NOTE: This review may contain mild spoilers for the second season of, “Fuller House.” That said, the review is written to accommodate those who haven’t yet watched the season, and as such, will avoid discussion of major plot developments.
This past February’s debut season of Fuller House was ripped apart by critics, including myself, and if you’re not a Full House fan wearing your rose-tinted nostalgia goggles, it’s not difficult to see why. The first season of Fuller House is heinously unfunny, incredibly lazy, sickeningly schmaltzy, and coasts on the coattails of its past inspiration to an insulting degree. Avid fans of Full House might not care about any of that (though even some big fans of Full House have publicly announced that they hate Fuller House), but to everyone else, that season easily represents one of the very worst offerings in Netflix’s highly uneven original sitcom catalogue.
With the second season of Fuller House now releasing less than a year after the terrible first season, I don’t think it’s a shock that many people outside of the Full House fan community were optimistic about Season Two’s final product. That was even reflected in the promotion for the second season, since both the showrunners and Netflix had to do a preemptive strike of damage control as they expected another avalanche of negative reviews from critics, and in general, the trailers and banners for Fuller House were far less common and pronounced than they were with the highly-hyped launch of Season One in February. Already, this show’s second season is releasing with a lot less fanfare, and there seems to be a lot less enthusiasm about it from general Netflix consumers.
That’s kind of a shame, honestly, because Season Two is noticeably better than Season One. Granted, it’s not way better. The show is still not that funny compared to most other sitcoms, original or otherwise, on Netflix alone, the characters are still cringe-inducing in high doses (especially Kimmy and Fernando), and that goddamn over-excited studio audience that oohs at every kiss (literally every single damn kiss!), cheers at every entrance, and laughs hysterically at lines that aren’t even jokes, is still insufferable to the point of making you want to jump out the nearest open window. Seriously, I don’t know if the showrunners are ordering them to do this, or they’re just the most easily excited and impressed people on the planet. Either way, they need to calm the hell down and shut up!
Still, if you were hoping that I was going to lay into Fuller House again with another savage critique that basically declares it to be worse than skin cancer, you might be disappointed. Rather than being angry, I’m merely unimpressed this time personally, a sentiment once again echoed by many critics that didn’t outright slam the show a second time, and I suppose that’s progress. Hell, Fuller House even manages a couple of overall decent episodes in its second season. The character writing is considerably improved, particularly for the three female leads, and while the show is still guilty of coasting on nostalgia and schmaltz at times, at least it does that a lot less in Season Two.
Fuller House is often at its best when it stops looking over its shoulder at Full House’s long bygone glory days, and simply focuses on DJ, Stephanie and Kimmy in the present, as grown, modern women with problems that they never had on Full House so many years ago. DJ’s love triangle is actually a decent conflict at times, especially when the season doesn’t fixate on it, presenting a genuinely surprising curveball to DJ opting to be single at the end of the first season. Likewise, Stephanie’s attempts to make something of herself don’t make her come off as a loser so much this time, making her the desirable cool aunt that she was supposed to be in the first place. She’s also helped further with a new love interest that is actually kind of fun, and comes from a surprising source! Kimmy, like I said, is more hit-or-miss, since her character is supposed to be annoying, so, naturally, she can be very annoying to viewers too, but even Kimmy gets some surprisingly effective emotional turns this season, which nicely spotlight her character not fitting in well. Again, none of the writing is brilliant, since these women still feel very unrealistic in disposition much of the time, but at least, if you’re not a devotee of Full House already, these three are a lot more watchable in Season Two.
The child characters are still working to mixed effect in Season Two though. Every so often they get a good storyline or a good scene, with middle child, Max once again being a standout in terms of charm, charm that is thankfully exploited a bit less this season. The teenagers on the other hand, Jackson and Ramona, still have too little personality to really get behind though. They’re often the most unrealistic characters of them all, being far more upbeat and straight-laced than most any teenager is in the modern world, though again, even they get some more decent moments in Season Two. Jackson and Ramona are still often left to simply react to the other characters though, rather than effectively carry storylines of their own. Any time they do try to carry a storyline of their own, it flounders quickly, and is inevitably hijacked by another personality, often DJ or Max for Jackson, and Kimmy or Fernando for Ramona. Maybe it’s a good thing that Max is the middle child then, since his middle child syndrome can be played for cute effect, while the adults worry most about the oldest children and the baby.
Naturally, there’s also several storylines and moments in Season Two of Fuller House that, no matter how you slice them, they just don’t work. Season Two makes an honest effort to top the cringe-worthy low point of Season One at one point, where DJ wrestled with several luchadors in a ring before a large audience, by bringing in 90’s boy band, New Kids on the Block for another DJ-centric storyline that ups the cheesiness factor to unforgivable degrees. Similarly, whenever the show yet again starts getting lost in the past, that’s often when it’s at its worst. Full House fans may feel warm and fuzzy at some of these throwback moments, but they’re still obnoxious, sappy and intrusive for everyone else. The same is sadly true of some whole storylines that are built around Danny, Uncle Jesse, Aunt Becky and Uncle Joey later in the season, though thankfully, they largely stay out of Season Two’s first three quarters. The classic adult cast of Full House are fine in small cameo roles, but when they start trying to headline entire plotlines in Fuller House, they prove far too distracting, and come off as excessively pandering to the old-school fanbase of Full House, rather than trying to build a new fanbase that will keep Fuller House going.
That latter point is especially important too, since Fuller House was allegedly a massive viewership giant for Netflix in Season One, but it’s doubtful that it will attract that same number in Season Two, considering all of the negative reception of Season One from those who aren’t already big Full House fans. Even the showrunners seem to be bracing for a big dropoff in viewership, since Season Two’s ending is a lot more definitive and cleanly wrapped up, in contrast to Season One’s more open-ended conclusion that readily invited more seasons. Maybe that doesn’t mean anything, but the final episode of Season Two could function as a series finale if it needs to. I still feel it’s unlikely that Fuller House will be cancelled at this point, but it’s clear that the showrunners are now approaching the series one season at a time, rather than automatically assuming that it will be renewed.
That increased humility has done Fuller House good, since it results in a second season that doesn’t totally avoid being annoying, sappy, unfunny or asinine, but at least doesn’t present any of those as the default setting so much anymore. A little more of the charm seeps through, the jokes are a bit funnier, and the characters especially are better-written this time. It’s certainly not perfection, since Fuller House is still overall a sub-par sitcom that is way too stuck in the past at times, but it’s progress. Again, if you already love Full House, and you already had fun with the first season against all odds, then you’ll still love the second season, and probably love it even more. Frankly, this show still isn’t really worth the time of non-fans of Full House though, especially those who actively detest Full House, and it’s likely that it never will be. If you are subjected to it without a prior investment in the Tanner family though, at least this show is not quite as brutal in its sophomore offering.
- Improved character arcs for the three lead women especially
- Max is still fairly entertaining among the kids
- Less coasting on nostalgia for most of the season
- Still not that funny, nor smart enough for non-fans of Full House
- Jackson and Ramona are still too bland
- Over-excited studio audience is still extremely annoying
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