I’ve never analyzed a 90s sitcom reboot as much as I did my binge of Netflix’s new series Fuller House. I caught (I think) most of the meta jokes, the call backs to catchphrases, even remembering Stephanie was indeed married (to childhood friend Harry). Yet something kept pinging me in the head. This is familiar, obviously, since I am a self-proclaimed Full House scholar. However, the similarities between another much-anticipated reboot kept jumping to my mind.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
To which you may say: WTF?
Indeed, WTF. What I expected to be a fun romp down memory lane and get a good snort of nostalgia crack ended up being an exploration into how two reboots paralleled each other in many different ways. Allow me to explain:
Fuller House and Star Wars:TFA Both Trot Out the Nostalgia Horse For Reasons
Danny Tanner. Han Solo. Uncle Jesse. Chewbacca. R2D2. Steve. These characters were all brought out for that “nostalgia pop,” that brief moment of “Oh, I know who this is.” These characters were not only brought out in their respective series for nostalgia, though. They were also there to provide jump starts to new characters and storylines.
Han Solo’s main purpose in TFA is to haul around the new heroes and ultimately have a showdown with SPOILERS…
…his son Kylo Ren. In Fuller House, the original trio of Danny, Jesse, and Joey serve to introduce the new main trio of DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy Gibbler. While TFA is showing Kylo Ren and Rey taking similar paths to Star Wars legends Anakin and Luke Skywalker, Fuller House has the set-up as almost identical. Instead of Danny’s wife Pam dying in a car accident, we get DJ’s firefighter husband dying in an unnamed accident. Widower-widow. Both taking the same path of not knowing what to do with all these kids and not enough time in the day to take care of them. Hence, Stephanie and Kimmy step up. As George Lucas says, “Poetry.”
New Things With Old Characters
Obviously we’re going to have some training in Episode VIII for the Star Wars saga. Rey hangs out on an island training with Luke while Kylo Ren presumably goes to do P90X inside a volcano or something. Fuller House has done the same thing with re-purposing some older characters. While Stephanie and Kimmy serve as DJ’s “She-Wolf Pack” sidekicks, Chewbacca steps in to become Rey’s main buddy and Princess Leia becomes an integral part of the Resistance in the form of a general. In Fuller House, we also get the rebirth of goofy human Sarlaac pit Steve as DJ’s romance from the past. A character that seemingly was a throwaway cameo in order to eat pickles or whatever he did in his first appearance turned into one of the main storylines of the first season of Fuller House: will DJ pick old romance Steve or hot new flame Matt? SPOILERS: she chooses neither. Well, crap.
Stephanie has taken a somewhat predictable path of being the party girl “DJ Tanner” (har har), but has a much darker reason for that than I expected. The reveal that she can’t have children was tonally strange in a mostly light-hearted episode, but it developed her character in a way that I didn’t anticipate. Kimmy having a kid is weird. Her having an on-again, off-again with her over-the-top husband, ex-husband, fiancee Fernando adds a little bit to her formerly one-dimensional Jar Jar Binks routine from Full House. Strangely enough, Fuller House made these characters more human.
Same goes for TFA. Chewbacca, mostly known as the seven foot tall carpet that roars and pats Han Solo on the head, showed “human” emotion at the loss of his friend. Will we get a huge story arc for Chewie? Unlikely, but it was cool to see minor characters from the original series get more development.
A Story of Families
The Skywalkers. The Tanners. The Solos. The Fullers. Star Wars and Full House have always been about families. George Lucas says as much in interviews. The only real path of the Star Wars was to continue to see what the children are doing. We get that in Kylo Ren and (maybe?) Rey. Hell, the prequels were essentially about showing Anakin’s path to the Dark Side in order to lead up to his two children’s stories in the original trilogy.
Of course Fuller House’s focus is not only on children all grown up in DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy (which I appreciate they still use their childhood names and didn’t decide to be the more mature Donna Jo and Kimberly Louise), but also on the new additions to the family in Jackson, Max, Tommy and Ramona. While the characters have their own quirks (and apparently the catchphrase “Holy chalupas”), we see echoes of their family members as well. Jackson is a schemer and ladies’ man like his Uncle Jesse while Max is seemingly a mix of the wackiness of Joey and the OCD of Danny. In fact, Max is probably the most interesting character on the show from the first season. He’s bizarre, appearing out of the shadows and always seeming to be present when something secretive is happening. He’s like a manic ninja. Tommy mimics Michelle’s early antics, smiling and cooing like babies are supposed to do. Ramona is the exception in that she seems to have her own personality as a typical teenager. This being abnormal considering her parents are the perpetually annoying Kimmy Gibbler and her even more annoying husband Fernando.
Families. The key to drama and character development in both Star Wars and Fuller House.
Meta References and Wink Winks
On Facebook I referred to Fuller House as “surreal mindsoup” (in the best possible way). It’s like a universe that is completely aware of not only the parallel reality that the actors exist in (references to The View, Alanis Morisette-Dave Coulier, and the now-famous “stare at the screen=stare at the Olsens” moment), but also directly viewing scenes from Full House as if on a TV screen. These were all cute references in of themselves, but I often found myself wondering what was the purpose. To have fans say “I get it” or to not take this reboot that seriously. Perhaps it’s Fuller House’s way of softening the cheesiness so it can fit in a bowl and you can scoop it up easier with your chips.
Star Wars: TFA wasn’t without its winks. In fact, they’re probably too numerous to list here. Plus, I’m sure some site like Buzzfeed has already done this work for me. What I’m wondering is if this will continue to be in a trend in future installments. Episode VIII surely won’t focus as much on these kind of fan service elements since they’re firmly established the new characters and their paths without having to rely on old characters to prop them up. And with Fuller House already greenlit for a Season 2 (which was insanely fast, by the way), I wonder if there will be continuing reality-bending moments and playful jabs at the Olsen Twins/Michelle.
I guess what kept hitting me while watching Fuller House is that most nostalgia trips want to check off the boxes for the fans. They want to see the old characters, but get good new ones, they want some familiar storylines, and they want to see bounty hunters digested alive. Which I’m hoping is where they’re going with Fernando so we can see that in Season 2 of Fuller House.