|Posted by richb on July 4, 2012 at 9:05 PM|
It's time once again for a sitcom face off, where I take twosimilar shows and compare them to see which is better. Today I have two silly,corny family comedies in a TGIF grudge match!
FULL HOUSE vs FAMILY MATTERS
Full House came along in 1987 and was just a sweet littleshow which didn’t hurt anyone. Was it realistic? Heck no, but at least it wasfun to watch and even funny at times. Full House was a Friday staple, so much ABC designed TGIF to be led bythis family show. Then Family Matters came along. Created by the sameproduction company, but a different producer, this Perfect Strangers spin offbecame a quiet Friday night hit. This was another corny family comedy, and thisshow quickly became the anchor for TGIF while Full House moved to Tuesday’s.TGIF was created around Full House but it was perfected around Family Matters. Bothshows are sweet and corny, but which was better?
I had to change the categories for this one a bit due to thenature of the shows, but you’ll get the idea. Which catchphrase would youprefer, “You got it dude!” or “Did I do that???”
If both of these shows had one thing in common, it’s thatthe adults were not the main focus. These shows were definitely geared to the kids.That’s not to say we never saw the adults and they never got episodes, but itwas the kids who were to be cute and smile at the camera. On Full House we hadthree men raising three girls. Danny was the neat freak, Jesse the fun uncle,and Joey was….there. I never really understood what Joey’s role in the familywas, especially in the later episodes when the kids started to get older. Thecharacters were really cartoons early on, but they did evolve. Bob Saget madeDanny a little less of a dork in later years losing the constant smile. Jesseloosened up and was much more likable when he got married and had his own kids.Jesse had a rock group, his own radio show, and owned his own club while beingmarried with two kids. Wow! Joey just got more useless as the series went on,there were no less than two episodes all about just what his purpose in thefamily was! On Family Matters we had a more traditional parental unit. Carl andHarriett were raising there kids as best they could. Of course Harriett was thecharacter we met on Perfect Strangers, although I always felt they toned herdown a bit when they spun her off. She was a good mother. Carl was a real funloving guy, and he could also be strict to. He made mistakes, but he also ownedup to them. His biggest flaws were bad eating habits and his cheapness. Thiswas one case where you believed he was the profession he had, in this case apolice officer. The fact that Reginal VelJohnson played a cop in a little moviecalled Die Hard probably helped. Then we had Mother Winslow, I already talkedabout her in another article but I loved the way she had a such an activesocial life while also being the sweet sitcom grandmother. Usually on shows weget one or the other, but Mother Winslow successfully did both. So, who werethe stronger characters? I think Family Matters has to win the award for thisone. The adults felt like real people, unlike Full House where they felt morelike cardboard cutouts. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like them, but there was nothingremarkable about the guys.
ROUND 2=THE KIDS
On the other hand, we have the kids. Full House had D.J.,Stephanie, and Michelle. They were the stars of the show, quite literally. D.J.was the older child and dealt with the problems of growing up. They almost gaveher an eating disorder in one episode. D.J. is a great big sister to Stephaniein the early years always looking out for her. Stephanie was the middle childand was cute and, to be fair, annoying at times with her constant talking. Butwe loved watching her. The only problem with Stephanie was as the cutenessfaded the character got really bland. She was the traditional nosy littlesister. Finally, we have Michelle. Michelle stole the show and kept it on theair in my opinion. The first three or four years were all about her and how adorable she was. And, to be fair, shewas really adorable. I admit it; I loved watching her on the show. When she gotolder she got whiny and annoying, but man those early years Michelle was thestar. On this show the girls were the focus so we felt like we knew thembetter. Really, what do we know about Danny besides the fact he is a cleanfreak (which they probably tacked on to give him some kind of character). OnFamily Matters we had Eddie, Laura, and Judy. What can I say about them? Laurawas a strong character but she really had two modes, she was either happy orsad. I never really saw anything else come out of her. She spent most of hertape trying to discourage Steve and his never dying love for her. Eddie was thedumb older brother, and I never understood why he had to be dim witted. Is therea rule that every show has to have one character who is an idiot? That’sanother article, but Eddie is a typical teen who is interested in girls andhaving fun. Judy was a weak character, so weak the creators themselves gave upon her. She was just there to be….there, and served no real purpose. There is areason they needed Steve Urkel (yes I will get to him in a second), the kidswere just so bland. So the winner should be obvious, where Family Matters gotthe adults right, it was Full House who got the kids right. They were smart, adorable,pretty, and we loved watching them week after week.
Do you really wonder who is going to win this one? Bothshows had annoying neighbors who didn’t understand boundaries. Full House hadKimmy Gibber, but to be fair at first she was just a friend of D.J.’s. I thinkit was only after Steve Urkel took off they tweaked Kimmy to make her thefemale version. It never really worked. Family Matters wouldn’t even beremembered if not for Steve Urkel. I have already talked so much about him, buthe was the perfect sitcom nerd. He knew no boundaries, and caused all kinds ofchaos week after week. Why did the Winslow’s put up with him for a second? As Isaid before I think was because they knew deep down he was a really good kidwith a big heart. He didn’t mean to cause trouble, it just kind of happened. Thereal funny thing about Urkel is that he was never meant to be a regular. In hisfirst and what was supposed be his only appearance he was just a nerd Carlhired to date Laura to keep her away from another guy. He was a hit, so they kepthim and the show took off. Of course Kimmy never came close to that kind ofpopularity, and toward the end she was just there to grab a few punchlines andleave. I liked Andrea Barber and wonder what her character may have been likeif they had bothered to flesh her out a little bit. When they did let Kimmy behuman once in awhile, she was a nice character. Steve was the perfect exampleof laughing at someone on tv who you wouldn’t stand for a second in real life.Jaleel White did a great job with him, and its no wonder the show took off.
ROUND 4=SUPPORTING CAST
Of course we need other characters on these shows. Thankheavens Full House figured out that they needed a mother figure. I think one ofthe reasons it worked is because they did it gradually, giving the audience achance to get used to Becky without drastically shaking up the dynamic of theshow in one fell swoop. Becky was a great aunt, always there if the girlsneeded someone to talk to and ready to give advice. She was also a good mother,usually being the calm one while Jesse was the more irrational one. She reallyfilled out the dynamic on the show, and went from supporting character to anintegral part of the cast. I spoke in another article that this show had two ofmy favorite aunts, and of course Rachel is the other one. Funny thing is she wentthe other way, going from an integral part of the cast to a supportingcharacter. She was the fun aunt everyone wanted to have, who could also be thefirst to give constructive advice. She was also the character who complainedabout things like finding a guy and keeping a job. She was a prospective writerbefore opening Rachel’s Place. Lots of characters came and went through theseshows. Full House had Teddy, Steve, and the last season had D.J.’s on again offagain Nelson. Family Matters had Waldo, Maxine, Mra, and the alter ego’s ofSteve Myrtle and “Stefon”. Full Househad Nicky and Alex (two of the worst kid actors ever) and Family Matters hadLittle Richie and, later, 3J. All of these characters were memorable and helpedto make each show stronger. In the end I give the award to Full House. Why?Family Matters didn’t need Rachel; we hardly miss her in later episodes. ButFull House needed Rebecca, there had to a female presence in that house. Shefilled that role perfectly and to be honest she and her relationship with Jessewas one of the first things that drew me to the show.
ROUND 5= THEME SONG
This is a really hard one. These shows cornered the marketon clichéd 80’s themes with the corny song and actors smiling at the camera.Which one was better? I think Full House is a little because the song feelslike it sums the show up just a bit better, but this is a verryyy close call. Ilove both of these themes. By the way trivia fans did you know the original themeto Family Matters was “What a Wonderful World”? Thank heavens they changedthat.
Alright, we know that the characters were kind of bland butwhat about the stories? Which show managed to be more interesting to watch?Gonna own up here, I was an avid fan of Full House while only being a sometimefan of Family Matters. A big reason forthat is the fact Full House was on Tuesday and Family Matters was on Friday.Family Matters big failing to me was the way it became more about Steven Urkeland less about the family. Full House didn’t do that. Sure, Michelle was cutein every episode and while she was featured prominently in the early years(especially season 3) they never let her overshadow the rest of the cast. Family Matters on the other hand...I mean, Justcheck out the season 1 DVD, Urkel is front and center and the family is stuckin the back as if they were barely in the show. Full House actually improvedthe show after its first season. They got Rebecca in there, they realized Dannybeing a sportscaster was idiotic (notice how fast that was forgotten?), Jesse cuthis hair and stopped acting like a reject from “Grease” and the stories got a littlemore based in reality. A little. Family Matters took more risks with episodesabout racism and guns. There was one where Steve got drunk and almost fell offa ledge. Then there was the gang episode. A gang trashes Rachel’s restaurant.Ok, no biggie there. The big shock of the episode is when Eddie appears. Hetried to confront the gang and got his butt kicked. The scene where he appearsin the doorway is haunting and powerful, too bad the episode had to degradeback into the usual Steven Urkel crap after the commercial. Full House triedserious to, but it never really worked. I talked before about the parentalabuse episode, which would have been moving…..if we had met and spent time withthe kid and the resolution didn’t happen off-screen! Nice try. They did do adecent episode when the grandfather passed away; I will give them that one. Ihave to mention the Nostalgia Critic review of Full House, and a lot of what hesaid was right. I think he missed the point that this show was a kid’s show,and therefore is going to be silly. He wasn’t wrong as much as a little toohard on it. So, who did the better job? I think Full House was great as a sillyshow, but when it tried to get serious it just didn’t work. In Family Mattersthe drama was balanced out a lot better, so a serious episode didn’t feel likeit came out of nowhere. They also knew how to have fun doing dream sequences and episodes just for laughs. I give credit to Family Matters for taking a few more chances, being a little morereal and not just junk food for the mind (not that there’s anything wrong withthat).
ROUND 7-JUMPING THE SHARK
Well, I think we all know where this is going. I was onboard when Family Matters became more about Steve Urkel, but those last coupleof years got silly. They had time travel, cloning, and a device which teleportsthem to Paris and turned Carl and Steve into ninja’s. On a family comedy!!!What in the world happened those last couple of years? I didn’t even mind whenthey did Stefan at first, they explained it enough and the episode was funny.But when they cloned him so he could be a regular…really?? I understand JaleelWhite was tired of the Steve Urkel stuff, but what the heck?? The final episodehad Steve going into space (Big Bang Theory couldn’t even pull it off!) andwasn’t even an official series finale. Even though the audience, and the original network, had given up on theshow they still thought they may get renewed. Full House last season wasactually pretty good; I think they could have done another easily. But instead theygot out before it got stale (and Bob Saget hung himself). The final episodealso wasn’t an official final episode, but it was a well done hour and a sweetway to wrap the series. Full House stayed more constant, the final season didn’tneed stunts or gimmicks to keep the audience. It was the same show it hadalways been. Family Matters every episode had another Steve destroys something stunt which gotsillier and sillier, and those last couple years were just plain awful. Plusthey did serious to many times to the point it started to feel like a gimmick,and lose its attraction. So which was better? At the end of the day, my heart still belongsto Full House more than Family Matters. Back in my Who’s The Boss vs. Roseannearticle I said I preferred the corny stuff over the serious stuff, I prefer escapismtelevision. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise anyone that as good as FamilyMatters was I have to say that Full House was the better show. There is another reason, Full House had a timeless charm which was just missing from Family Matters. I never had the compulsion to watch Family Mattes regularly or in re-runs, but I do like watching Full House there is just something about it. It's a fun show to watch over and over again, and I don't think the same can be said for Family Matters.
Both of these shows are good family shows, and while it’seasy to nitpick them both for not being realistic it doesn’t mean that they arebad. I find that the more wholesome the family show the more it gets picked on,I wonder why that is?
Categories: 80's and 90's central