Over the course of pop culture history, numerous icons have come together in massive events. like Batman and Superman. the Flintstones and the Jetsons, and that time Tip O’Neill was on Cheers. Above them all, there’s the time The Beach Boys were on Full House.
Okay, let us set aside fatuous hyperbole for a moment, even though this is not a topic that requires any seriousness. The Beach Boys are one of the most iconic bands of all-time. Pet Sounds is a straight classic, a movie about Brian Wilson was recently made, and the group has crafted some of the most recognized pop songs in history. Like them or not, and there are plenty who dismiss their simple songs about cars and girls and what have you, they’re an “important band.”
Full House, meanwhile, is a show that a lot of people liked, and still like, for some reason. There’s a powerful nostalgia machine behind Full House. It’s on Nick at Nite all the time. They’re doing a reboot on Netflix, which feels both inexplicable and inevitable. It’s a goofy, soft sitcom that ran from 1987 until 1995 over the course of 192 episodes. Lessons were learned, hugs were given, and the rudeness of people was called out. It’s sort of the quintessential sitcom of its era now, for better or worse.
However, by the time The Beach Boys stumbled onto Full House in the second season episode “Beach Boy Bingo,” Full House wasn’t the show it is now, and The Beach Boys weren’t the band we remember. Even though it was way back in 1988, The Beach Boys were basically a nostalgia act. They were old dudes in ridiculous beach clothes, closer to Jimmy Buffett than anything of artistic merit. Brian Wilson was on his way to breaking away from the band, which meant more Mike Love, which is not a good thing for anybody. In a weird way, The Beach Boys no longer had the cache to bring anything to Full House, but Full House also didn’t really have the cache to bring The Beach Boys back into the zeitgeist, either.
That is, except for one little trick The Beach Boys had up their sleeve: “Kokomo,” which became a No. 1 hit. John Stamos is in the “Kokomo” music video playing a variety of drums, but Wilson is not in the video at all. That says a lot in and of itself. Also, as you can probably guess, “Kokomo” is a big part of “Beach Boy Bingo.”
The first sentence from the description of this episode is amazing: “Danny is elated when The Beach Boys are slated to appear on his talk show, and with a musical group as timeless as this one, it is not difficult for the entire Tanner household to get in the spirit.” There’s no opening sentence in all of literature that’s more wondrous than this. Ah, but The Beach Boys cancel on Danny, leaving him thoroughly not stoked, and leaving him to play his own version of “Good Vibrations.”
The situation only gets heightened when D.J. wins a radio contest that gets her two tickets to the Beach Boys’ show. D.J. is the eldest Tanner child, but she’s still a little girl. We’re early in the show’s run. Michelle is still a straight-up baby. It strains credulity that D.J. would be excited about seeing The Beach Boys, but the real dilemma becomes who she will take. Then, she says Jesse and Danny can have both tickets, and they say no because that isn’t fair. Of course, everything is settled when The Beach Boys stop by the Tanner house and invite the whole gang to the show. It’s a convenient ending straight out of Entourage, only with less gratuitous nudity.
The episode then culminates with the Tanners at a Beach Boys concert that clearly takes place in Los Angeles. The USC cheerleaders are eminently visible. It’s also shot like a home video, making it look jarringly different than the rest of the episode, and we’re talking about a late ’80s multi-cam sitcom here. First, we watch The Beach Boys play “Kokomo” while the Tanners rock out offstage. Here’s a hot take dropped into a piece that’s mostly been lampooning all parties involved up to this point: “Kokomo” is a good song. No joke. Are the lyrics kind of dumb? Sure, but they aren’t all that bad. It certainly doesn’t seem deserving of its terrible reputation.
Anyway, after the Beach Boys finish “Kokomo,” they call the Tanners up on stage to join them in singing “Barbara Ann.” They keep saying “the Tanners,” even though that includes Joey and Jesse, who are not members of the Tanner family. Somebody hands John Stamos a guitar, and they get on stage and sing their little hearts out. Dave Coulier does that dance move where you hold your nose and act like you are going underwater. He would have come across better had he been in the “You Oughta Know” video.
This is all really awkward and weird and not as ironically funny as you might hope. It’s almost sort of dispiriting to watch. The Beach Boys look ridiculous, although Brian mostly escapes this by being completely pushed out of the picture. You could watch the concert scene and not even realize he’s there. Fittingly enough, Wilson apparently doesn’t remember filming the show, either. However, Mike Love and Al Jardine and the rest are mugging up a storm in painful fashion. Watching actors playing characters who are extemporaneously bursting into song feels cognitively dissonant. It’s one of the worst things to ever happen on a rather bad show, even if you love The Beach Boys. Even if you’re one of the rare few who like “Kokomo.”
The connection between Full House and The Beach Boys did not end here. In 1992, The Beach Boys re-recorded the song “Forever” on the album Summer in Paradise with Stamos on lead vocals. The song had originally been written, and sung, by Dennis Wilson, who had died by this point. Stamos, as Jesse, sang the song a couple of times on Full House. There’s a music video for the song by “Jesse and The Rippers” that features Mike Love, Carl Wilson, and Bruce Johnston. Jesse and The Rippers played “Forever” when they reunited on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. People don’t even think of it as a Beach Boys song anymore. It’s a Jesse and The Rippers song.
Full House was never “cool.” By the late ’80s, The Beach Boys were not “cool,” either. So, maybe it makes sense that The Beach Boys turned their sudden “Kokomo”-based resurgence into an appearance on Full House. The Tanners got to have a “big moment” on the show singing with Mike Love and company. It was a weird, fascinating, awkward, terrible moment in pop culture. The Beach Boys walked through the door of the Tanners’ house, and nothing was the same.