'Fuller House' Creator Talks Biggest "Challenge," Inside Jokes and Possible Michelle Return

"There are lots of fun surprises that harken back to the original show, but the first episode is full of them," Jeff Franklin tells THR. "We don't do that anywhere near as much in other episodes."
 Courtesy of Netflix; JB Lacroix/WireImage

Those old familiar friends are waiting just around the bend, and on Friday, the Tanners make their long-awaited return to TV  err, streaming  in the Netflix sequel series to the beloved ABC '90s comedy Full House. At the helm is none other than original series creator Jeff Franklin, who serves as showrunner and executive producer of Fuller House.

Although it's one in a sea of revivals (The X-Files, Heroes) and sequel series (Girl Meets World), anticipation has been high to pick up where things left off when the original family sitcom was abruptly canceled in 1995. Although Netflix usually likes to keep any numbers relating to its original series under tight wraps, even chief content officer Ted Sarandos couldn't help but boast at the show's recent premiere about the 14 million views the first Fuller House trailer has grabbed  making it the most-watched in the company's history.

"Every time Netflix shoots out a new picture or something, all of a sudden Full House is trending again," Franklin tells The Hollywood Reporter with awe. "I knew that there was a lot of people out there who would like this to happen but to actually see it happen and see it unfold is really exciting."

Ahead of Friday's season one premiere, Franklin sat down with THR to discuss picking up where the original left off, his biggest challenge on the new series and the likelihood of a Michelle appearance in a likely-but-not-yet-officially-announced season two.

You've said the first episode is a big homage to the original series. In the grander scheme of the first season, how do you balance those nods to Full House and also establishing new recurring gags?

We do a lot of it in the first episode and then sporadically throughout the next 12. The first one is sort of a different animal. We're reintroducing all the old characters. We're having a big reunion. We're introducing the premise of the new series so there's a lot to do there and it's much longer than a traditional episode, also. If you put commercials into it, it would be an hour long. Once we get through that first one, then we settle into a show that's primarily about the three girls and their kids and next generation and then we see the original three dads and Aunt Becky now and then.

There are lots of fun surprises that harken back to the original show, but the first episode is full of them and so we don't do that anywhere near as much in other episodes. We sprinkle them in here and there.

Was there ever a thought of waiting to have them come back and focusing on the new characters in the first episode so as not to alienate new viewers who may not have watched the original?

Most people have watched Full House and will get the jokes. For those that don't get them, they'll miss a couple jokes here and there, but I think there's still enough to hang onto there and once, hopefully, they get interested and start watching the other shows, then it becomes its own thing by episode two.

What was the ideal audience that you had in your head when you were writing these episodes?

There's three generations of Full House fans. It has a huge audience of children, teens and then there's the moms and dads who grew up watching the show that now have kids of their own and there's even a grandparent generation. The show's been on for 30 years so we're trying to entertain everyone, and that's challenging. That was the most difficult part of the last show, Full House, and about this one too. We're trying to make a show that adults can watch and laugh at and enjoy, at the same time that kids are being entertained. So that's always been the challenge of this particular show.

With these three characters and picking up so many years later, was there one character that was the most difficult to navigate how they got from the original finale to now?

It's 20 years so it's not like we had to worry about what happened 20 years ago in 1995 to explain where they are now. They were kids, they were in high school or junior high school or grammar school, but obviously there were hard decisions to be made about each of these characters. There was no blueprint for what they would become as adults. I know all these actresses really well. They've been part of my life in a very close way for 29 years and that informed some of what I did. Just knowing them as people and how they turned out kind of gave me a little bit of a guideline.

It's particularly interesting with Kimmy, since she started out as supporting. How was it fleshing out that character?

Kimmy was the hardest because she's such a quirky, oddball goof as a supporting character. To take that persona and turn into a fully-rounded adult character who's not one-note at all, not that Kimmy was one-note necessarily back in the day, but that took the most sort of back and forth.

The premise switches up that of the original where now it's three women raising children together instead of three men. Was there ever an early iteration of the idea where it was Michelle helping to raise the kids instead of Kimmy?

Obviously, I knew Michelle was not going to be a permanent character unless I recast the role and that was not something that i really was thinking about, so my hope was just that it's great that we had Kimmy and we could bring her in and it would still be three women. My hope is that we would see Michelle from time to time as we see the other characters.

You've said the door is open for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to appear in a season two, but how confident do you feel that they'll actually appear?

I'm hopeful.

Have you sent them the episodes or anything like that?

I haven't. I think they're going to watch them on Netflix like anyone else. Everybody's going to see them for the first time completely finished on Netflix because that way we have one more person watching Netflix.

The original show was on for eight seasons and covered a lot of topics. How concerned are you about overlap?

We are going to cover some of the same ground, and we'll do it in a slightly different way. But a lot of the themes are the same. It's three people coming together to form a new kind of family, to help each other through a difficult time and so there are some similarities, but we've got different people going through it.

Steve comes back for Fuller House, but D.J. is still mourning the loss of her husband at the onset. How do you navigate that relationship?

I don’t want to give too much away at this point. D.J. makes a decision that she's ready to date again, and thus begins her dating life.

On the new show, D.J.'s middle son has shades of Danny. Knowing how the dynamic of the first show worked and that you were going to lose some characters, how did that influence you creating these new characters?

I started with an idea of what I thought the characters might be, but once we cast them, they changed. That always happens once you bring an actor into a role. It starts to reflect who they are and so we shaded the characters to reflect who our actors are.

How often will we see the original series stars like John Stamos and Bob Saget and how organic are their returns to the show?

I mean they're all busy so we're hoping to see each of them in a couple episodes. Some where we see all of them and some where we see them individually throughout each batch of 13 [episodes], if we get to do more seasons, which I fully expect we will.

Fuller House's entire first season premieres Friday on Netflix.

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