Lifetime has made the decision to go full speed ahead with its series of “unauthorized” original movies. The network is aware that it’s not making good movies, but ones that are fun to hate — Senior Vice President of Original Movies Tanya Lopez views The Unauthorized Full House Story as the network’s version of Sharknado. The problem, though, is that Lifetime tends to make its movies too tame to be entertaining.
The Unauthorized Full House Story should have been rife with juicy stories and jaw-dropping moments that juxtaposed the squeaky-clean nature of the show with the dirty, druggie lifestyles of some of its actors. Instead, Unauthorized chose to mostly depict the boring behind-the-scenes aspects of Full House, such as Dave Coulier not getting a Saturday Night Live job and Bob Saget being a last-minute replacement for the original Danny Tanner. The moments are filmed like they’re supposed to feel melancholy or urgent, but none of that comes across in the execution.
The big moments of controversy include the well-known tension between Bob Saget’s stand-up persona and the all-around good dad he played on the series. At one point, Saget laments the clean humor of the show: “Pryor is funny. Carlin is funny. This is idiotic!” At other points, he makes inappropriate jokes while the women of Full House look on in horror. In a bizarre scene that went on for entirely too long and was too uncomfortable to be funny, Saget relentlessly hits on a headless mannequin and mimes having sex with it while the closed-circuit camera displays everything to an audience of network executives. “You’re out of control!” one man scolds Saget. Perhaps viewers were supposed to laugh at this scene, but it’s hard to imagine them doing anything but staring blankly at the screen, waiting for it to end.
Other plot points included Saget’s sister getting sick (sample dialogue snippets: “a rare disease,” “the form I have is particularly severe,” “there’s no cure”), John Stamos staring longingly across the room at couples while he’s surrounding by multiple hot women (he just wants a family!), and Candace Cameron getting a lesson in kissing from Stamos and Lori Loughlin, and later getting sad about comments about her weight in tabloids. Cameron dreams of going to a normal school, and ponders her older brother Kirk’s suggestion to “get closer to God.” (This part made me long for an unauthorized Growing Pains movie.) Also, at one point, Saget, Coulier, and Stamos do whippets backstage (adults doing whippets — yeah, sure) before devolving into a semi-homoerotic whipped cream fight.
Unauthorized goes just as heavy on the cheese as Full House did — aiming, I suppose, to provide a loving tribute to the show it’s lightly attacking. There is actually, no joke, a moment where the costars talk about how they wish life was more like Full House: “No matter how big the problem is, everything’s going to be OK” at the end of the half-hour. After the show’s cancellation, the movie jumps forward two years (Stamos on Broadway, Saget getting a divorce, the Olsen twins being way more famous than anyone has a right to be), the cast attends Cameron’s wedding to hockey player Valeri Bure as one big, happy family. Saget gives a speech about the importance of family, jokes about how the Olsen twins are innocent (get it?), and they all dance together as a saccharine voiceover waxes poetic about love and friendship. There is no mention of the fact that a teenage Jodie Sweetin drank so much wine at the wedding that she had to be carried out of the reception.
Just as it did with The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story, Lifetime pulls its punches here, reluctant to show anything controversial enough to be worth watching. On the one hand, it’s good that Lifetime is owning up to its intention with these movies — to make something people will watch and poke fun at, rather than providing serious histories of the shows in question. But, if it really wants to create the biopic genre’s answer to Syfy’s Sharknado franchise (movies about Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Placewill premiere in the fall), then Lifetime is going to have to go bigger and badder.