Powered by a potent blend of nostalgia and curiosity, Fuller House became something of a sensation when it resuscitated Full House after a 20-year gap in 2015 and focused on the now-grown Tanner children (with ample cameos from the rest of the cast, sans any Olsen twins) and telling stories that appealed to families. As the show heads into its second season, though, series creator Jeff Franklin acknowledges that there is no way to recreate the “excitement” that surrounded the show in season one. Instead, Franklin hopes to build on the appeal of his cast (from DJ to Uncle Jesse and the new crop of kids) and the show’s successes while continuing in his effort to tell stories with a broad appeal.
In an interview with Uproxx, Franklin discusses those pursuits and also talks about working with Netflix, learning the ropes from Garry Shandling and Garry Marshall, and the possibility of a Vicki comeback.
You worked with both Garry Marshall (Laverne & Shirley) and Garry Shandling (It’s Gary Shandling’s Show) in the early years of your career. Can you talk a little bit about the impact that they had on you as a writer?
It was huge. I was in an improvisational comedy class with Garry Shandling when I was 22-years-old. You know, Garry really took me under his wing. He was a writer/producer on Welcome Back, Kotter at the time, and he really, I don’t know, saw something in me. But he was the one who taught me how to write a sitcom and spent weekends for months working with me in his spare time. Didn’t have to do that and was such a pivotal figure in my life.
Then Garry Marshall was the one who gave me my first job and not only taught me how to write but gave me the first opportunity I had to run a show and taught me how to be a show runner, and taught me all kinds of life lessons in the process. I was close friends with Garry Shandling and Garry Marshall my entire life. They were the ones I credit with giving me my start.
How do you embrace the challenge of trying to build on the success of season one as opposed to relying on the nostalgia factor?
What happened last year was insanity. We had 15, 16 million people watch a trailer with nothing but a couch in it. So I mean, there was so much excitement and anticipation about the show coming back. There’s really no way to recreate that.
Now it’s really about, did people like what they saw, are they going to come back again? You know, it’s a show now. All that nostalgia craziness is not going to be there this time. Yeah, it’s really about are we keeping the audience entertained and engaged and excited? Are we taking our characters on a ride that our audience is going to enjoy? Is it new and fun and fresh, and yet it still sort of continues that history of Full House? So I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting to see.
We won’t really know the numbers, exactly. Netflix doesn’t share them. It seemed like our fans really did enjoy the first season and hopefully they’ll all come back and check out season two, and now it just becomes engaging them with our new kids and a whole new take. So we’ll see what happens.
Is that at all frustrating as someone who is building a show and trying to build on the success of the first: trying to gauge that success without any kind of direct numbers to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t work?
Well, it’s different. In a way, it’s sort of freeing because Netflix is constantly telling us, “Don’t worry about the numbers. Just make a good show. That’s all we care about.” Although, I’m sure they look at their numbers, and it makes sense to them from a business perspective to keep us going. We know that that’s what’s going to drive future pickups, but I think we’re doing really well.
So in that sense, it is frustrating. We would like to know who’s watching and what the demographics are. It would be interesting for us. But you know, Netflix has been a great partner for us, and that’s their business model and you know, we respect it.
With regard to you building up the new cast, is the limited deployment of Dave Coulier, Bob Saget, John Stamos, and Lori Loughlin more a question of you trying to find a balance between embracing the original characters and telling new stories with DJ and Stephanie, or is it more just the availability of those actors? Would they be in every episode if they were able?
They all have busy careers. I don’t think they ever would have signed on to be in every episode anyway. The heart of the show is the next generation and these three girls grown up now with kids of their own. But it’s really important to me that, we call them our “legacy cast,” that the three dads and Lori are still part of the show and I think they’ll probably be in around three episodes every season. That’s our hope.
It’s just great to see the whole family together. You know, it’s a bit of a challenge to figure out how to integrate them when they’re only in a few episodes every season, but I think it’s just really important to connect Full House to Fuller House, and I think the audience just loves seeing them. Even if they’re not in every show, I think they love feeling like this family is still together. So I love having them around, and it’s really fun the weeks that they’re there. So yeah, I’m hopeful that will continue.
You’ve spoken out before about being dissatisfied with the way that they ended the Vicky arc after you left Full House following season five. I’m curious, has there been any effort to contact or bring Gail Edwards back for even just a quick cameo even though she’s retired?
Not yet, but you know, who knows? We may decide to do that. But there hasn’t been any thought of doing that yet. That would be interesting.
Are there any other storylines that you weren’t thrilled with from the time that you were gone that you’ve also tried to rectify or rewrite?
We’re bringing back Nelson and Viper in season two, so yeah, that sort of was my opportunity to talk about the fact that it was sort of strange that DJ and Steve broke up, and this is where the show went with her love life at that point. So yeah, I get to sort of deal with that in an episode in a way that made me happy.
What are the challenges of building, I’m hesitant to say an all-ages show, but that TGIF style show now, without making it feel like it’s something that’s pandering to the youth audience? Like you want something that’s going to obviously reach everybody. Parents and kids, right?
That’s always been our goal from the beginning, is to entertain kids and adults and teens all at the same time. It’s very difficult to do, and we’re running multiple storylines through every episode where the adults tell an adult story to keep them interested, and there’s still the kids and they have their stories.
One thing that we do that I don’t see on other sitcoms — and I’m not talking about the Disney Channel stuff, but you know on the major networks — is we try to write our kids as complete, real people and characters, and take them every bit as seriously as we do the adults. I think that’s something that kids appreciate and that the adults appreciate too. We really take our young characters very seriously. I think that’s something that makes this show different. That helps us be able to entertain young people at the same time as we’re entertaining adults.
This kind of show doesn’t even exist anymore other than Fuller House. This used to be a staple of television, and it disappeared. It always seemed to me like there is a place for a show like this. You know, that families can sit and watch together. The audience has become so fragmented. Kids have their own channels and the adult shows are geared strictly for adults. So there isn’t a lot of stuff available for families to watch together. We’re kind of alone.
Season two of Fuller House is available to stream on Netflix now.