Have Mercy: 'Full House' Creator Spills 9 Shocking Secrets
Watching an episode of Fuller House feels like coming home again. It's comfortable, not to mention wholesome, lighthearted, and filled with plenty of '90s references and wink-wink nods to its primetime predecessor.
At times, the show can lean a little too heavily on knowledge of Full House's past life as a prototypical '90s family sitcom, but according to series creator Jeff Franklin, that was very much the intention. Let's be clear, here: Fuller House was created solely for the fans -- and it does its job very well, complete with friendly faces, a familiar laugh track, and catchphrases you've heard a million times. It's just as predictable as its catchy theme song suggests, and fans of Full House will undoubtedly love it.
MTV News sat down with Franklin to talk about the Netflix series --- which hits the streaming service on February 26 -- and working with the Full House cast again after more than 20 years.
Critics hated Full House when it debuted in 1987.
"When Full House came on the air, the reviews were scathing. We got an F in People magazine. All of the critics hated the show. It wasn't until Season 4 or 5 that we started to see good reviews. The critics started to lighten up on us."
"The reviews have not been wonderful on Fuller House so far. I don't want to say we're review-proof, but I don't think our fans really care what the critics have to say. I think the critics are taking the show way too seriously. They're there to have fun writing scathing reviews -- they love that. But they seem to be missing the point that this show is about fun. It's comfort food. It's revisiting the past. It's not to be taken that seriously."
Franklin developed the idea for Fuller House more than eight years ago.
Franklin first developed the pitch for Fuller House back in 2007, but at the time, the networks weren't buying into the nostalgia. So, he let the idea go for a couple of years.
"It's amazing to me that it took so long to set it up," Franklin said. "This was way before reboot fever, but it felt like a no-brainer to me. All of this excitement that's happening now with reboots, I knew all of that was there and that there would be this kind of interest. But the networks we pitched it to just didn't seem to understand that."
Now, everywhere you look, it seems like there's another '90s classic being re-imagined and rebooted for our continued enjoyment. Television's nostalgia boom is at its peak. This past year alone saw the return of The Muppets, The X-Files, Minority Report, Twin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, Heroes, and Full House. Franklin attributes our culture's nostalgia craze with the current, complicated world that we live in. Looking back on our halcyon days has become a bit of a coping mechanism.
"We live in a very complicated world," he said. "There's a lot of stuff going wrong all over the place, so it's comforting to go back to another time, a more innocent time, and relive some of your old memories. It takes you out of all of the craziness that's going on right now."
Surprisingly, not much has changed since his initial pitch, including an aww-worthy homage to one of the most memorable moments from the Full House pilot. (The emotional scene in question plays out during the final act of the Fuller House premiere.) Franklin had always intended to make a sitcom that would follow grown-up DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy, but he had trouble convincing the networks that it would be a worthy investment. Then, Netflix took interest.
"It just seemed like everybody was getting older, so if we were ever going to do this, it needed to happen, so I took another shot at it a few years later," he said. "We had the same problems; we had passes all over town. It was kind of a fluke that Netflix ended up buying into it... We sold this show based on a pitch. There was no pilot, there was no script, the girls didn't read a scene together -- nothing. So we hit the stage, and we didn't know what was going to happen. But their chemistry was off the charts."
Franklin wrote the first episode of Fuller House as the Full House series finale.
Franklin left Full House in 1992 to develop Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper for ABC, a decision he still regrets to this day. Even though Full House continued for three seasons without Franklin at the helm, he didn't agree with some of the creative decisions the producers made to the characters after his departure. In many ways, the premiere episode of Fuller House, titled "Our Very First Show, Again," was his chance to right the wrongs of the past.
"There was no series finale of Full House," Franklin said. "The show just kind of petered out and went off the air... It really bothered me, the way they ended the series. There was no attempt to do something special. So I look at the first episode of Fuller House as the last episode of Full House that then segues into Fuller House and we set up the new series -- after that first episode, the new show begins. It's a very atypical episode full of nods and winks and catchphrases. There was a lot of inside jokes, and we have a lot of fun knowing that everyone seems to be in on these jokes. That was a show for the fans."
The Tanner family couch is the only original prop from Full House to make it into Fuller House.
Once upon a time, Danny Tanner's immaculate living room was considered to be the pinnacle of successful adulthood. As a kid growing up in the '90s, it represented what a home should look like, from the artwork hanging on the walls to the coveted encyclopedia collection collecting dust in the reading nook. So when it came time to recreate the Tanner's iconic home, the production designer has his work cut out for him, with the exception of one beloved piece of furniture: the blue-and-white checkered couch.
"It is the same couch. It's the only thing that survived the original series -- the couch and the chairs that sit opposite that coffee table," Franklin said. "Everything else, including that weird statue of that man under the stairs, is recreated. And not only do we have the original couch, but we found yards and yards and yards of the original fabric, so we actually have it in case anything goes wrong. There's actually a bit in a later episode where somebody actually makes a piece of clothing out of the couch fabric."
The rest of the set, however, had to be painstakingly recreated to match the Tanner's original '80s home aesthetic.
"Our production designer wanted plans, but the plans we created in 1987 were long gone, so I just told him to turn on the TV and build that," he said. "They actually got a few things wrong. They had to go back and redo some of it. I was like, 'There's not three doors in this hallway -- there's only two doors! What happened here?' So they messed up a few things, but by the time we were ready to shoot, we had a perfect recreation. We did update a few things, of course."
The banister hasn't changed, despite a new rug and probably a fresh coat of paint, and while the Fuller House set is certainly bigger than its retired predecessor, it still feels homey and warm (even with the brand new track lighting). And yes, that is a mudroom that you see in the Tanner's kitchen. Don't be alarmed. "We have a bigger pantry and we redid the pantry in the kitchen," Franklin said.
Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, and Andrea Barber had a lot of input when it came to their characters' final looks.
Since Full House wrapped in 1995, Franklin and the cast have remained extremely close, often getting together for parties at Franklin's 20,000 square-foot Los Angeles mansion. So when it came time to put the Fuller House wheels in motion, Franklin consulted the cast about their individual characters. The show's three leading ladies -- Bure, Sweetin, and Barber -- signed off on everything.
"I would run everything by them to make sure that they liked what I was up to," he said. "They had a lot of input into their look and their wardrobe. In terms of the backstory, those were mainly my ideas, but they had to sign off on everything, and we spent a lot of time talking about their kids and their families and what kind of moms they are with their kids. That was the stuff that informed a lot of the writing."
However, certain characters were blank slates for Franklin, like Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse’s twin sons, Alex and Nicky Katsopolis, played by original actors Blake and Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit, now 25. When Full House wrapped, Nicky and Alex were merely toddlers, but in Fuller House, they're full-grown twentysomethings -- and Franklin had a lot of fun creating their ~ chill ~ personalities.
"Nobody knew who they were because they didn't have the Prince Valiant haircuts anymore," Franklin said. "But they were great. I thought it was so much fun to make them a little weird and dumb. I wouldn't say they're losers, but they're certainly not winners yet. It was unexpected... They definitely have dad's IQ, not mom's."
DJ's catchphrase -- "Oh, Mylanta!" -- was a last-minute addition to a Full House script.
Cut-it-out! Many of the original series's memorable catchphrases will be uttered, quite frequently, throughout Fuller House, including DJ Fuller's (née Tanner) go-to, "Oh, Mylanta!" Franklin called the creation of DJ's catchphrase a "happy accident."
"I think we had written 'Oh my God' in the script, and even at a very young age, Candace didn't want to say 'Oh my God,' so we had to figure out another way for her to say that," he said. "I don't remember if if came from Candace or not -- it may have -- but 'Oh, Mylanta!' became our 'Oh my God.'"
Fuller House also introduces new catchphrases into the Full House cannon, thanks to DJ's young middle child Max (Elias Harger) and his affinity for saying "holy chalupas!"
"You just try a line in a script, and if something works and it gets a laugh, and the writers fall in love with it, then we'll try it again and if it's still working, we'll keep using it," Franklin said of the creative process for making memorable catchphrases. "All of the catchphrases happened organically. It wasn't like we set out to give each character something crazy to say every week."
Everyone thought Jodie Sweetin was going to be the breakout star of Full House... not the Olsen twins.
At 5 years old, Sweetin's comedic timing was second to none. Her chops were so impressive that her castmates took notice. "Jodie was like a Vaudeville comic meets Shirley Temple when she was a little girl," Franklin said. "She had comic instincts when she was 5 years old that just blew everyone away. We really thought that it was going to be 'The Jodie Sweetin Show' at first -- and it kind of was at the beginning."
Then, the Olsen twins happened. By 1993, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were household names thanks to their lucrative film careers. "Who could have called that one?" Franklin said.
Fuller House is a more adult show, but it's still a family show.
For the most part, Fuller House doesn't seem all that interested in tinkering with its formula for modern audiences, so in many ways, it still feels like a '90s sitcom, complete with wholesome family antics. However, that doesn't mean it revels in its squeaky-clean image all of the time.
"It's a little more adult than the original show. That's for sure," Franklin said. "Because it's a different time, and I think audiences are more sophisticated now. Kids are much more sophisticated now. They have the Internet at their fingertips. We don't want to be quite as innocent as we were in 1987, but we want the same spirit, and we want families to be able to watch the show together, so there is a balancing act to try to keep that wholesome flavor of Full House but make it feel like a show of today."
If Franklin had it his way, DJ and Steve would have never broken up.
Hardcore Full House fans know that DJ and Steve were always meant to be endgame, but after Franklin left the series, the new Powers That Be didn't feel the same way. In Season 7, DJ and Steve break up because they simply "grew apart." How lame. However, Steve did return in the series finale to take DJ to her prom, a plot point Franklin references in "Our Very First Show, Again."
"They had such a wonderful relationship when they were kids, and I know the audience really enjoyed them together," he said. "I didn't understand why the producers decided to break them up and replace Steve with this nerdy rich kid. I didn't think that worked at all, and I thought that was something the audience was not enjoying. So 20 years later, I get the chance to make things right."
"I don't think anybody is dying to see... I don't even remember, what was that kid's name? That little rich kid. [Ed. note: His name was Nelson.] Nobody wanted to see that come back."