The Tanner-Fuller Family is back just in time for their summer vacation.
This review is of the first half of Fuller House: Season 3, which dropped on Netflix on September 22nd. The rest of the season will arrive on Netflix at a later date.
Fuller House is the proof that nostalgia never dies, and the arrival of Season 3 of the Full House revival on Netflix shows that even the most simplistic of sitcoms can learn from its own mistakes. The second season of Fuller House was a bit of a mess, packed cringe-worthy jokes and too focussed on pop culture references to to fully embrace what makes it special: the lives of the Tanner-Fuller family.
As the season kicks off, the theme is immediately revealed. Whereas Season 2 focused on various holidays throughout the year, this time out the episodes encompass summer vacation. It’s an odd choice to make for a series debuting just as summer comes to an end but gives the show some ideas to play with none the less, whether it’s Jackson (Michael Campion) being stuck in summer school thanks to his terrible grades, or Max (Elias Harger) joining forces with Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) to throw a pool party.
Naturally, the bulk of the show’s storylines goes to the adults as they figure out their love lives and their futures while also raising a house full of kids. As with Season 2, DJ (Candace Cameron-Bure) is still caught between feelings she has for her boyfriend Matt (John Brotherton) and her ex Steve (Scott Weinger). Given that she’s in a committed relationship and Steve is engaged to another woman though, the flirtation between the two isn’t quite as honest and innocent as it once was. Given that the first half of the season ends on the cliffhanger of DJ accidently revealing her feelings to Steve en route to the latter’s wedding, this is clearly a story that’s not going to end anytime soon.
Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace) continues to be one of the best and worst things about the show. The character itself is funny and fits well within the Tanner-Fuller house dynamic, though he now lives next door in the old Gibbler house with Jimmy Gibbler (Adam Hagenbuch). His interactions with Max, as with Season 2, are among the true highlights of the new season. Still, it’s hard to look beyond the racial stereotyping of a character that veers closer to Ricky Ricardo with every new episode. Having him karaoke to Livin’ La Vida Loca twine in one episode certainly didn’t help.
As silly as the new season can be, it’s not without serious moments thanks to a major arc involving Stephanie. After revealing in Season 1 that she’s unable to have children, the middle Tanner daughter still has dreams of being a mother and finds out it might be a possibility with a surrogate. It’s not the kind of story you would expect to happen in the middle of a series like Fuller House, but showcases the dramatic range the cast of this show can have when called upon. It’s hard not to feel Stephanie’s excitement when she realizes becoming a mom isn’t out of the question, even if the chances of a child being born are slim.
Another welcome change of pace is how rarely the show’s legacy cast is used. While fans of Full House love seeing Danny (Bob Saget), Joey (Dave Coulier), Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) and Aunt Becky (Lori Loughlin) pop up, these are things that should be saved for special occasions. Throughout the first half of they each appear once in different episodes. It makes the inevitable family reunion, which will happen in the second half of the season, that much more impactful.
Even without the original cast being present throughout, there are faces from the past that make welcome appearances. After making his last Full House appearance as Grandpa Nick in 1991, John Arpeo returns for a heartfelt cameo in episode nine. Gia (Marla Sokoloff), Stephanie’s childhood best friend who appeared in Season 2 also returns in the new episodes, this time with her daughter Rocki (Landry Bender).
It’s this character that makes up the best new piece of the Fuller House puzzle. Rocki is first introduced as a summer school classmate of Jackson’s that’s a little rough around the edges and brings a lot of attitude to the table. As she integrates into the this world though, she’s a welcome addition that meshes well with just about anyone she’s put on screen with. Hopefully she’s a character that sticks around in the second half of the season – and the seasons to come.
While by-and-large Fuller House: Season 3 is the best the show has had to offer yet, it’s not without fault. While the first season was about being as meta as possible and the second packed in too many terrible pop culture jokes, Season 3 is definitely the year of product placement. Everywhere you look, someone in the Tanner-Fuller house is trying to sell you something. Whether it’s Oreos, the Trolls movie, Netflix or even Arby’s, of all things. The fact that teen son Jackson is obsessed with Arby’s sticks out like a sore thumb.
Those aren’t even the most puzzling of endorsements, though. Instead it’s a romance novel that, at first glance, I assumed was something totally made up. Not one but two adults on Fuller House endorse a romance novel titles Barefoot With a Bad Boy by Roxanne St. Claire. Shockingly, a cursory internet search shows that to be not only a legitimate book but a New York Times Bestseller. How it ended up as a minor plot point on Fuller House is anyone’s guess.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the new season of Fuller House though is the retconning it does to its own seasons. In Saget’s only appearance in the first nine episodes, his character reveals he divorced his wife off-screen at some point. It comes as a shock, given that his ex-wife Teri (Eva LaRue) only appeared once on the series, in the very first episode. Why they decided to end that particular relationship remains a mystery.
Even those negative can’t distract from the fact that Season 3 is the best Fuller House has been to date. While it’s still not the kind of series that defines peak TV, Fuller House is the kind of inoffensive family-friendly fare that will always have a place on the small screen. It can be cheesy and it can be little more than silly. At the end of the day though, Fuller House still feels like home and as it ages it’s becoming a home that’s more comfortable to visit.