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When Fuller House hits Netflix on Feb. 26, it will be without one beloved member of the Tanner family: Michelle Tanner in the role played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
“I tried. We all tried to persuade them to come and play. They decided not to at this time. We’re hopeful at some point in the future that they’ll change their minds and come back,” creator Jeff Franklin told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “Everybody else is back, and I’m sure we’ve all had family reunions and not everyone shows up, but we still love them and the door is always open. I hope it happens.”
The highly anticipated sequel to Full House centers on the grown-up adventures of daughters D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure) and Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), as well as D.J.’s best friend, Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber), as they navigate the ups and downs of adulthood and parenting.
Show photos not only feature the new series’ three stars, but also returning favorites Jesse (John Stamos), Joey (Dave Coulier), Danny (Bob Saget), Becky (Lori Loughlin) and Steve (Scott Weigner). The Olsens, however, opted not to return because of their departure from acting in recent years to focus on their fashion empire. In the pilot episode of the sequel, the stars make a nod to Michelle’s absence from the series, which Franklin said was meant to be interpreted as a “playful wink” and not a dig at the duo.
The rest of the pilot episode of Fuller House serves as, in Franklin’s eyes, “the last episode of Full House that we never got to do.” ABC famously pulled the plug on the series after eight seasons without leaving the writers enough time to pen a proper series finale. “We didn’t want to conclude it and tie it up with a bow, ” said executive producer Bob Boyett. “We left it open-ended. We, of course, never dreamed that this could happen.”
The first episode is “full of nostalgia” as a nod to the fans who “know the show inside and out, probably better than I do,” said Franklin. “We wanted to combine that with setting up the new show. I think as the show goes along, it’s great to have the guys and Aunt Becky from the original show come through now and then, because it’s a family.”
However, Franklin and Boyett insist the new series is more than a 13-episode-long love letter to the original series. “We’re not going to fall back on just doing a ’90s sitcom,” said Boyett.
“We want them there, but this is a show that is centered around these three women,” Franklin added. “As the episodes go along, the visits become more sporadic and it’s really about their lives and their children and what the next generation has become.”
Boyett — one half of the powerhouse producing team with Thomas Miller that produced a string of successful network sitcoms including Step by Step and Family Matters — expressed his disdain for “lousy” reunion shows, but praised Franklin’s forward-thinking premise. “I think the right idea finally came along, thanks to Jeff, to do a show that would be of interest, that would be contemporary,” said Boyett, who explained that he and Warner Bros. had been approached two to three times a year about possible Full House-related projects.
And Fuller House might be just the beginning. Boyett also discussed the possibility of a follow-up to another of his hit series, Perfect Strangers. “There have been queries about that more recently because of the whole nostalgia thing,” he said. “Our focus has been to do this show and now to focus on the second season of this show. That is coming up as a question, and I don’t know. There’s nothing specific yet.” (Fuller House has yet to be renewed.)
“It’s part of this whole wave of nostalgia because I think there was a large gap on television where family shows just disappeared or they weren’t of the same quality,” added Boyett. “So hopefully we might do something in that area, but there’s not a specific plan today for that.”
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