On February 26, Netflix made available Fuller House, a thirteen-episode spinoff sequel of ABC’s 1987-1995 sitcom Full House, and on March 2 announced renewal for a second season. Fuller House tells the story of a single mother whose sister and best friend move in to help her raise three sons – a gender inversion of the original series, which featured three men raising three girls.
The original Full House was broadcast alongside a number of other sitcoms in the 1980s that depicted alternative family units, including Charles in Charge, Who’s the Boss, Mr. Belvedere, Kate and Allie, The Golden Girls, and My Two Dads. As conservative politics championed “family values,” these series were quick to assert that family can take many forms. In this clip, a trailer for the DVD release of My Two Dads, Michael and Joey’s inexperience with children is supposed to serve as a source of comedy, but the two men soon take to their roles and even thrive. Michael’s declaration that they are collectively “father of the year” affirms their success at performing domestic duties, like child-rearing, that were traditionally handled by mothers.
While 1980s alternative family sitcoms did not depict explicit homosexuality within the central characters, today’s queer TV parents, like Mitch and Cameron from ABC’s Modern Family, clearly find their roots in these series. Fuller House capitalizes on the same themes of family togetherness, but it lacks the progressive depictions of masculinity. Three women, who are naturally adept at child-rearing only for the reason that they are women, have replaced the three men who, in early seasons, had to learn how to take care of children (much like Michael and Joey of My Two Dads). With same-sex marriage legislation, greater numbers of men serving as stay-at-home dads and primary parents, and greater numbers of LGBT characters on TV, Fuller House’s premise feels weirdly conservative. Although we often think of 80s television as a period of wholesomeness, we can thank that decade for laying the foundation for contemporary television about queer families.