Spin-Offs

Full and Fuller

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

I have very vivid memories of watching Full House (and having long and detailed discussions about how incredibly handsome John Stamos was) when I was in school. It was the early 2000’s, so given the (lack of) cable television services, the ‘80s American comedy about a giant family in one house was as cutting edge as it got then. Danny Tanner (Bob Saget), loses his wife, and is suddenly left to raise three very young, and very lively girls – 10 year old DJ (Candace Cameron), 5 year old Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin), and 9 month old Michelle (played interchangeably by Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen). He enlists his childhood friend, Joey (Dave Coulier) and his brother-in-law Jesse (John Stamos) to help. They move in, and as the show progresses, have their own love interests, and eventually, their own children making it a very full house indeed.

I enjoyed Full House because it reminded me of my own extended family which sprawled with multiple cousins, aunts, and uncles, and also because it was one of the few shows whose jokes I understood because they were always family friendly (and ridiculously cheesy). I found it impossible to be bored of the show because there were so many stories, given the number of characters who occupied the screen. Full House discussed dating pangs, friend fights, family fights, sibling drama and a number of other topics for 8 years before it ended in 1995 as one of the most iconic television shows on American TV. Twenty years later, on the 26th of February, Full House returns, except it’s a little…Fuller.

Fuller House was announced in April last year, amid much speculation and consequently, glee among fans. The story arc of this spin off is essentially the same as the original, but with a gender twist. DJ Tanner, the eldest of the Tanner girls and now mother of three boys, has been widowed. Her sister, Stephanie, and her best friend, Kimmy, move in to help her raise her children. The original cast has been retained (with the exception of the Olsen twins), and the senior members will make cameo appearances from time. The trailer of the series, which has just been released looks like its going to stay faithful to the original, which means viewers will lap the show up right off the bat, after all, Full House is the television equivalent of comfort food. It’s important though, that if Fuller House wants to be anything close to the success that its original enjoyed, must step its themes and stories up to the times that we live in. Every episode in Full House was based on exaggerated 80s comedy interlaced with moral lessons and relentless optimism, all of which can be hard to digest for viewers today (including myself). If Fuller House isn’t going to be relevant and “now”, we may as well stick to watching Modern Family.

{Fuller House releases on Netflix on February 26}

It’s All Good

{First Published in The Hindu Metroplus}

When the TV phenomenon Friends came to an end, I was devastated, and I missed it terribly. It was this devastation coupled with the free time that one gets while waiting for exam results that led me to watching Joey, the Friends spin-off that picked the life of Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) up from where Friends left off. I was quite excited for the show, given that Joey was my favourite character in Friends, but hardly a few episodes in, I found myself wishing that I had just stuck to watching reruns.

A spin-off more or less ruins the original show for me. There is something so unimaginative and bland about them, and watching a spin off when there’s plenty of fresh content on television otherwise, feels like a criminal waste of time. Naturally, when Better Call Saul, the spin off to Breaking Bad was announced, I had neither had expectations from it (despite the fact that it was going to be directed by Vince Gilligan himself), nor any intention to watch it. Then, one very dull evening, I gave in to Better Call Saul.

better call saul, vince gilligan

The show’s undercurrent is the same as Breaking Bad’s – good men in a bad world. In Breaking Bad, Walter White, a chemistry teacher who gets cancer, turns to drugs to support his family. We saw him make his way through it all, not knowing exactly how things would turn out in the end. In Better Call Saul, however, there is no suspense because it is a prequel, and the story of how Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), a small time defence attorney, ended up becoming the despicable and widely hated lawyer from Breaking Bad.

Jimmy McGill, a one time scam artist, is now a struggling defence attorney who works out of a makeshift office housed in an Asian salon. He defends a variety of criminals, from drunk drivers to men who commit armed robberies to students who decapitate a head off a cadaver in the biology lab because they thought it was fun. After one particularly trying day, he goes back to his scamming roots to procure a client, only to get caught in the middle of a vicious drug circle ruled by a brutal overlord. Walter White and Jimmy McGill are both men who were pushed to the corner by circumstance, men who had no choice, but the difference between them is that Jimmy is a natural fraud who has to try really, really hard to be good.

Unlike Breaking Bad, whose slow, tedious first season nearly made me give up on the show, Better Call Saul is interesting right from the start. You want to know Jimmy better, you want to know why his brother walks around wearing a blanket made of aluminium foil, and you want to know what happened between him and his ex-girlfriend who he still has a soft spot for. The characters in Better Call Saul are also very oddball, and very original. In many ways, it’s unfair to call Better Call Saul a spin off to Breaking Bad – I would call it a companion show because although there is some reminiscence to Breaking Bad here and there, it stands on its own. Vince Gilligan hasn’t just taken a hit show and spawn something new, he’s also made sure that it wouldn’t be overshadowed by its predecessor.

There are ten episodes in the first season, where each episode is about forty five minutes long. Should you watch it? If you are already a fan of Breaking Bad, then it’s easy – you will thoroughly enjoy Better Call Saul. If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, I would recommend Better Call Saul anyway. It’s interesting, it’s funny, it’s dark, and it’s unlike anything else on television right now.

{Better Call Saul is presently being telecast on Colors Infinity}