Fuller House borrowed a lot of elements from Full House, but there are some major differences between the two shows — and one is definitely better than the other. Running for eight seasons, the original ABC family sitcom introduced the Tanner clan and their extended family. While Full House was never a critical darling, it was a ratings hit thanks to its realistic portrayal of the joys and difficulties of parenting. As Hollywood entered the age of reboots and revivals, it was only a matter of time before the show was revisited.
In 2016, the Tanners officially returned on the small screen via Netflix’s spin-off sequel. Most of the original cast members returned with the addition of new key players. Unlike its parent series, however, Fuller House ended after season 5. Nevertheless, the writers attempted to provide a complete arc for its main characters, despite a few misses.
Full House and its spin-off Fuller House had the same storytelling principle, making comparisons between the two shows inevitable. That said, there are key differences between them, especially in terms of narrative execution, and upon closer inspection, there’s clearly one show that’s better than the other.
As previously mentioned, Fuller House borrowed a lot of story elements from its predecessor. It essentially copied the original premise: in Fuller House, DJ was the one who was in the same predicament as Danny three decades prior. Both lost their respective spouses and were left with three kids to raise on their own. Like Jesse and Joey did in Full House, Stephanie and Kimmy moved into the Tanner family home to help DJ get back on her feet, and soon, what was initially a temporary move turned out to be a permanent one.
Despite this, however, Fuller House simply wasn’t able to recapture what made Full House special — the relationship between the parent figures and the kids. Instead, the Netflix spin-off opted to focus on its returning characters, primarily DJ and her personal life after the death of Tommy Fuller Sr. It also gave Stephanie and Kimmy respective arcs, but they were noticeably weaker compared to the story that the eldest Tanner daughter had. Fuller House attempted to show DJ as a devoted mom, but there were not enough storylines to effectively establish that — especially since so much of her arc was about her love life. Furthermore, unlike in Full House, the younger cast of Fuller House was treated as extras whose only purpose was as a reminder of how much the original Tanner kids and Kimmy had grown up since the original sitcom.
The cast in Full House was arguably its strongest attribute. Led by stand-up comedian Bob Saget in the role of Danny Tanner, the series featured a talented cast of actors who played memorable, fully-realized characters. The popularity of Jesse (John Stamos), Rebecca (Lori Loughlin), and Michelle, in particular, helped the actors’ careers. Both Stamos and Loughlin enjoyed further acting roles in film and television after the sitcom ended, while Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen went on to become superstars.
The principal cast members of Full House returned for Fuller House except for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen who played Michelle. Initially, the off-shoot tried incorporating her in the story, but she gradually became an afterthought in the spin-off series: the finale barely referenced her, and the character’s absence was treated as a metafictional joke. The lack of Michelle was felt throughout the series, however, considering that she was a massive presence in Full House. The original Full House cast of Danny, Joey, Jesse, and Becky still factored in some episodes since they regularly visited the Tanner home. Aside from holidays and celebrations, they’d also pop in if something’s happening in their own lives — like when Danny had a midlife crisis.
As for Fuller House‘s principal cast, it was mainly about DJ, Stephanie, and Kimmy as they navigated through their personal and professional lives. While DJ was paired up with her Full House first love, Steve, her sister, and best friend also got their respective romances with the introduction of Jimmy Gibbler and Fernando. As the name suggested, there were also more kids in the Tanner family home with DJ’s three sons, Kimmy’s daughter, Ramona, and eventually Stephanie’s baby, Danielle. Unfortunately, their screen time was only a fraction of what their Full House counterparts had, and as a result, the series’ cast never developed the same chemistry as the original.
Full House was a product of its time when family sitcoms like Family Ties and Growing Pains thrived. But what made it unique was that it had an unconventional set-up brought about by the tragic death of Danny’s wife. While the Tanner patriarch was traditional in his views and methods, things were a little bit different with Uncle Jesse and Joey — who were both bachelors and had no clue about raising kids when they offered their help. This provided opportunities to depict parenting from a different perspective, not to mention the chance to do a different brand of comedy than bickering parents. Couple that with the solid focus on the kids and their own journey with self-worth and confidence, and the show appealed to a broad group of people.
Given that Full House had a solid track record and an established fan base, Fuller House lifted a lot of elements from the original series. While that makes sense conceptually, in practice the show leaned too heavily on nostalgia, with the spin-off’s earlier seasons featuring a string of callbacks. This may have worked for those familiar with the old show, but it alienated potential new fans who didn’t understand the inside jokes and subtle references. It also made Fuller House feel antiquated, with jokes and storylines essentially recycled from its predecessor. The series attempted to modernize its storytelling with the inclusion of Stephanie’s pregnancy journey that involved Kimmy being a surrogate, but the off-shoot didn’t really delve into the narrative enough for it to resonate with people who are going through the same thing.
Admittedly, it made sense for Fuller House to focus on its returning characters since they already had an established following from their days in Full House. The same can be said about mining a lot of narrative elements from the original show. What ultimately made Full House so much better than Fuller House is the execution. The spin-off had all the elements and storytelling mindset to recreate and even be better than its predecessor, but it fell short mainly due to its over-reliance on celebrating the original sitcom. There was barely any attempt to modernize its storylines, despite ample opportunities; Fuller House could have shown how parenting ways have changed over the years. The spin-off was on the right track with Stephanie’s pregnancy arc and even Kimmy’s attempt to raise a kid as a single Mom after her marriage failed, but those stories didn’t get enough screen time to actually resonate with viewers.
Interestingly, however, for all of Fuller House‘s attempts to recapture the magic of Full House, it ignored the most integral element to its success: the kids. DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle were always front and center of the ABC show’s storytelling; almost all of its storylines throughout its eight-season run were driven by them, and even in the few instances that they were relegated to supporting characters, they still shone because Full House always made sure to give them something to do. Fuller House, however, mainly treated them as props. Although there were episodes that featured the children and their stories, they were largely uninspired and shallow compared to what Full House did with its youngest characters. The spin-off actually had the opportunity to finally come out of the shadow of its parent series and stand on its own following the events of the finale since it meant that the kids could finally be its priority. Unfortunately, Netflix already pulled its plug before that could happen.