The television series Full House was a sitcom that exemplified family values in a non-traditional household. The show was created by Jeff Franklin, and ran for eight successful seasons from September 22, 1987 until May 23, 1995. Located in San Francisco, Full House centered on a widowed father raising three daughters, who asks both his brother-in-law and best friend to help him raise the girls. The aim of each episode was to explore a conflict generally surrounding one of the members of the family while also emphasizing how most problems could be solved by discussing them with other members of the family. Full House differed from many of its contemporaries through its depiction of a non-traditional household, as the show focused on a single father raising three girls along with his best friend and brother-in-law.
The sitcom genre, or situational comedy, is generally intended to focus on an identifiable aspect of society and culture that the audience can relate with (Rosenkoetter, 1999). Many sitcoms therefore revolve around the family unit. The family in Full House is composed of Danny Tanner, who is recently widowed when the show begins, and raising three girls: D.J., Stephanie and Michelle. Leading out the main cast is Danny’s brother-in-law, Jesse, and his best friend, Joey. The show later expands to include Danny’s co-worker and Jesse’s romantic interest, Becky, as well as D.J.’s best friend, Kimmy. Each of the characters had their own personality quirks, which provided much of the comedy for the show. For instance, Joey would often make jokes and do impressions, Jesse was portrayed as hip and smooth, and Kimmy was characterized as both annoying and clumsy. The main target audience for the show was families including those with younger children, as many of the plots focused on one of the Tanner daughters.
Because the show depicted a non-traditional family, in that there was no mother figure in the show, Full House demonstrated how family bonding defines a family unit more than traditional gender roles. In the early 1990’s, when the show was aired, a non-traditional family was relatively rare on television (Terrace, 2000). However, the show’s popularity reveals how the underlying social message that a family is not defined by gender roles was accepted by audiences, who could still relate with the characters.
The persuasive elements of the show generally center around family communication, and the message throughout many episodes is that family support can resolve most problems. For instance, one early episode shows how Stephanie is afraid of going to kindergarten on the first day, so Danny, Jesse and Joey collectively take her to school. A later episode involves Jesse neglecting spending time with the family in order to catch up on work, before being reminded by his conscience of the importance of family. The show is able to communicate its message of support for non-traditional families by creating characters who genuinely care for one another, while also providing a comedic backdrop that engages the audience.
My personal connection with Full House is that I grew up watching the show, and I was able to identify roles I could relate with, such as being both a daughter, a sibling, and a friend, even though the family structure was different. This made me relate with the different characters, particularly the Tanner daughters, although I could also associate other characters with people in my own family. Although the show often found easy resolutions to each conflict, the types of problems being presented in the show were ones that were relatable, and the show ultimately encouraged positivity and communication.
Full House was a show that was like no other, in that it presented a non-traditional family in a way that was neither heavy-handed or obvious, but in a way that treated its characters as people rather than specific roles defined by gender. Despite being centered on a non-traditional family, the conflicts presented in the show were both relatable and positive, ultimately teaching its audience that tragedies can be overcome.