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'Fuller House' continues family-friendly approach

A still from "Fuller House."

NETFLIX/TNS

By RICK BENTLEY | Tribune News Service | Published: December 21, 2017

It started with a lunch in 2007.

Jeff Franklin, the man behind numerous television comedy series including “Full House,” was dining with John Stamos, one of the actors who helped turn “Full House” into a ratings hit for ABC. Their conversation finally got around to the state of television, especially the lack of family-friendly programs on the networks.

You have to remember, “Full House” was just one of several shows that could be watched by everyone from toddlers to grandparents when it aired in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Similar shows at that time included “Who’s the Boss?,” “Growing Pains,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Mr. Belvedere,” “The Wonder Years” and “Baby Talk.”

“The kind of programs we grew up on didn’t seem to exist anymore,” Franklin says. “We said that maybe we should make one up and then we thought, ’No. We have already made one up.’ So we decided to try to bring ’Full House’ back.”

Not only did they make “Full House” a hit years ago, it continues to thrive in syndication. Executives at Netflix saw that and brought the family-friendly show back with a few tweaks in 2016 with “Fuller House.” The final nine new episodes from the third season of “Fuller House” will be available on the streaming service starting Friday.

Despite already having a successful track record, Franklin found it far more difficult to get “Fuller House” on the air than he did “Full House.” He pitched the idea to ABC, Nick at Nite, the Disney Channel and other networks of a follow-up series focusing on the older Tanner daughters (Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin) and neighbor Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber) as adults with children of their own.

“I was completely baffled that no one seemed to get that this would be of interest to people,” Franklin says. “It’s so hard to pull an audience these days and to have that kind of built-in interest in the show seemed like a no-brainer.

“I don’t know if it was because the big stars of the show were not attached to it at that time. I just don’t think they understood the power of the brand.”

Franklin based his feelings on the potential of a “Full House” follow-up based on his years working as a producer. His long list of TV credits also include “Laverne & Shirley,” “Bosom Buddies,” “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” and “Malcolm & Eddie.”

It took him several attempts over eight years before Netflix agreed to get behind the series as part of the streaming company’s expanding original programming.

Producing a show for a streaming service rather than a network has taken some adjusting by Franklin. Unlike a network show that will order 21-24 episodes in a season, the first two seasons of “Fuller House” were only 13 apiece, and Season 3 features 18 shows. Franklin likes the lower order number because it pushes every script to be important to telling the tales of the family living in San Francisco. That’s critical because Netflix likes serialized stories more than the stand-alone approach Franklin had used on “Full House.” The shows also are not confined by the 21-minute format of network television where commercials are added to fill the half-hour timeslot. If an episode needs to go a little longer or shorter to deal with a continuing story, it can on Netflix.

One of the few negatives of being on Netflix is Franklin doesn’t have the kind of raw viewing numbers he had with the networks through their monitoring by Nielsen. The feedback he’s been getting from the public has been positive, but that doesn’t let him know exactly how many people - or which demographics are watching. Franklin assumes those who were young when “Full House” started now have their own families and the “Fuller House” viewership is mostly women, teens and children. That’s just an assumption on his part.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Franklin went against the words of W.C. Fields, who said to never work with animals or children. Both “Full” and “Fuller” have banked heavily on kids and animals to generate laughs. His three “Fuller” house leads and the Olsen twins provided humor on the original show, and now Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Soni Bringas and the Messitt twins are taking on those duties.

Franklin had not worked neither with kids nor animals until “Full House.”

“Kids take tremendous patience and so do animals,” Franklin says. “But, it’s worth it. Both of these shows feel like a real family and that is something you don’t have unless you treat the children like they are real people, telling stories that are important to their lives.

“It’s working for us and gives kids something to latch on when they watch the show.”

It was 29 years between the launch of “Full House” and the start of “Fuller House.” Using that math, Franklin would be producing “Fullest House” in 2045. He laughs and suggests 2027 would be a better date as it would mark the 40th anniversary of the start of one of TV’s most successful family-friendly franchises.

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FULLER HOUSE

12:01 a.m. Dec. 22, Netflix

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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