Agony, No Ecstasy
I Watched Every Episode of ‘Full House’ and I Want to Die
One man watched and documented every single episode of the TV show in the last decade, and he can confirm: It truly is the worst of all of us, and something should be done to prevent it from coming back.
One day in the next year, we will all finally get what’s coming to us. Full House will return in earnest on Netflix as Fuller House, not as a knock on the unartful hyperconsumerist monstrosity that was Friday-night TV in the early ’90s, but as a lazy, money-grabbing tribute to the group of millennials and parents who remember their TGIF-suffused childhoods fondly yet don’t have the time or emotional wherewithal to weed out the bad parts.
Do not let this be confused for sarcasm: Full House is truly something Satan would’ve dreamt up during an unshakeable flu. It is abominable in a way nothing else is, and it will take you only five minutes of watching this show in syndication in 2015 to find that out. It is how our enemies abroad believe we pass our days—sick with feelings for only ourselves. And if we did pass our days this way, they’d have a point.
None of this is said to pass judgment on those who believed that they, at least at some point, liked the show. The human mind is a brave and august soldier. It can meld positive memories onto shows that lasted eight seasons simply because there weren’t enough channels or money to stop it. Those who remember Full House with a sincere, maybe even profound nostalgia are not liars. They’re not even devil worshippers, as you might project.
These people simply haven’t watched an episode in full in years.
Ryan Alexander-Tanner has watched Full House in the last decade. In fact, he has watched all of them. He wrote detailed reports about each and every one.
Ryan Alexander-Tanner is an adult man who started this project—to watch every episode of Full House despite an immediate, visceral hatred of the show—in 2011. He finally finished it in 2014.
Ryan Alexander-Tanner, against all odds, is still alive.
(That is his real name, by the way, just like the compound-like clan/cult/family on the show. “I know! I did the whole blog anonymously. I didn’t even really think about it,” he says. “Whoops.”)
His blog is Full House Reviewed, which gives more time and attention to every single episode of the former ABC show than was initially given to the script. His reviews waver between almost academic levels of detail into the mindset of whoever was writing this mess, and delirious, genuine anger directed toward that same person.
In short, he has seen the depths and he has returned with wisdom. And he can tell you that Full House was and is everything that is wrong with America.
“I think what is unsettling about [Full House] is how sort of confrontational and obnoxious it is,” Alexander-Tanner told The Daily Beast last week. “Whenever the family goes into public spaces, they make it about them. What about all of the other kids on the Little League team while DJ and Stephanie have this heartwarming talk? This is a nightmare world for all other people.”
He’s talking about an episode called “Stephanie Plays the Field" wherein the game stops while one of the Tanners is pitching for a sisterly chat in the middle of an at-bat. As he puts it in his episode recap, “DJ comes over and gives Stephanie counseling about boys while a whole bunch of other kids’ families sit in the bleachers wishing who they didn’t live in the same school district as the fucking Tanner family.”
“These were people who were at the center of the universe,” Alexander-Tanner says. “You could be this person who didn’t have to deal with boundaries or be told no or to wait your turn. You could just crawl across a table and shovel tape into your mouth. Anyone could have made that show.”
Alexander-Tanner only took on the project as a way to keep his brain busy. He’s a graphic artist and illustrator from Portland, Oregon, who had just made a book about education with Bill Ayers (yes, that Bill Ayers), and he had some downtime before his next one. He wanted to dedicate himself to something that he thought would be structured but still “weird” and “frivolous bullshit.”
Then he encountered a problem: His blog got very popular, very fast. People started mailing him the DVDs, imploring him to finish it.
He thinks it was because people that came across his blog had the same rude awakening the rest of America will have in 2016.
“I got a lot of readers who were like, ‘I never really thought about it, but, yeah, this show is actually a piece of shit,’” he said. “That was a lot of the appeal, I think. ‘Hey, remember that thing? Actually, that was super shitty!’”
So he must’ve had some inclination that one day he would wake up on a spring morning—two full decades after the show had been unceremoniously executed by ABC executives—to find that an un-ironic television show called Fuller House was about to become a reality, right?
“No!” he says. “It’s like you went and fought in the Vietnam War and then it ended and you went home and they were like, ‘Now there’s more Vietnam War!’”
It is not just that the show is bad—it is, by the way; the show is bad, and it is not good, and never was—but it’s that Full House is, at points, offensive and backwards. The show is based around an idea with promise—a widowed dad who needs the help of his brother-in-law and best friend to raise his kids.
“One thing that is legitimately offensive to me is that, conceptually, it could be this show about alternative-lifestyle families, but any allusion to any of the dads being gay is played as this absurdist joke,” says Alexander-Tanner. “It’s this insane notion that this family has been created with more than one man in one house. It’s never even considered as a possibility.”
But the worst moment in the history of the show, he says, is a lot simpler: It's when one of the Olsen twins and three other toddlers play almost all of “Twist ’n’ Shout,” presumably without a second of rehearsal.
“This is the most extreme example of the show not even qualifying as an amateur-quality production,” he writes.
It is a mess of a TV show that lasted forever. And now, because a bunch of people at Netflix stared at an Excel document called BelovedButCanceled.XLS in a board room once but never bothered to actually go back and watch a single episode, Full House is coming back.
“It’s clear there was no reason for the cast or crew to even bother. It started out as a failure of a show, they kept it going, then it became this inexplicable phenomenon. They must have made this decision very early that ‘We’re not going to try harder,’ because they never did,” Alexander-Tanner says.
“The only thing that really gets better is the lighting. It really changes after the first season. It kind of looks like you’re inside of a McDonald’s, with these pleasing pastel colors. And that makes sense because it’s the McDonald’s of sitcoms. It's a synthetic re-creation of a real thing of a TV show. And it rots your insides.”
Now, he says, he’ll go back to recapping the show in full whenever Netflix puts out the next batch. He is not looking forward to it.
“For years, whenever there was more Full House news, people would send it to me and I would be like, ‘Why? Stop doing that. I don’t care about this at all,’” he says.
But his three-plus years of hatred and indifference toward this show led Alexander-Tanner to something profound: He may have figured out why people ever liked this show at all.
“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,” he writes. “That actually explains a lot, because a series about three little girls who have three 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.”
Or, in other words, the failure to look back on the embarrassment that is this show is inseparable from the failure to look back on the wholly self-actualizing junk that masqueraded as family values in the early ’90s. If every single family believes that there is no world but its own—if every single 5-year-old is the planet’s only 5-year-old, as this show portends—then why should a viewer believe any different?
And it’s a realization we never would’ve had to come to had Fuller House not existed. But now we all must face our collective pasts. We have brought upon ourselves this national tragedy, and we can’t say we didn’t ask for it.