Sometimes you sort of have to wish your real life was anything like the TV shows you grew up with. After all, it's pretty tough to pinpoint those social and nonverbal cues of learning a moral lesson in our own lives. It's so much easier when they put in slow, thoughtful theme music to punctuate the moment exactly five minutes before the end of a thirty minute episode arc. Without those clear-cut auditory guidelines, how are we ever supposed to know when we're gaining moral aptitude? We don't even have a live studio audience to awww for us.
Yes, Full House had the eleventh hour moral-of-the-story moment down to a near-perfect science. It was good, wholesome fun at its finest. Though some of the characters may have briefly flirted with unseemly behavior, their nanosecond-long foray into rebellion was always conveniently quelled by the end of the episode. All a character had to do was consider making a mistake and there was a sturdy trustworthy authority figure at their service to swoop in and give them a bit o' wisdom. Its simplicity was reassuring at the very least; no matter how close anyone veered toward making a poor life choice, it was inevitable that by the end of the episode, the slate would once again be wiped clean.
Though certainly a bit on the hackneyed side, the show was ripe with charm. The premise gave us a wealth of quirky characters, allowing plot lines to shift amongst many key players. We had our hero, squeaky-clean and distinctly un-Bob Sagetlike Danny Tanner, a widower with three young girls to raise. It was all sort of Brady Bunch-esque, only instead of Danny bringing in another half family for reinforcement, he supplemented his parenting skills with two live-in father stand-ins. Yes, that's right: three men raising three little girls. I know, I know. I'll give you a moment to compose yourself as the shock wears off.
This clip from the first episode does a lot of explaining and blank filling-in on major plot points, so I'll let it speak for itself. It also for some reason features Dutch subtitles. Don't ask me why.
In the first episode, we get our first glimpses of a bemulleted Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) and wacky Hawaiian shirt-sporting sidekick Uncle Joey (Dave Coulier). That's right, we've got an OCD talk show host, a struggling rock musician, and a stand-up comedian raising these girls. Can you say hilarious antics? If you can't, maybe you should stick with those Dutch subtitles.
Like any long-running family sitcom, the young stars literally grew up onscreen. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I'd like my awkward phase forever preserved in TV history for posterity. Just ask Candace Cameron. Sure, she's a knockout now, but we all got to watch her chubby-cheeked side-ponytailed adolescence unfold. Jodie Sweetin, on the other hand, started young enough that she was still adorable when the show began but got to live out her bang-haired preteen years in front of millions. If anything, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen seriously lucked out. Those monkey-faced little babies remarkably morphed into cute little girls. It was a pretty close call there for awhile in their diaper days.
Seriously, observe this Michelle montage. Would you ever believe these girls could become homeless people style icons and straight-to-video media moguls? Me neither.
As you can imagine, all sorts of hilarious hijinks ensued as these three clueless men tried to bring up three growing girls. The wide array of character personalities and ages allowed us a never-ending supply of varied storylines. We had typical parenting dilemmas, dating antics, sibling rivalries, first days of school, peer pressure, growing-up issues, and every sort of minor moral dilemma you can conjure. The best part of the show was that no one ever seemed to get into any real trouble. They tended to hover dangerously close to temptation only to be quickly reeled in by their dependable family. The formula never failed.
DJ and Stephanie's first day of school in the first season showcases some of the clean-fun shenanigans that characterized this extremely full house.
With the inception of the TGIF Friday night lineup in the late 80s, Full House carved out a great time slot for itself that was conducive to family viewing. The show had not initially been a runaway success, but its new timeslot brought with it a serious following of fans. Suddenly, people couldn't get enough of this show. And could you blame them? It had something for everyone.
For young women ages 12-25, we had John Stamos. For people who liked unfunny stand-up, cut-rate cartoon impressions, and had a lurking interest in seeing about whom Alanis Morisette wrote "You Outta Know", we had Dave Coulier. For anyone seeking out a guiding moral light, we had Bob Saget. Well, Danny Tanner, that is. If you've ever seen any Bob Saget stand-up it's pretty clear that isn't the case for his real life persona.
For the kids we had three distinct age groups of characters with whom to relate as girls and to fall in love with as boys. I personally fell within the Michelle age range category and almost immediately found myself knee-deep in Mary Kate and Ashley promotional merchandise and "Brother for Sale" cassette tapes. I grew up jealous that their everyday lives were an adventure full of strange but endearing adult role models. I'm pretty sure I was not alone in coveting all of Rebecca Donaldson's swingy vests and flowered housedresses, either. I figured it was only a matter of time before I somehow manuevered Becky out of the picture and could claim my rightful place in the Katsopolis family and corresponding closet.
Regardless of my own Full House plotting, the most satisfying part to me remained the predictability. No matter what happened, unless it was a two-part episode you just knew that sappy music was coming on at 7:25. It didn't matter whether they were trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner or taking a trip to Hawaii, by the end of it we were going to learn something and that was that. The characters were flawed in simple, easily remediable ways that lent themselves well to 30 minute segments.
No one ever took hard drugs or committed a felony. There was no danger of taking a sharp left into dangerous territory. It was more like DJ secretly applying Madonna-grade makeup to fit in in junior high, only to learn a lesson about growing up at your own pace. If you weren't feeling even the slightest urge to "aww", you probably weren't watching it right.
Just in case you were curious, here's the aforementioned DJ makeup snafu.