Fuller House Review: Netflix Revival Relies Almost Entirely on Nostalgia

Fuller House Renewed

grade_B-Let’s start with the good news: If all you’re expecting from Netflix’s Full House revival series is a where-are-they-now nostalgia fest, complete with friendly faces and catchphrases you’ve heard a million times, plan to call in sick from work on Feb. 26 to binge the first season. Fuller House was made for you.

Picking up more than two decades after the events of Full House‘s series finale, Fuller‘s pilot stages a family reunion for the Tanners — minus Michelle, whose absence is explained via a fourth wall-breaking joke — which inspires DJ (Candace Cameron Buré), now a widowed mother of three, and Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), a jet-setting deejay with no children or roots whatsoever, to move back into their childhood house. Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber), now a professional party planner, also makes herself at home. (Some things never change.)

As with most reunions, the mere sight of the Tanners, Fullers (DJ’s new last name) and Katsopoli back under the same roof will be enough to send fans of the original series into a state of nirvana. Superficially, everyone looks pretty much the same, or better in some cases — see exhibits John Stamos and Lori Loughlin — as they did during the series’ original run, and not a single actor struggles to slip back into his or her character. (Bob Saget’s low-energy Danny will likely elicit a few head-cocks, though it’s not completely detrimental to the show’s overall vibe.)

On the surface, Fuller House is every revival series’ dream: the actors’ chemistry is alive and well, the set is a freakishly accurate recreation of the original — down to the way-too-small couch that should have been upgraded in the early ’90s — and, most refreshingly, the concept doesn’t feel excruciatingly forced. (The original stars’ initial reappearances are a little stunted, thanks to each star taking a massive pause for audience applause, though that’s to be expected on a sitcom.)

But that’s the thing; there isn’t a whole lot beneath that surface. Once Danny, Jesse and the gang dissipate after the pilot, the show settles into its regular groove, which is comparable to that of average contemporary family sitcoms like Melissa & Joey or Last Man Standing. In some respects, Fuller House faces the same challenge The Muppets dealt with this past fall: How does one update a squeaky-clean franchise for 2016 audiences without making things too edgy, thus tarnishing the foundation upon which it was built? And just like The Muppets, that challenge is met with mixed results. (It’s all fun and games until someone makes a casual masturbation joke about a little boy that’ll leave you clutching your pearls.)

That said, there are a few consistent bright spots, including party-girl Stephanie’s interactions with DJ’s annoying (sorry!) kids; the original series’ now-twentysomething fans will likely identify with her more than any other character. The true MVP of Fuller House, however, is Barber, whom you’d never guess hasn’t performed on screen in more than 20 years. Though her character remains as clueless as ever, her acting choices are whip-smart and she’s a welcome addition to any scene — especially those that find her sparring with ex-husband Fernando (played by Dallas‘ Juan Pablo Di Pace, a recurring guest star).

The TVLine Bottom Line: Is Fuller House going to be huge? Yes. Will Netflix renew it for a second season? Frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t already. But will Full House fans invest long-term in a sometimes-funny revival that rests solely on the shoulders of its supporting players? That I’m very curious to see.

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