Since this post is going to live at the top of the site until the end of time, I thought I should start with a disclaimer for people that are stumbling onto this page for the first time. This is a blog that contains scathing reviews of every episode of Full House, the worst sitcom of all time. It’s written for jokes. This final post is a sort of retrospective/personal essay about the show and the process of writing the blog, so if you’re just seeing this for the first time, I’d start with pretty much any post other than this one.
Now that we’ve reached the end of this endeavor, I think that there are two main questions left to address. The first is the central conundrum of the project, which is, “what the fuck was up with this shitty show?” The other is embedded in the undertaking, which is, “what the fuck is wrong with me that I decided to spend so much time writing about a show that sucks so hard?” Both questions are probably impossible to answer fully, but I thought that a final attempt to do so would be a proper way to wrap this thing up.
The story of how Full House came to be seems pretty simple, as near as I can tell. Jeff Franklin, the guy who made “Summer School” and “Just One of the Guys,” two moderately entertaining movies that were on tv an awful lot when I was growing up, got a shot at creating a tv series. He pitched a show about 3 comedians who all lived together and it got retooled into a series that was more or less a rip-off of the movie “3 Men and a Baby.” The network was interested in preachy, moralistic, family-friendly programming at the time and that gradually overrode Franklin’s more raunchy and subversive tendencies as a creator. As the show became successful it started to rely more and more heavily on its established conventions, including terrible catch-phrases and socially tactless characters, and that’s pretty much all there is to it.
So why was this show such a success? Honestly I think it just hit the right note at the right time. It was just harmless enough, friendly enough, easily digestible enough. It’s like junk food. You always know exactly what you’re going to get when you watch it and it presents no challenge or need to think whatsoever. You know it’s bad for you but you still engage. It’s an indulgence. One thing I didn’t realize going into this project that became clear as I paid attention to the site’s demographics is that an awful lot of young girls watched the show. That actually explains a lot, because a series about 3 little girls who have 3 doting, non-threatening father figures tending to their every whim and need is a pretty obvious little girl fantasy. Ultimately, I think that Full House is a product of a unique time, when a combination of low-quality elements somehow came together to create a hit series that couldn’t have endured during any other period.
I think that this blog is a product of a unique time as well. A comprehensive review of the entire run of a twenty year old tv series that wasn’t any good is something that could only exist at this precise moment (or maybe in the future, if things don’t improve). I got hooked on reading about stupid bullshit on the internet while working at my last day job. I found terrible trends in pop-culture from my youth to be particularly appealing for my internet time-wastes, as do many people. My theory is that this comes from a desire to retread ones youth from a more controlled or empowered vantage point. Most of us who are so preoccupied with our childhoods and the things that came with it are trying to make amends with all the hardship that we endured growing up. Our generation had more frivolous stuff than any that came before (a trend that’s certainly continuing, exponentially) and things like Ninja Turtle action figures were a respite from the horrors and difficulty of being a kid. Revisiting those things as a grown-up is an attempt to recapture that withdrawn escape from real life that was so necessary for us. Recognizing what was sort of crappy or ridiculous about these artifacts and entertainment that we spent so much time absorbing is a method of revisiting that period in our lives from a place of heightened understanding and control that was beyond our reach at the time. It’s also an experience we share with so many people. Although our time spent playing Nintendo or watching crappy tv shows was often a private endeavor, there were millions of people doing the same thing at the exact same time, and the internet allows us to share those experiences in a way that’s both connected and personal but also equally private and withdrawn.
I’ve written a fair amount about how this project came about as a writing exercise, and that certainly had a lot to do with why I started it. Writing was becoming an increasingly important element of my work and I was seeking a routine for practicing it that wasn’t too demanding, so recapping a shitty show seemed like an ideal assignment. It was just easy enough and just challenging enough, just creative enough and just mindless enough. But I was also using the practice as a method of managing anxiety. When my career became an actual thing that I had to manage, I got fucking freaked out. When you work so hard for years and years to get your shit together it can be really shocking when it finally happens. As soon as I was in a state where I wasn’t constantly struggling to stay afloat, and when my professional ambitions became something of a reality, I had no idea what to do with myself at all. There’s also a strange thing that happens when your creative endeavor becomes your job. It makes a practice that was purely enjoyable start to feel like work, which is something I’ve been struggling with for some time now. I think that a need for some new creative diversion was a major reason why I decided to invent a regular writing exercise for myself, and a need for it to be somewhat frivolous was a big part of why it was based around a sardonic revisitation of a crappy show from my childhood. I should also add that it’s extremely cathartic to vent all your negativity towards an easy target every week, especially if it really doesn’t seem to be hurting anybody.
It’s impossible to spend so much time writing about something without finding, or at least inventing, certain connections. At it’s core I think that Full House is just a show that strives to be about family values, or a sort of idealistic view of what a loving, morally-superior family is supposed to be like. Although the fact that these characters are all so obnoxious and inconsiderate makes that idea become a sort of a horror show, I do think that the series’ intentions were good. Full Houses’s greatest failing is that it features characters that are so incapable of persuasively delivering its intended messages. When these people tell you that drinking is wrong, what you’re really hearing is that these people are a bunch of fucking squares, so maybe drinking is actually pretty cool. When Stephanie gets to take a mulligan at the dance competition, what we’re told is that it’s ok to make mistakes and you should always try again, but the lesson in real life would be that sometimes you fuck up and humiliate yourself and that’s all there is to it. Suck it up, kid. Better luck next time. That’s a pretty valuable life lesson, and one you never once hear on Full House.
Full House is, essentially, a series about non-conventional families. I don’t think that the creators put much more thought into this than, “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if three ridiculous assholes raised some kids together?” but the idea of a unique or non-traditional family structure is still heavily rooted into the series’ foundation. I think that another one of the series’ greatest failings is a complete disregard for this idea. I found myself writing about this early on but it took much longer for me to consciously consider the fact that I myself was raised by my lesbian mom in the California Bay Area at pretty much the exact time that this series was on the air and, after becoming aware of that association, I did wonder how much this had to do with what a low opinion I have of this show. To be fair, the more obvious failings of the series have to do with the poor quality of the writing, acting, set design, costume design, story ideas, etc. etc. etc., so I don’t think there’s much to be salvaged here from any vantage point. But I also think that this series could have taken a lot more responsibility for its premise and maybe provided some validation or identification for all sorts of kids who came from a non-traditional family structure. The fact that the homosexual tension between the dad characters is such a comical element throughout the series is a testament to how unwilling the creators were to do anything smart or subversive or even meaningful with the inherent subtext that they’d created. I don’t think enough thought when into any of this for it to really be considered offensive, and developing a progressive undertone about gay families was probably something that network television wasn’t prepared for (and that the creators weren’t interested in doing), but I do think that all of this creates a very unusual social context for the series.
The other major theme is white privilege. Full House is essentially a series about a large family of upper-class white people who don’t really work hard or earn anything that they have and who possess virtually no regard for any of the people around them and yet they excel at everything they do and are constantly rewarded and handed incredible opportunities at every turn. Again, I don’t think that much thought went into this other than that it made the characters more interesting for tv, but I do think that Full House is probably the best example that exists of why people in other countries think that the U.S. is a shitty place.
Beyond those observations, I think I’ve said everything I have to say about Full House. Regardless, I really am going to miss this blog. Although I think that the tone was fairly consistent, my relationship with it changed a lot over the course of the project and, like anyone’s does over the course of 4 years, my life changed a lot, too. I’ll always remember struggling to keep up with weekly posts early on, before anyone was even reading the thing, especially when I moved across the country. While I was packing up my shit I got a bunch of entries done ahead of time and during the move I scrambled to find ways to post them. At one point I found myself standing outside of a Starbucks at 1 AM so I could bum the free wifi with my ipod so I could post the new review and I kind of had to wonder what I was doing with my life. No one would have given a shit if I’d missed a post at that point, but I would have known, and that was enough.
One of the craziest things that happened in a life-meets-art kind of a way is that, while I was writing the episode about Danny’s mom showing up at the full house for the final time, my grandmother died in real life. I never really wrote about anything personal in the blog but I think that reading that particular entry with that knowledge in your head makes it a pretty interesting post.
When I got about halfway through the series I was feeling like I’d gotten enough out of the project and was seriously considering packing it in. One day a friend of mine who is particularly internet savvy called me up to tell me that FHR had been posted on something called Metafilter (I still don’t really know what that is) and so I checked the site’s stats. Before then, the most hits I’d had in a day was about 600 when Dave Coulier accidentally retweeted the sites URL that one of my few readers had sent to him, but all of a sudden I had 30,000 hits in a day. The site went viral and ended up getting reposted all over the internet and all of a sudden I had an actual sizeable following. Having a popular blog is a funny thing because it doesn’t really lessen the feeling that you’re just some nerd who’s wasting a bunch of time fucking around on the internet, but it does make it feel a little more valid.
I realized that I couldn’t rent Season 5 on Netflix so I decided to quit the project if fans didn’t buy the rest of the DVD’s for me (which cost about $10 each). There was definitely some belly-aching about this but the DVD’s were purchased within a matter of hours and I think that I needed that exchange to occur in order to make me feel sufficiently obligated to complete the project. Having a readership definitely helped but for some reason the feeling that I’d be welching on a $10 agreement I’d made with someone assured that I wouldn’t be backing out, ever.
While I was reviewing Season 5, just before I turned 30, a bunch of crazy shit happened all at once in my personal life. I was woken up one morning and subjected to the most abrupt, uncivil break-up of my entire life. It was the kind of break-up where you’re not given any explanation but it’s just totally over so you go stay at your friend’s house in their spare room that smells like cat pee and return to the apartment that you’re still paying for during designated times when no one’s there to pack up your shit and find all this really conspicuous evidence that some strange guy’s been having sex in your bed. Suffice to say, I was a little fucked up for a while, and I came the closest I ever did to having to stop the blog for a while. Ultimately I decided that I needed to keep doing it to give myself something to focus on, that the routine was good for me, and I think that this decision really changed my relationship with the project. While I was staying in that cat pee room I watched the episode where Michelle learned how to ride a bike and I found myself cackling with sinister laughter while watching her fall into the bushes, and it was at that precise moment that I knew that everything would be ok.
After I found a new apartment and got my shit settled in I started to feel this incredible euphoria. For the past several years I’d been trying to make a crappy relationship work and spending all my time getting high and working at home and all of a sudden I felt this wealth of possibility. I felt like I’d just come out of a coma. I started going out and doing stuff, I made a bunch of new friends, I started sleeping better, I worked a lot less, I went to the river, I got to be a judge in a sandwich competition, I started dating someone new and it was amazing. It was actually this period when I found it to be most difficult to maintain the blog but, like I said, a few people had contributed those $10 DVD box sets, so what choice did I have.
Another major event was that the company I’d been doing regular contract work with offered to make me an official employee so I’d receive health benefits but in order to do so I’d be subject to random drug tests. Just as I was turning 30, I had to make a choice between smoking weed and having health insurance. I wouldn’t say that this was an easy decision, but I will say that the choice was obvious. I was worried that after the fact I’d become some preachy guy about how smoking weed is shitty or something but I really don’t feel that way at all. I think that smoking weed is pretty great. But I was doing it, like, all the time, for years and years, and totally failing to moderate it, so quitting was probably a good idea. I haven’t really spent much time going back and reading old entries but I’m curious about how differently the first 6 Seasons read from the last 2, which were the only ones that weren’t written when I was super high. I will say that reviewing Full House was a lot more of a challenge without the effects of sweet, sweet reefer.
So there you have it. This blog was the product of being in a shitty relationship and getting really high all the time. That’s pretty much the entire behind the scenes story.
The main thing that makes this project feel like it was worth doing is the amazing community that accumulated around it. It’s totally incredible to me that I created a place on the internet where I could be an asshole every week and vent all my hostility and yet I ended up feeling like I did something good. As the comments section became more active, people started opening up more, and I really felt like I had somehow created a space where people could work out some stuff and find support. I have no idea how this happened, as it seems so counter-intuitive to the tone of the project (and defies pretty much every comments section I’ve ever seen on the internet), but I do think it’s the thing I’m most proud of. I really do want to thank every person that shared this experience with me, and who shared their own experiences as well. We may not know each other in real life but we went through this thing together. There’s something amazing about that.
One last thing I’ll address before I retire from this project forever is that I think I may have endured this process for one other reason that occurred to me late in the game. For whatever reason, I was always compelled to watch Full House whenever it was on. I think I enjoyed the visceral anger it gave me. The process of watching and reviewing every episode is kind of like that old convention where your dad catches you smoking a cigarette when you’re a kid so he makes you smoke a whole carton, and then you get so sick that you never want to smoke again. I’m sure that going through this process did irreparable damage to my psyche in ways that will take years to understand, but one positive effect it had was that I’ll definitely never sit through another episode.
Fuck you, Full House. I’m never watching you ever again.
I thought a lot about what I wanted the final moment on this site to be and the answer occurred to me about a year ago, so when I went home to visit my family over the Summer I made a special field trip just for you. Before I get to it I just wanted to say thank you one last time. A lot of people have written to say that I made their Friday mornings better over the last few years and I want you to know that you did the same for me. Absolutely.