The new Netflix comedy “Fuller House,” a reboot of the original series that aired from 1987-95, has been described as a “porn parody without the porn.” While potentially a little harsh, it’s hard not to see the similarities: the wooden performances, the painfully awkward shoe-horned references to pop culture (D.J. Tanner, on changing in an Uber: “What if Uber sees my boob-ers?”), and the “sexualized adult version of characters,” as the A.V. Club refers to them, all point to the exploitation and brainless cash-grabs of pornography. After all, just as baffling as the demand for more porn is the demand for another season with the Tanners.

Was there clamoring for “Fuller House”? The question almost doesn’t matter. Were viewers demanding more Lorelai Gilmore, Laura Palmer mysteries, or Mulder and Scully? The Internet has done its part to help foster nostalgia for users who either romanticize cultural artifacts that they either weren’t around to see the first time or went off the air for a good reason. This goes for successful reboots, too. Was there a need for “Bob and David,” or “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp”?

Necessity means f***-all in the age of online fandom, where catering to niches is not only profitable, it’s increasingly becoming the only way to ensure that a show develops a following. “Full House” was a forgettable multi-cam sitcom with canned laughter and, as the theme song reminded you, an air of predictability. Now, it’s not a show, but an avalanche of reaction gifs, memes, and fan theories that have turned it into something very different. The reason networks go back to successes is because they are inherently conservative bodies that are looking to turn a profit—nothing new there. But why do viewers crave these reheated versions?

There are a few different versions of the modern reheating. There’s the “Fuller House” model, where the characters are simply transported chronologically in their own universe. This also includes “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park,” and, if it goes according to plan, “Beetlejuice 2” (say ‘Beetlejuice’ six times, and Tim Burton will appear). Those are sequels, in a sense—but, as the refrain goes, they introduce new characters along with an old story to a younger audience. Then there’s the reboot. That’s the “Fantastic 4” model, where previous canonical versions of films are scrapped in favor of a newly fantastic foursome, or perhaps a meeting between a Gothamite and a son of Krypton. Finally, there are television spin-offs of movies, perhaps the least successful of the bunch. This gave us the “Limitless” and “Rush Hour” television shows.

Nostalgia is a powerful drug, especially if it’s synthetic. The un-deadness of every movie and television show creates a time-warp wherein an added weight is given to every character. When John Stamos comes through the door for the first time in episode two of “Fuller House,” there’s an almost ten-second round of canned cheering. That’s a cue to the viewer: this has weight. Uncle Jesse is back at it with the leather jacket and aviators, and you’re going to feel a twinge of something. At the end of the episode, everyone smiles and hugs as the credits roll.  

This isn’t a screed against sincerity, because, for that to be true, that moment couldn’t have been so violently insincere. The cynicism of feeding audiences reheated mediocrity that convinces them of their own hunger for new content is laughable, and done only in the name of consumption; after all, why else would every episode be put online at the same time? When you can watch all of, say, “Master of None” in a night, television has ceased to be entertainment or even art: it’s become a game you have to beat as quickly as possible, or perhaps a drug that you need of much of as you can get. And in that example, even a smartly-written show with challenging ideas and characters is reduced to a race against your own internal clock.

What’s bizarre about this new round of unoriginality is that we’re in an incredible age of television. With so much major film studio money tied up in superhero movies or adaptations of popular YA literature, the place to go for storytelling has been the small screen. Though the halcyon days of “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” and “The Sopranos” seem to be behind us, there are still numerous shows that break the mold and provide more than entertainment. Great original shows like “The Americans,” “Transparent,” and “Mr. Robot” can still be found, but there’s a catch. The distinguishing trait of modern television is that it asks more of you than it used to.

Whereas there was a time when television was a passive medium where essentially the same channels were beamed into every home in America, modern television demands that you must seek out new shows. The ecstasy of happening upon a new show can lead to the binge watching that has come to be expected of viewers. A certain commercial ironically laments falling into a “#SHOWHOLE,” gently mocking a woman for despairing over the end of a favorite series. However, the voiceover comforts the woman—she need not fear, for new shows await with just the click of the button. Smiling again, the woman sits back on the couch, face illuminated in blue light.

Consumption is the name of the game. The fear and anxiety of missing a reference to “Orange Is The New Black” can overcome people, or, as a recent commercial described it to me, give them “#FOMO” (fear of missing out). These reheated shows and movies rely on your “#FOMO” for sustenance; they are a tapeworm, convincing you that you’re still hungry as they eat up your time. “Fuller House” is what happens when advertising methods are applied to television. When you’re convinced that you’re lacking something, you need to fill that space as quickly as possible.

Defying reviews, good taste, and common sense, “Fuller House” has been renewed for a second season.  



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