Everywhere You Look – “Full House” in Review!

Following my “Saved by the Bell” review, I have decided to critique another sitcom which aired from the late 80’s until the mid 90’s – “Full House”.  Modern audiences may recognize it due to the recent Netflix revival series, “Fuller House”. It has the honour of being one of the most recognizable  family sitcoms of  the last century.  Even though the bulk of its run-time was through the 1990’s, it still maintains that unique 80’s quality.

This show, airing from 1987 to 1995, centered around Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), a widowed newscaster in San Francisco who is struggling to bring up his three daughters following the death of his wife in a drunk driving accident.  He enlists the help of Jesse, (John Stamos), his ladies man brother in law, and Joey (Dave Coulier), his best friend, and childish comedian, to move in to take care of the girls- D.J. (Candace Cameron), the responsible oldest child, Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), the sarcastic middle child, and Michelle (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen), the mischievous baby of the bunch. The show focused on the antics that both adults and girls got themselves into that week, which could usually always end with a heart to heart between one of the men (usually Danny) and his daughters, with a hug often called upon to sweeten up the moment, much to the glee of the studio audience.

Later additions to the main cast included Becky (Lori Loughlin), Danny’s co-anchor who would later be promoted as Jesse’s love interest and eventual wife, their twin boys Alex and Nicky (Dylan and Blake Tuomy-Wilhoit) , Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber), D.J.’s kooky best friend with an insufferable stinky foot odour and Steve (Scott Weinger), D.J.’s sweet but slightly dim boyfriend.

“Full House” has garnered a repuation for being a wholesome family sitcom, managing to cement the “sappy emotional music” cue, which played during those aforementioned “golden moments”  . The show played up the cuteness of the child actors, particularly the Olsen twins, who could often be depended upon to deliver a cute catchphrase or one-liner.

Despite the show’s roaring success, the male leads of the show have expressed scorn over the overly saccharine plots. Bob Saget, who is now perhaps best known for his profane, raunchy stand up routines, which is a far cry from the soft spoken Danny Tanner. John Stamos similarly strove to put the show behind him by selecting gritter roles.

Nevertheless, almost all of the original cast, with the notable exception of the Olsen twins, signed on for the Netflix revival, “Fuller House”, in 2016. In keeping with the same format as its predecessor, D.J. is now a single mother to three boys,  and has trouble coping after the death of her firefighter husband, so Stephanie and Kimmy step in to help out. As you can imagine, more comedic possibilities ensue! While still considered a “family show, many of the jokes in Fuller House are arguably more laden with innuendo, as summed up here.

“Full House” earns a total of 3 out of 5 stars. Whether you find it or its brand of comedy sweet or sickening, it still remains a staple of classic family driven sitcoms. It’s worth checking out if you like “Fuller House”, or if you, like me, have a love for corny 80’s sitcoms. You got it, dude!

Suicide is Painless? My Two Cents on “Thirteen Reasons Why”

Greetings, bloggers! By now, the majority of the world has binged watched the new Netflix show “Thirteen Reasons Why”, based on the 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher. Released on March 31st, and dealing with teenage suicide, the show instantly became popular, but just as quickly, sparked up a ton of controversy. It deals with not just suicide, but also bullying, self harm, sexual harassment, consent, sexuality, grief and rape. I was on the fence as to whether or not I was too late to share my thoughts on the show, but as I have some topics to bring up, I figured that I might as well jump on the bandwagon. As always, if you disagree with me on any of the topics, it’s perfectly fine, as it’s just a case of differing personal opinions. Also, I’ll be discussing some plot points in detail, so spoilers abound!

The show focuses on amicable high school student, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), as he tries to deal with his feelings following the aftermath of the suicide of his classmate and crush, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Before she passed, she recorded a series of 13 cassette tapes . Each tape chronicles the 13 people who triggered Hannah’s decision to take her own life. And Clay is one of them.

The tapes are passed from person to person, in a chain letter format. As Clay listens from Tape 1, Side A to Tape 7, Side A, and follows Hannah’s clues, he soon uncovers dark secrets about the students in his school, and the sinister lengths they will go to keep him quiet…

First, let’s mention the positive elements of the show. I enjoyed many of the flashback scenes, as they really fleshed out the characters, and explained the motivations behind many of their actions. The best flashbacks featured Clay and Hannah together, as their interactions were typically sweet and genuine. Hannah and Clay’s friendship is expanded more here than it was in the original novel, where they were distant acquaintances. They are depicted as having a closer banter here. Although Clay liked her, he held back admitting his feelings for her due to her exaggerated rumours about her alleged promiscuous reputation. In the present day scenes, Clay tries to seek out justice for Hannah, as he grows more unhinged while listening to the tapes.

Another positive that I wish to mention is the addition of story lines. As the book takes place over the course of one day, we really only get to hear Clay’s and a few other’s reactions to the tapes, and don’t get to see  how events play out afterwards. Here, we get to see Hannah’s distraught parents (Kate Walsh and Brian D’arcy James) come to terms with their daughter’s death, as they bring up a lawsuit against the school for not doing anything to help her when she was alive, and the many of the kids featured on the tapes trying to stop Clay from releasing the information to the public to save their own skins. These reactions helped to project the story with a dose of realism, and helped to embrace the repercussions behind their actions.

Now onto the negatives! As you can probably guess from a show about suicide, the mood is somber and bleak throughout, with melodrama added for additional angst factor. Many of the “subjects” of the tapes are downright awful people, adamant that they did nothing to warrant the blame. However, a select few do feel genuinely remorseful or try to atone for their actions. In fact, one culprit feels so overcome by their role in Hannah’s death that they end up attempting suicide themselves, with their fate left ambiguous by series’ end.

In one of the last episodes, viewers find out what Clay did to end up on the tapes. It transpires that unlike many of the others, his reason didn’t plunge her deeper into suicidal notions, but she still feels she owes him an explanation for acting weird at a party they attended. His only “crime”, so to speak, was exiting the bedroom when Hannah suddenly freaked out during a make out session, and she yelled at him to leave, as she recalled other traumas that had happened beforehand. Clay feels that had he stayed, Hannah might have lived. In my opinion, there was nothing that he could have done to help her, since she was so far past the point of saving. In a realistic sense, nobody in that situation would have stayed, and although Clay tried his best to console her, it was ultimately no use.

One thing that bugged me was Hannah’s motivations behind sending out the tapes. Yes, they were designed to make the subjects regret the way they treated her, but at the end of the day, suicide is a decision that a person makes themselves. No matter how despicable some of the “reasons” may have been, it did seem rather extreme to have many of these characters blame themselves for a choice someone else chose to make. Suicide is never anyone else’s fault, and it is never a way to get revenge on those who have wronged you. The show does a good job in demonstrating the affects of suicide on the victim’s friends and loved ones, and how there’s usually more questions than answers.

In summary, my general consensus about the show is that it offers a realistic look, if extremely pessimistic view of high school life. With a topical subject as suicide at the helm of the show, it was inevitable even before it was released  that it would receive some backlash for some of its more harrowing content, no matter how the show runners chose to present it. While some of these scenes, most notably Hannah’s infamously graphic suicide, are deliberately intended to be hard to watch, I feel that it was ultimately the right decision to show them front and centre. It was important that these issues be addressed,as just because it’s an uncomfortable subject to talk about, doesn’t mean that it needs to be ignored entirely.

“Thirteen Reasons Why” rates as 3 and half stars out five. It bravely tackles difficult topics, but may upset more sensitive viewers. Finally, I’ll close out this review by stating that if you or anyone you know have suicidal thoughts, tell someone you trust, or contact the “Samaritans” suicide prevention website. It’s important to note that no matter how lost or alone you may feel, that suicide is not the only opinion, and that things do get better in time!

“Stranger Things” is a Marvelous Homage to 1980’s Pop Culture

Greetings! Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past two months, then you’ve probably  heard of the Netflix streamed series that took the world by storm earlier this year- “Stranger Things”, created by twins Matt and Ross Duffer. The Duffer Brothers have worked on shows such as “Wayward Pines” in the past. The Duffers have cited the works of Stephen King and John Carpenter  to be their biggest influences behind the show’s themes. They’ve even gone so far as to emulate the font from many of King’s novels for the title screenshot. It also pays homage to many of the classic movies of the 1980’s, such as “The Goonies”, “Stand by Me” and “E.T. : The Extraterrestrial” . It was a surprise summer hit that came right the heck out of nowhere, but instantly garnered a loyal fanbase.

After hearing about the rave reviews that it had been receiving, I decided to binge watch all eight episodes of the current series. After having viewed all of the episodes in about two days, I have so much to discuss regarding it.

The Plot in a Nutshell:  November 1983. In the sleepy suburban town of Hawkins, Indiana, 12 year old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappears suddenly under mysterious circumstances one dark night after playing “Dungeons and Dragons” with his circle of misfit friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) . His frantic mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder) is convinced that Will is still alive, and tries to communicate with him by using alphabet Christmas lights. Chief Hopper (David Harbour) is similarly anxious, and gradually uncovers a governmental conspiracy headed by the ominous Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine).

While searching for Will, Mike, Lucas and Dustin stumble upon Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a mystical young girl with a shaved head and psychic abilities. Feeling that she can help them locate Will, the boys take her in as one of their own. They speculate that whatever stole Will is a creature similar to the “Demogorgon” from “Dungeons and Dragons”, and dub it as such.  Meanwhile, Will’s older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) teams up with Mike’s sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) to combat the Demogorgon, with the hope of finding both Will and Nancy’s best friend Barb (played by fan favourite Shannon Purser).  As these disparate parties continue to work upon the same case, things gradually come to a head in the final episode…

Actor/Character Observations: In my opinion, all of the actors were expertly cast in their respective roles. Winona Ryder, in particular, is convincing as a mother who has lost her child. While there are times when her performance can seem a little grating, it’s understandable, given the situation at hand. The child actors all give credible performances, particularly Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. She doesn’t receive many verbal lines, seeing as Eleven has a basic gap in her language lexicon. However, what she lacks in words she more than makes up for with her eerie silence and haunting presence. The other preteens are also given time to shine, and their diverse personalities help to make them relatable to the audience. Dustin was easily my favourite of the bunch, as his one liners cracked me up to no end.

My Favourite Aspect of “Stranger Things”: What I love the most about this series is that it creates an essence of wonder of the 1980’s, and it’s evident that the Duffer brothers have a deep fondness for films and TV shows of that era. In addition to the original story, there’s references to nostalgic shows and pop culture that is synonymous with the 1980’s. Even if you come into this show not knowing what to expect, chances are that you’d be impressed by how spot on their references are in relation to the time period.  However, I occasionally found the obvious parallels, especially to “ET” and “The Goonies”, to be a little too overdone at times. On the other hand, that may be simply part of the show’s charm.

Ratings and Recommendations: “Stranger Things” receives a rating of 5 out of 5 stars,as I found “Stranger Things to be a riveting, enjoyable show.  What adds to its current popularity is that the narrative focuses on adults, teenagers and pubescent children, which means that several members of those demographics can relate to the various exploits that the cast get embroiled in, complete with supernatural elements. I’d suggest viewing this show if you’re a fan of Stephen King’s work, or if you’re a fan of supernatural movies such as “Aliens”.

As of this writing, a second series of “Stranger Things” has officially been commissioned,  and will be expected to air sometime in 2017. Here’s hoping that this upcoming continuation will supply all the answers to the questions that remain unanswered. But no matter what unfolds in Season 2, more stranger things will be afoot for our protagonists!