A year and a half ago, I reviewed the first season of Fuller House for this site. Despite enjoying the throwback, I was ultimately unimpressed with the fact that it was just a more adult version of the show I grew up watching. In my review I wrote,
As an adult, I’m enjoying the series redux, even given the lack of family-friendly content; it’s harmlessly vapid and an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes. It will, like most other shows on Netflix, be good for a binge and a quick forgetting. And yet although it was recently renewed for a second season, Fuller House lacks the staying power of the original series because it never succeeds in making us invest in the goodness of its characters, and it never aims to do what it set out to: restore to the screen some engaging family-friendly television. Needless to say, I doubt my kids will one day ask for a box set of Fuller House to watch with their own children.
I’m not the only person who found the first season lacking in family appeal. One of my Twitter followers, Mike, remarked, “My wife and I watched the first season. It was nostalgic and a nice throwback but the masturbation reference aimed at one of the boys in one episode and some other crude sex jokes seemed out of place and a cheap ploy to be ‘hip.’ We’re not prudes but it was weird seeing Full House go that route in the updated version. If they stopped with the crass sex jokes I’d be open to watching the new season.”
Perhaps the writers read that review, because the latest season of Fuller House to hit Netflix on December 22nd was far more family-friendly and reminiscent of the wholesomeness of the original series. Unlike previous seasons, the show didn’t rely on thinly veiled adult jokes and references, or use flashbacks and characters from the original series as a crutch. Now that the show is in its third season, viewers are engaged enough with the storylines of the main characters that it’s far less necessary to bring in cameos from Danny, Uncle Jesse and Joey.
In this season, each female lead has a steady love interest; there are no more love triangles for the eldest Tanner daughter, DJ. Love stories were largely absent from the season; instead it featured the kind of short, interchangeable storylines the original series did so well. The episodes don’t have to be watched in order; a problem is presented, and thirty minutes later, it’s been solved.
There was one storyline, however, which ran through the course of the season: the potential motherhood of the Tanner’s middle daughter, Stephanie. In a previous season, viewers learned that some kind of medical issue prevented her from becoming a biological mother. This season, the possibility of Tanner and her boyfriend using a surrogate arose. Because of the series’ avoidance of adult themes and romance, the father part of the equation was largely absent. Her boyfriend spends perhaps five minutes total on air, the vast majority of which was spent proposing being Stephanie’s “baby daddy” in a mock proposal with a ring from a toddler stacking ring toy.
What is perhaps most notable about that fact is just how unremarkable the arrangement is; and that writers perceived not just unwed motherhood, but unwed surrogacy and fertility treatments as commonplace. This isn’t just unplanned pregnancy, but extremely expensive and carefully plotted pregnancy. With four out of every ten pregnancies now occurring in unmarried couples, it’s unsurprising that the show’s writers felt that adding a pregnancy out of wedlock would be uncontroversial. The couple barely seemed to mull over the life-changing ramifications of bringing a child into their relationship: they just wanted to skip to the kid part of their life.
Why is it the writers wanted to skip over the romance of Stephanie and her boyfriend Jimmy Gibbler getting married? With this season’s emphasis on short stories, a wedding would have been consuming for at least an entire episode, if not more. And yet, the same reasoning for avoiding weddings is used by American couples who decide the baby carriage can now come before marriage. A wedding is too much work, too much planning, too much of an interruption, and no longer necessary in modern America. What’s unfortunate is that while that may be true of a wedding—which can be done in twenty minutes at City Hall—that isn’t true of a marriage. Despite the reams of research we have about the importance of marriage for children, it appears it’s viewed as so unimportant nowadays, even family-friendly shows view it as optional.