‘The Unauthorized Full House Story’: TV Review
Lifetime’s behind-the-scenes exposé on the popular family sitcom 'Full House' is as saccharine as the show that inspired it.
What secrets do they hold? Surely the cast of the long-running ABC sitcom Full House — soon to return to your Netflix-streaming devices as the rebooted Fuller House — has some dirty laundry that Lifetime’s cheapie docudrama could air out. But those hoping to witness the rumored moment of Dave Coulier and Alanis Morissette doing some oral exercises in a multiplex will have to look elsewhere.
Instead, The Unauthorized Full House Story reveals that any behind-the-scenes melodrama on the 1987-1995 series was pretty minimal, mostly having to do with contract negotiations and watching your language around the young'uns. That last part was pretty tough for stand-up comic Bob Saget (Garrett Brawith), who initially passed on the role of widowed patriarch Danny Tanner and later resented the way the show’s wholesomeness wreaked havoc with his blue-comic image.
The best scenes in this tedious two-hour movie (hour-and-a-half minus commercials) deal with Saget’s career discomfort and how he sublimates his frustrations by bro-ing out with castmates Coulier (Justin Mader), the perpetual cutup, and John Stamos (Justin Gaston), the hormonal heartthrob. You have to look for silver linings in bargain-basement productions like these, and Brawith, Mader and Gaston at least seem to be attempting to etch a spirited camaraderie that transcends the movie’s tabloid roots.
Yet it hardly feels right to describe anything that transpires here as “tabloid.” It’s more skin-deep fan fiction that imitates the sickly decency that was Full House’s stock-in-trade. So, like Full House’s D.J. Tanner, Candace Cameron—played at different ages by Shelby Armstrong and Brittney Wilson—goes through and triumphs over similar adolescent, ahem, growing pains. (Brother Kirk and his hit series are referenced, of course, as is his religious awakening.) Stamos gets to croon several crowd-pleasing numbers with his band — Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” for the happy years, Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” for the sad. And even as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, played by three different sets of twin actresses, build their tween-conquering empire, the movie goes out of its way to emphasize that their sitcom family is always first in their hearts. It’s like reading a copy of the National Enquirer that’s been caked in sugar.
All that’s left is to laugh derisively at some of the knowing nods that teleplay writer Ron McGee sprinkles throughout. Show creator Jeff Franklin (Matthew Kevin Anderson) says a teary-eyed goodbye to his cast after telling them about his exciting new project, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. Stamos gets to walk the sparsest red carpet ever populated with his beau Paula Abdul (Lisa Marie DiGiacinto) and later wax philosophic about his long-term commitment to Rebecca Romijn (Ashley Diana Morris). (That worked out well.) Best in show, though, has to go to the moment when an irked Coulier drives past a bus-stop advertisement for Full House that’s being plastered over with a poster for “America’s #1 New Series!” … Seinfeld.
The times they are a-changin’, though this disposable teleflick is just the latest bit of evidence that, for better and (mostly) for worse, everything old is new again.