice?
Cutely coined with a double entendre, Fuller House catches us up with DJ Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron-Bure), who's recently widowed and enlisting the help of her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and kooky BFF Kimmy (Andrea Barber) to take care of her 3 boys. Yes, that's a tweaked version of the previous premise, but the reminiscent material wholly is applied in a contextual, astute and witty way so you can really indulge in the #ThrowbackThursday feels without a sense of it being forced, campy, dated or recycled. For example, they poke fun at their cheesy past: Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) says they used to have moments so sweet, you could hear violins playing, DJ's son argues that hugging it out isn't a full-proof trick, and Kimmy mentions Michelle's clock-work appearances to say "You got it dude." The updates (which include Carly Rae Jepsen singing the theme) are handled just as incisively, going for natural and boldly "in touch." It's realistic that DJ and Kimmy (now parents who are roughly 37 years old) would struggle to properly use "fleek" and sync an IPhone to an IPad, the kids would be unenthused by Uncle Joey's (Dave Coulier) comedy and he'd have to sell them on super-soakers and silly-string to pull them away from their devices, and that when a phone goes off in a full house (see what I did there), everyone jumps in unison to see who's being contacted. Kimmy's 13-year-old, Ramona (Soni Nicole Bringas), is proudly part-Argentine: she's fluent in Spanish, loves Latin music and picked her room colors based on the "flag of her people." She complains about moving in with "the whitest family," whom she describes as "albino polar bears drinking milk in a snow storm watching Frozen." DJ's highly-intelligent middle child, Max (the irresistibly precious Elias Harger), has "Donald Trump" on a list of "bad words" he shouldn't say. Also, get this...there's sexual innuendo. Lines like "That ship [having kids] has sailed; in fact, it sunk...all seamen lost" are tastefully veiled to where younger viewers won't necessarily catch it. These kinds of cheeky additions allow the adults who grew up with show to enjoy it in a new way, while their own kids can soak up the family-friendly parts that made it a childhood staple in the first place.
If an actor isn't missing, a key member of the creative team is (like a writer or a director) and the spirit of the foundation is lost in a small or large way. Stamos joined Full House executive producers Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett with creator Jeff Franklin for this endeavor, practically ensuring purity. The stories are still light-hearted, warm and relatable to the ordinaries of family life. Jackson struggles to adjust to the bevy of dynamic changes and just wants to get out. Ramona stages a chemical hazard at school so she can sneak away to where she used to live. On a slightly heavier front, Stephanie's uncomfortable getting attached to her nephews because she can't have children. DJ puts on brave, independent face, but the whole family hears her confess over a baby monitor that she's petrified and uncertain if she can keep her head above water as a single mom without help, prompting Kimmy and Stephanie to move in for support. Cameron-Bure killed that scene and me. I teared up; not going to lie. Also tugging on my heart-strings were the recalls to their era. Danny, Jesse and his wife Becky (Lori Loughlin) are relocating and putting the house on the market (they later hand it to DJ, of course). At the going-away party, Stephanie puts on New Kids on the Block's "The Right Stuff" and the ladies do the signature choreo. Jesse performs "Forever" for auld lang syne, and the gang sings "We're the Flintstones" to calm baby Tommy, while footage of them doing it for Michelle years ago plays to the left. It was so cute. I was about to burst with nostagia watching the pilot credits, as recreations were side-by-side with the old ones. This cast has hardly aged, by the way. The very sweet cherry on top was the dedication to the mothers of Saget, Coulier and Stamos, who they print "would've loved this."
Fuller House gets to the other side of the ice because it maintains balance and integrity. It escapes the pitfalls of being a caricature of its genesis and losing its splendor trying to be hip. It has stories for both children and grown-ups. It has nostalgia and is still in 2016. It works because the Tanners progressed like our own families have: we have our musings and traditions, and they remain the core of our identity as we evolve and the world shifts. I honestly expected this series to fall flat, bore and disappoint me. Now, it's something I look forward to viewing every Friday (like I did in the good ol' ABC TGIF days). Guess some things truly don't change and you can always come back home; it feels darn good.