Editor’s note: This article contains spoiler-alerts for “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad,” “Sons of Anarchy,” and “Mad Men.” If you’re not caught up on each series’ finale, proceed at your own peril.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson will not be returning to reprise their role as Michelle Tanner in the Netflix-sponsored “Full House” reunion and spin-off, “Fuller House.” Part of me is sad to hear this. Mary-Kate and Ashley, fraternal twins, are now far more visually distinguishable than they were as toddlers, so it would have been entertaining to see their shared character change bone structure every time she left the Tanner family room and entered the kitchen, Mitchell and Webb style. And I have no doubt that card-carrying members of the TGIF nostalgia club are crestfallen at the news.
But no matter how great our collective disappointment, this is ultimately a good thing for our nation. A great thing. The best thing. Basically what I’m saying is that we should view the moment the Olson twins said “no” to the Full House reunion the way we’d view the moment when a woman grabbed her rediscovered childhood crush and would-be groom by the hand and asked him to reconsider their capricious trip to a Vegas wedding chapel.
We’ve Moved On from ‘Full House’
As children, “Full House” was our first love. With its cast of quirky yet virtuous characters and a rotation of squeaky clean catchphrases, the Tanner family was essentially the mulleted boy next door. We were charmed by his innocence, bewitched by his purity. But, as we grew older, his commitment to ending episodes with a lesson and a hug began to bore us.
So we moved on to more thrilling programs. “Seinfeld,” a show that literally operated according to the motto “no learning, no hugs” gave us greater laughs in both quality, as it dared to mine for humor in subjects the prudish San Francisco family wouldn’t touch, and in quantity, as more time could be devoted to laughter since George Costanza didn’t have to learn, at the end of every episode, that it was bad to be a pathological liar.
Our time with “Seinfeld” ended innocently enough, but things got ugly when we stopped laughing at the malignant narcissists and started trying to bond with them. First, we fell for Tony Soprano, the Italian-American New Jersey mobster who killed his friend and committed a bunch of adultery but felt a bit bad about it. Then we fell for Nucky Thompson, the Irish-American New Jersey mobster who killed his friend and committed a bunch of adultery and felt less bad about it.
In between, we turned our affections to Walter White, the brilliant chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin who only indirectly killed his friend’s girlfriend but directly killed a bunch of other people and was, by far, most attractive when he totally didn’t feel bad about it. White didn’t commit any adultery, so we got back on track with Jax Teller, who upped the ante by killing his own mother after a seven-season cocktail consisting of 47 parts adultery and one part feeling bad about it. Don Draper, the 1960s advertising pitch man we met somewhere in the bunch, was the least murderous of these suitors, but probably committed the most adultery and was certainly the most emotionally distant.
Now We’re Hungover on Moral Ambiguity
Unsurprisingly, this string of romantic interests eviscerated us. One day, we looked up and saw that Soprano was probably dead, Thompson, White, and Teller were definitely dead, and that Draper was technically alive but nearly as dead inside as when we first met him. So, after staring at the row of bad-boy corpses, we became certain we could heal the gaping hole in our hearts by disavowing characters with moral complexities and returning to the innocent love of our youth. Placing flowers on the graves of men with unchecked ambition and TV-MA bloodlust, we drove home to the row of pretty houses on the slanted San Francisco hill, knocked on the Tanner family door, and begged “Full House” to make us happy once again.
The ever-faithful “Full House” was, of course, waiting for this moment, as the Jimmy Fallon and Dannon yogurt quasi-reunions prove. The Tanners were always going to take us back, not only because they spent eight seasons preaching forgiveness, but also because the tragic flaw of the innocent is to mistake attention for love. So off we were to Vegas for the drive-thru wedding. We wore our dress, convinced that “Full House’s” saccharine kiss could take away the taste of anti-hero overkill. “Full House” wore his tuxedo, just happy to have someone pay attention to him for the first time in two decades. “Full House” swore to give us as many new episodes as we wanted, and we swore to binge watch them all.
But deep in our hearts, we both know this isn’t going to work. After spending years watching a bunch of men murder any friend or family member who inhibited the expansion of their kingdoms, we know that we won’t actually watch a trio of saints serenade some precocious child after the nostalgia wears off. Likewise, Uncle Joey has to know that, when we stuck with our ex Walter for two years after he tried to poison a kid, we’re not going to stick around to be entertained by his woodchuck puppet or his Popeye impression.
We Need Some TV Moderation
So now that Mary-Kate and Ashley’s absence has given us a flat tire on the way to the “Full House” reunion nuptials, let’s take this as an opportunity to call off the wedding before someone gets hurt. Let the Tanners admit that, while they’ll always cherish the days of our wholesome youth, they’ll never be comfortable with someone who’s been as corrupted by HBO as we have. And let’s be honest about the fact that we don’t really want to watch more episodes of laugh-track-infused, G-rated cheesiness. With “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” still pursuing us, we just want to feel safe again by watching a show where an eight-year-old kid isn’t at risk of having a dead thing eat her head.
No matter how much pain the bad boys have brought us, a “Full House” reunion won’t make us happy. But we might find a healthier TV relationship by splitting the difference between contemporary cable nihilism and early ’90s broadcast schlock, incorporating the conflict of the former and the conscience of the latter.
Perhaps Hulu could play matchmaker by giving us a series about a zoologist-turned-vigilante who kills poachers but buys his friends very thoughtful birthday presents. Maybe Amazon could offer us a sitcom about a pharmacist who steals prescription drugs for broke senior citizens and only commits adultery once or twice a season, then feels really bad about it. Or, at the very least, Netflix could re-envision “Fuller House” as a series where a grown-up DJ Tanner guns down San Francisco’s criminal underworld before going home to teach her daughters the importance of putting your cereal bowls in the dishwasher. If I were an Olsen twin, I’d definitely make an appearance on that reboot.