Confessions of a Former TGIF — and ‘Full House’ — Addict


Earlier this week, in one of those incidents that are the price we pay for the Information Age, some media outlets were led to believe that a Full House reboot was in the works. They came to this misapprehension because “reporting” these days apparently means checking out what articles are posted to Oh No They Didn’t, but let’s set that aside for a moment. The truly interesting part of this story is how excited the Internet got at the prospect of more quality time with the Tanner family.

For years, I have been marveling at the staying power of that particular show. There are two reasons I have done so. One will not surprise you at all: that it was a terrible show, one that in this Golden Age of television might even get laughed off the air, and which in its own time earned good but hardly blockbuster Friends or Cosby Show or even Who’s the Boss? ratings. It was treacly, and it had a laugh track, and it lacked the sort of groundbreaking political character of a Cosby Show or even a Golden Girls.

But the second reason is the real one: all the time I was growing up, which was in Full House‘s heyday, indeed the heyday of the entire fabled TGIF lineup, I didn’t know anyone who watched it. I made particular note of this because I was the only one who did, and every time some contemporary of mine made reference to how awful it was, I had to smile and laugh while cringing internally. Because in truth, in my lonely early adolescence, I think I watched pretty much every episode of Full House. I was such a completist that even now, as an adult, when dressing up to go out I sometimes think of Aunt Becky telling DJ that the secret to makeup was to look like I wasn’t wearing any. (Per those “Stars Without Makeup” shots, I guess the joke was on Becky.)

As the hype was building this week I was reminded of that old cringe. I’m not sure it’s that I was exactly excited at the prospect of a reboot. Actually, the premise that DJ and Stephanie had set up house together struck me as implausible from the start because, look, those two could barely share a room and anyway at least DJ got married — but there it is, the scarily well-informed opinion I can offer on this subject. And the not inconsiderable amount of shame I have at admitting it to anyone, because I still, like a teenager, sometimes fear judgements for certain pop culture weaknesses I have, up to and including the Cheesy 1990s Family Sitcom.

One doesn’t need to intellectualize predilections like these, I know. Perhaps it’s that I have bad taste, but I’d like to think my bad taste still has some basis in rationality. And I have to consider I must harbor a conservative streak to have such fondness for the powers of family. To which I could counter that the appeal of these shows to their focus on non-traditional family structures. It was true of Full House, with its bizarre guys-who-are-not-gay-house-sharing arrangement, but also of Who’s the Boss?

But here’s what I’ve come up with as a more likely explanation: I was kind of a lonely kid. I was an only child, and for a variety of reasons related to social maladjustment, I had few friends. But I did have a television in my bedroom, and I could spend hours watching other people be not quite as lonely as I was. And here’s the thing about loneliness: it can make you susceptible to sentimentality. It’s nice to believe that life doesn’t have to be as hard as it is for you in the moment. That companionship and belonging usually come more easily. So in every bad pun and sweeter-than-sweet implausible plot resolution, there was an implicit promise that there was some better life out there. One lived in a tall San Francisco townhouse, with siblings who had assigned catchphrases, and a best friend with no shame, and crises that generally took 20 minutes to resolve.

Does that make me an idiot, a rube, or just a person with horrifically bad taste? I don’t really know, but lately I’ve come to understand that the only person really interested in that question might be me. I guess what I’m saying is: my secret, shameful affection for Full House might not be proof of a great intellect, but perhaps it’s not so crazy to think that intellect isn’t the only thing that matters, when it comes to what you like.