John Stamos’ appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show on Monday night came with the announcement that Netflix was adding another show to their roster; Fuller House, a spinoff of the late 80s/early 90s sitcom Full House, this time focusing on two of the Tanner women and Kimmy Gibbler in their grown up years. While it’s not a harbinger of doom for television, the announcement of this series is troubling, especially given the show’s driving force, and is not something that should be pursued with other series.
The primary reason this show’s existence is a bad idea is that its driving force is nostalgia. Full House has been described as many things over the course of its run and in the years since its end, but the one thing people have not said about the story is that it’s incomplete. In fact, Full House lasted eight seasons, and would have lasted longer despite NBC’s cancellation. The thing that ultimately ended the show was the desire of its ensemble to move to new projects. None of these are indicators of a show that was somehow incomplete, a show which left its fans unfulfilled. It is, however, an indicator of a show that built up a large fanbase during its run, enough to make stars of many of its performers. A desire to continue such a show can thus stem from one thing: nostalgia for the characters, and a desire to revisit them. And while the ability of a show to build up a sentiment like that, which remains powerful enough to warrant a revival 20 years after it goes off the air, is commendable, this leads to its own set of problems, chief among them the opportunity cost.
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Nostalgia is a base strong enough to build a reunion show on, or a “Where are they now” special. What it isn’t strong enough to do is support an entire spinoff. What this thus means is that developing the show requires a significant amount of effort. Due to the lack of anything concrete to work from, the plot, setting, and other factors of the show need to be rebuilt from scratch, while adhering to the factors that made the previous series so beloved. Fuller House also suffers from having numerous characters making the jump to be leads in this show, demanding a level of fidelity to their prior character traits. The first few factors make it as difficult to work on this show as it would a new show, and the last factor makes it formally more difficult. Due to nostalgia being the only support this show has, the amount of energy that would have to be expended on this show is energy that could have been better spent on a brand new series, one that could bring a fresh perspective to things, or could potentially become a new classic. Putting those resources to this show, whether said resources are financial or creative in nature, is thus a loss.
The other thing a continuation like Fuller House does is potentially shut out new viewers. While spinoffs of series have proven themselves capable of drawing in a fresh audience (this year’s Better Call Saul standing as a notable example), the primary audience of a series of this nature are often existing fans. Fuller House is certainly not the first spinoff, nor is it the first series continuation on Netflix, as the streaming service notably resurrected Arrested Development and The Killing from the dead as well, to name just two examples. However, the difference between these shows and Fuller House, in addition to the stories of the former two series being incomplete, is that both went off the air relatively recently. Full House, on the other hand, is nearly 20 years old, with several people who currently view tv having missed out on the show altogether for some reason or another. Would Fuller House hold any appeal to such viewers? Would it even try to appeal to such individuals, or would its appeal be evident only to those familiar with the prior series? While a show with niche appeal is certainly not a bad thing, many series end up that way once they begin. Starting a show off with the idea of appealing only to some people, rather than trying to find an audience organically, would be a bad idea, and yet this is where Fuller House is poised to begin from.
Of course, these red flags are likely to simply be red herrings. Netflix has proven itself savvy in its show selections before, and its new shows, such as Bloodline and Daredevil, continue to prove the quality of its programming, and it’s not farfetched to imagine that Fuller House, despite its origins, could turn into a show worth watching on its own merits, managing to avoid the pitfalls in its way. And new shows are also making it to the air, with Showtime formally giving creative newcomer Frankie Shaw’s SMILF a development deal just a few days ago, and Comedy Central’s Big Time in Hollywood, FL standing as one of the many recent examples of what talented individuals can do with the right resources. However, the announcement of Fuller House comes on the heels of news that The X-Files and Coach would both be returning, and the renewal of Boy Meets World continuation Girl Meets World for a second season. Hopefully, for the reasons listed, these are anomalies, and not signalling a new trend in the television landscape, as the reduction in the number of original series that would result from such a trend, regardless of the quality of programming that comes about, would truly be a loss.
– Deepayan Sengupta