“When you’re lost out there and you’re all alone, a light is waiting to carry you home…” “Everywhere You Look” by Jesse Frederick, better known as the Full House theme song, floods me with a special type of sentimentality each time I hear it. While most people my age grew up on Hannah Montana and SpongeBob, my childhood television nostalgia is entirely defined by 70s-90s sitcoms: The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, The Nanny, and especially, Full House. Full House, a half-hour family comedy in which a widowed dad’s brother and best friend move in to help him raise his three daughters, made me fall in love with the genre. At age 10 I wasn’t sure how a sitcom was made or how they differed from shows my friends were watching, but that warm and fuzzy feeling that rushed through me every time I heard the theme song at the beginning of each episode would later translate into a passion for sitcoms and a dream to one day work in a writers’ room.
Some of my fondest childhood memories took place on lazy Sunday mornings, cuddled with my sister in my parents’ bed, enveloped in the latest—from twenty years prior, that is—Tanner family drama. Our parents preferred we watch shows that highlighted characters we could look up to, and that they would enjoy watching with us. When Full House reruns happened to be on one morning, we were immediately hooked.
My sister resonated most with Michelle (played by both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen), the littlest sister, and would go around shouting, “You got it, dude!” to seven-year-olds who entirely missed the reference to Michelle’s adorable catch phrase. We also loved Aunt Becky (Lori Loughlin), a fun-loving, elegant local newscaster and wife of Uncle Jesse (John Stamos), so much that we named a hamster after her.
Meanwhile, I found myself drawn to the men of the household. Uncle Joey (Dave Coulier), Uncle Jesse, and Danny bring zest from their eclectic and varied lives to the family fabric that is appealing and relatable for many demographics and age groups. When I recently began re-watching some of my favorite episodes in honor of Bob Saget’s death in January, I picked up on elevated jokes and plot points that went over my head a decade ago when I first encountered them. Uncle Joey’s ridiculous sense of humor and Uncle Jesse’s dry and shrewd demeanor complemented one another as ideal and entertaining co-parents, but the sensitivity and patience with which Danny Tanner raised his three girls was unparalleled both on and off screen.
Somewhat subconsciously, my lifelong obsession with Full House altered my conceptions of masculinity and my appreciation for my own family—a phenomenon led valiantly by Bob Saget as Danny Tanner. Saget saw an opportunity in that role to redefine family structures in a way that made me want all my relatives to live in my house with me. As the head of the household, Danny showed viewers that no matter what everyone had going on in their personal lives, family came first–even sometimes to the detriment of individual egos or teenage embarrassment. Being raised in a big Los Angeles Jewish family with cousins scattered all over town just wasn’t quite as intimate as sharing a San Francisco painted lady home.
In an episode called “Michelle a la Carte,” Danny’s youngest daughter set out to build a go-kart with Aunt Becky but found herself discouraged when she realized that people were making fun of her for it. There was a life lesson to be learned from every Full House episode—some conveyed them more subtly than others. At the end of the go-kart saga, Danny said to his daughter, "See, Michelle? Joey's a boy and he can do ballet. And you and Aunt Becky are girls and you can build cars. As long as you're not hurting anybody, you can do anything you want to do." Cheesy, but pretty progressive to explicitly teach to Full House fans in 1993.
Beyond crafting one of the most wholesome characters in all of television during a time when the families represented on television were largely traditional and the gender binary permeated society even more so than it does today, Saget embraced his Danny Tanner-isms offscreen, as well. As is the case with many long-running sitcoms, the cast of Full House really did exist as a family unit by the end of their eight seasons together. Especially since many of the actors were so young in the pilot, Saget served as a real-life father figure to child actors Candace Cameron, Jodie Sweetin, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and Andrea Barber.
The closeness of the cast could be glimpsed by their electric onscreen chemistry at the time. Decades later—despite having taken very different career paths—they all remain good friends. By 2017, I had outgrown much of the humor present in Full House. Nevertheless, I attended a live taping of an episode of Warner Bros 5-season reboot (Fuller House), starring many original cast members, and was flooded with much more nostalgia and warmth than I anticipated. I loved seeing Bob Saget, my childhood TV dad, in real life, interacting with his fellow cast members in between scenes as playfully and generously as I’d imagined he would.
Most recently, the Full House family came together to mourn the sudden loss of their gentle giant dad. As many of them have taken to social media and shared over the past month, the world is unequivocally less bright without Bob Saget’s brilliance and wit. His memory lives on in eight immaculate seasons of Full House, five endearing seasons of Fuller House, countless other comedic endeavors, and in the hearts of his original TV family and fans.
Bob Saget as Danny Tanner set the golden standard for dads, men, and comedians everywhere. Though at the time I was bitter that my parents wouldn’t let me watch the shows all my friends were watching, now, I couldn’t be more grateful for or proud of the sitcom that raised me. Danny once asked his oldest daughter DJ onscreen, “Am I the raddest, baddest dad a kid ever had?” While moody teenage DJ had replied, “You were until you said that,” that’s exactly what Danny Tanner was.