Friday, March 4

Fuller House Friday - 'Our Very First Show, Again.'

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(Season 1, Episode 1: 'Our Very First Show, Again.')

The very first Fuller House Friday is upon us. We have much to discuss.

Nearly 21 years ago, on May 23 of 1995, Full House aired its Series Finale. I was 13 years old, and I remember thinking...

Hey, you know what? Screw this.

I was going to open on a sentimental note. I was going to get into a whole thing about why Full House mattered and was special to me on a personal level. About how my house wasn't like the Tanner's, and how escaping into TV for a few hours a night was a much-needed reprieve from the frustrations of adolescence. Full House was our only family tradition. We'd eat dinner together and watch TGIF (it would later move to Tuesday nights). It was a positive memory, I gotta say.

But here's the reality of the situation. On 5/23/95, Full House got cancelled for all the reasons it should have been cancelled. It was obsolete amongst the new, edgier landscape of network sitcoms. It was too cheesy. The kids had gotten too old. The fanbase had gotten too old. It didn't matter anymore. Every single trope that has ever been used to propel any episode of comedic television ever had already been laid on the table by Full House in an attempt to maintain a pulse: Wacky neighbors, weddings, divorces, funerals, pregnancies, twins, a precocious new character, a pet, very special episodes about drugs, alcohol, smoking, eating disorders, Alzheimer's, cheating, detentions, misunderstanding after misunderstanding after misunderstanding...

Mercifully (for some), it was over. Full House went on to find a second life in syndication and in the memories of those of us raised in the late 80's/early 90's, but TV and the real world (and The Real World) were more grown up now, and therefore so were we. It was time to move on...until February 26 of 2016, that is, when Netflix dropped 13 episodes of Fuller House into our laps.

Now, some of us are in our 30's. Some of us are married. Some of us have kids. Some of you have fond memories of Full House as a youth. Maybe it was a family tradition like it was with me. Maybe, like back then, you just need a little reprieve from reality for a second. A quick breather where you can feel safe and comfortable before once again trudging back into the unpredictability of adult life.

Whatever happened to predictability, anyway?

Alright, let's get weird. Are you ready for the Episode 1 review?

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From the opening frame, Jeff Franklin and company make it crystal flippin' clear that this is a nostalgia trip, front and center. We get the original opening titles and theme song, before fast-forwarding to the present day. As each cast member makes their grand entrance into the Tanner kitchen, the studio audience is beyond eating it with a spoon. They're slathering it over their gristle-smeared bodies with a ladle. Every catch phrase and wry look is met with an explosion of rapturous applause, and you can tell that the cast members themselves are just as happy to be there. It's a feel-good moment.

We quickly get a reset on the last 21 years:

Danny is about to sell the house, as he and Becky are taking their show national and moving to LA. He's married to a woman who has not yet been killed by a drunk driver, but hey, we're only 45 seconds in to the pilot. Maybe this is going to be a gritty reboot.

Jesse is, of course, moving to LA with Becky. He's composing music for General Hospital. As you would assume, both Jesse and Becky look stunningly beautiful for their age. Must be all the Greek yogurt. Fun Fact: Cam Newton is actually 41 years old.

Joey is a Vegas comic. I'm happier about this than I should be; I've been rooting for him ever since he controversially lost on Star Search in 1989. And hey, if Jeff Dumbass Dunham can be successful in 2016, Joey and Mr. Woodchuck sure as hell can, too. It's not all that far-fetched if you look at it that way.

DJ is a veterinarian with three boys and zero husbands. He exploded in a fire. If he doesn't explode in said fire, then Fuller House doesn't exist. Therefore, we sort of have to be happy that he exploded in that fire.

Nicky and Alex are college students, and they eat tacos and smoke weed for a living. Later on, Becky makes it clear that she's unfulfilled as a mother and hates what her children have become.

Stephanie is a touring DJ, and in a nice moment of life imitating art, she...has a bit of a wild past. She's like Jodie Sweetin minus the meth stuff. People also tell me she looks a little different from the last time we saw her, but I honestly can't see a difference. She was always a 5'9" blonde with a 32E rack, right? (I had to use Google for that joke. And I'm sorry.)

Michelle runs a fashion empire in New York, and couldn't make it out to the Bay Area for the get-together. This leads to an outstanding moment of fanservice as the cast breaks the fourth wall to reference the absence of the Olsen Twins. They know they only needed to cut a deal with one of them, right?

Hola, Tannerino's! It's Kimmy Gibbler! She's a divorced event planner with a teenage daughter. Steph teases a British accent which magically disappears once she says "How rude!" followed by more orgasmic applause. I...I liked the accent.

We now meet Max, DJ's middle son. Max is the physical manifestation of Full House's original humor. He's cute, gets the cheesiest lines, has the new catchphrases ("Holy chalupas!") and might be a sociopath (more on that next week). He says that "Donald Trump" is considered a dirty word in the house, which is equal parts topical and confusing, because he looks like a real Alex P. Keaton if you know what I mean. Also, the Tanner's always seemed a bit apolitical to me.

DJ and the kids have been living with Danny for about a year since the exploding, but now that Danny's selling the house, they have to find a new place to live. This leads us into an updated title sequence and theme song (performed by Carly Rae Jepsen) that is dope as hell, showing us the evolution of the characters throughout the years. I unabashedly admit to liking this song. When Jesse and the Rippers performed it on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last year, I realized that it probably should have been a minor radio hit in the late 80's.

We get back to Steph holding DJ's infant son, and we get our first boob joke of the season, maybe the first in the history of the series. So early on, and they're doing their best to hit every mark and classic moment; we've got huddling, apologizing, hugging it out...look, we know why this is all happening, but it's being done in the only way it could possibly be done. They get it, we get it, and we're moving on.

We briefly see Danny's wife Teri, who seems to be a bit of a hornball. She cannot wait for DJ and her goddamn kids to get out of Danny's house already so they can hump again right proper.

Fernando is Kimmy's ex-husband, who is obsessed with getting her back but is chronically unfaithful. The joke here (I guess?) is that the good-looking ladies' man is obsessed with a dweeb like Kimmy, but they're both sort of compatible idiots. Fernando reminds me of Fez from That 70's Show.

Everyone shows up to Danny's place for the going-away party. Steph is DJ'ing, and a NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK DANCE NUMBER BREAKS OUT. Another classic series callback. In walks Aladdin, er, Steve. Steve is the owner of Comet Jr. Jr., who is pregnant because why didn't you fix that goddamn dog, Steve? Not enough Golden Retrievers in the world, you selfish, lazy prick? You'd think that his veterinarian ex-girlfriend of all people would have taken care of that years ago. All that notwithstanding, I have my...reservations about Steve, which I'll get into in later episodes.

Jackson (DJ's oldest son) asks Jesse about owning a motorcycle as a child, to which Jesse says, "This was the 70's, when nobody cared about kids getting hurt." This was probably my first laugh out loud moment of the episode. I ended up having more of those than I thought I would throughout the season.

DJ and Kimmy appear to be trying to set up Ramona (Kimmy's daughter) and Jackson. If they knew that, in less than 10 minutes, they were about to live under the same roof, they probably wouldn't have planted that seed in their brains. The Rippers make a quick cameo, and the family forces Jesse to sing 'Forever.' They call back to it being a hit in Japan, and hey, he can still sing!

Just kidding, it’s a studio version of him singing it from God knows what year. His lipsync game is on point, though. The Tanner's must have gotten their share of noise complaints over the years.

Steve, now a divorced Podiatrist (solid), is still pining over DJ after all these years. He gorges on leftovers, and they imply he still has a bottomless appetite. Look, I'm ALL for the revisiting of jokes and character quirks, but I'm calling utter bullshit on this one. In the original series, Steve was an athletic, teenage captain of the wrestling team. His constant eating made perfect sense. But he's like, 40 now. If we're to believe that he's kept this up for the last 25 years, he'd be no less than 700 pounds and would have lost both legs to diabetes long before Obama was even in office.

Jackson tries to pull a Tom Sawyer on Max regarding taking out the trash, and Ramona calls him out. Max has been cleaning up for Jackson because he thinks he IMPLANTED AN EXPLOSIVE IN HIS BRAIN THAT WILL BLOW HIS HEAD OFF. I'm not kidding.

Kimmy tells Danny that she peeped on him all throughout childhood. Danny is 'Gibbler Satisfied.'

Real quick, I wanted to say that for some reason, I keep accidentally typing 'Kimmy Kibbler,' which would be a great name for a cat.

So, here we go with the main establishing of the series. DJ doesn't know what to do. She has three kids, no house, an exploded husband and everyone's leaving for greener pastures. Over the monitor (I think she did it on purpose), the family hears her dumping all of her problems onto the baby. Damn DJ, do you want to give Tommy a complex? Hearing this, literally everyone says they're willing to put their life on hold for her (except for Jesse, which was a nice touch of reality). Danny and Becky turn down the biggest opportunity of their lives and Joey offers to commute from Vegas to SF. However, sanity (sort of) prevails, and it's just Steph and Kimmy who decide to stay put. They move in with DJ, and Danny gives her the house.

Kimmy makes this decision without consulting with Ramona, which I feel is a bit of a dick move. She has to switch schools and everything. Danny must be swimming in cash to not put that house on the auction block. Max feigns a Fred Sanford-esque heart attack when he finds out he can have a puppy (Comet IV?). The family recreates a scene from the first episode where they all sing together, then everyone leaves the girls to fend for themselves. The End.

Wow. That's one of the spinoffiest spinoff pilots that ever spun off. The way they wallowed in the success of past for a bit, then handed the ball off and set up the remainder of the season...you can argue quality and relevance all you want, but the effectiveness, awareness and nostalgia factor were rock-solid. I liked it.

And speaking of wallowing in it, let's break Episode 1 down even further, with Cut It Out!

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- Joey is wearing a wedding ring, and series creator Jeff Franklin confirmed that he has a family (wife AND kids) back in Vegas. My current theory is that they didn't make the trip to 'Frisco because they're ventriloquist dummies.

- Jesse has a new job as a music composer for General Hospital. He goes on to say, "They always hire the best actors on there." This is a callback to Stamos starring on GH as Blackie Parrish.

- I can only assume the decision to have DJ widowed instead of divorced has to do with Candace Cameron-Bure (sister of Kirk Cameron-Batshit) and the conservative Christian idea that divorce is an irredeemable, unforgivable sin. Either that, or the Tanner’s just have some terrible, statistically-anomalous luck. If the show is ever rebooted a third time, expect the plot to revolve around one of DJs kids getting widowed.

- Maybe Kimmy became a party planner because of that one time everyone forgot her birthday, and DJ had to scramble at the last minute and it was just awful. Probably scarred her for life, and she devoted her adulthood to making sure nobody ever experienced that pain again.

Now, Full House was a relatively wholesome, G-rated series. But it's 2016, baby! Let's get ribald, with How Rude!

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- Jesse says that Becky has a firm butt and implied that they had sex last night. This happens, like, 10 seconds into the episode.

- Kimmy's event planning business slogan: "When you're ready to party, do it Gibbler-style!"

- The recently well-endowed Stephanie, when holding baby Tommy: "This may look like lunch, but the Dairy Queen's closed." Who eats lunch at a Dairy Queen, anyway?

- When Becky asks Jesse for another baby: "That ship has sailed, in fact it sunk…all seamen lost." Katsopolis vasectomy confirmed.

- According to Fernando, Kimmy knows "long-lost secrets of the Kama Sutra from deepest, darkest India." That must be part of what 'Gibbler-Style' is.

But hey, what's old is new again, and Fuller House still relies heavily on the cheesiness and heartfelt moments of the original. Let's touch upon this episode's cheesiest moments with Have Mercy!

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- Kimmy says she may be having an acid flashback, but never took acid, so maybe it's an antacid flashback. Steph should have made a drug joke here.

- Max...holy shit, Max. He gets all the lines that would have originally been written for Michelle or young Steph. "Comet having babies? This is better than Shark Week!"

- Danny interrupting 'Forever' with a cowbell solo was more than a little dated.

- The NKOTB dance number was...just kidding, that shit was awesome.

Your cheesy moments may vary.

And with that, the inaugural Fuller House Friday is in the books. Stop by next week, when we'll review Episodes 2 and 3. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

Monday, February 29

I'm The Best In The World At What I Do.

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Today's story is about being the best in the world at something. But first, we start at Christmas.

Not to brag or anything, but I was absolutely spoiled for Christmas last year by my mother. I didn't ask for anything besides black socks and an iTunes card (check and mate, by the way), but my mom has a knack for figuring out things I'd like before I'm even aware of their existence. She gambles on her knowledge of me and usually comes up big.

Provided it's not a cardigan. Her cardigan game is weak.

She found me a Wally World eggnog glass like the one from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. She found me a rad Walking Dead figurine from Japan. She even made a special project with my Nephew that is so cool it's going to be the focal point of its own future CDP essay. I was incredibly grateful for such bizarre accessories, especially considering that I saw none of them coming.

One such accessory was the Retron 3.

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The Retron 3 is a Retro Gamer's paradise. Like some people my age, I still have the game cartridges from my youth and prefer to play these games on a television with a system, not on a desktop or streaming emulator. However, while the cartridges are resilient and tend to stand the test of time, the systems (and especially the wires) do not. Enter the gorgeous happy medium of the Retron 3.

A slot for NES games, a slot for Genesis games and a slot for Super Nintendo games. Ports for the original controllers should you have them, universal wireless controllers in the event that you do not. Beautiful sound and beautiful video that looks outstanding on your flat screen TV. Works perfectly.

Also, this isn't even the latest version of the Retron. The '5' Model can accommodate over 10 classic systems. However, the NES/Genesis/Super NES games were the ones I cared about the most, so mom went with the 3 instead of the 5 and saved about $80. Good on her.

Needless to say, I was addicted to the Retron 3 for the first few weeks I had it. Sifting through my old games, seeing if they all worked, seeing if I was still good at them. I played a season on Madden '95 with the Packers, throwing 130 touchdowns and adding to Brett Favre's Hall of Fame resume. Scott Skyles and myself went on a path of destruction in NBA Jam that was borderline criminal. I played as Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat II and didn't quit until every head was separated from every body, spine and all. It was divine.

A more obscure game for the Sega Genesis that I remembered being pretty good at was PGA Tour Golf. This was the precursor to the larger EA golf games, the Tiger Woods franchise being the most well-known. I had remembered playing the game with my golf-obsessed uncles over the course of many weekends in the mid-90's, and popped it back in to see if I could still dominate the Player's Championship at Sawgrass like I used to.

I played a few tournaments and won a couple of them, feeling pretty confident in my arguably pointless abilities. However, my last round of the day was a doozy. I was playing spectacularly; better than I had ever remembered playing even as a kid. No bogies. Six birdies in the front 9. I was crushing it, but maybe more importantly, I was just having a good time reveling in the good vibes of my youth.

As I kept draining birdies in the Back 9, though, I started to wonder about the weirdness of video game World Records, and how cool it would be to be considered the best player in the world at a particular game (or anything, really). As a child, I was considered one of the best 'under 17' Table Soccer players in the world, and to this day it's the only thing in my life that's netted me more than one trophy.

When I wrapped my final round with a Genesis-shattering 11 under par, I pondered to myself, "I wonder what the World Record is for this game?"

So, on a whim, I took a couple photos of the screen.

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You'll notice another thing in the photo that blew my mind out the back of my skull. Even after nearly 25 years of collecting dust in a closet, the PGA Tour Golf cartridge remembered my initial save data! That's my old last name looking back at me; the same name I punched in when I was 10 years old. I do not understand how electronics work, and do not claim to.

So anyway, there's my 61. Hell of a round if I may say so myself. In fact, my -29 was more than enough to take the tournament in a landslide and net me a cool 260 grand. Take that, Bill Britton!

(Note: Bill Britton is currently 60 years old.)

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With this information, I went to Twin Galaxies, the Internet's Holy Grail of determining and logging all things Video Game Records. You may remember their involvement in The King of Kong, an outstanding documentary on the competitiveness of (in this case, arcade) gamers.

A word on Twin Galaxies, and the lengths one must go in order to register on their website. I have purchased several cars. I have applied for a dozen credit cards. I have rented four apartments. I have gotten married, legally changed my name, purchased a house and obtained a passport. However, the application process to get verified on Twin Galaxies in the single most comprehensive and rigorous process I have ever been a part of. It took me an entire afternoon. I literally had to speak to a man over the phone at one point. They will not, under any circumstances, have you pulling a fast one on them. They should be in charge of the TSA. It's unbelievable.

So, once I proved to Twin Galaxies that I was indeed a human man and should be allowed to view and discuss their World Records, I went right to the PGA Tour Golf section under Sega Genesis. And wouldn't you know it? There was a World Record for this game!

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...Aaaand I had broken it.

Pow. World Record. Someone give me a certificate.

Well, not so fast. The first thing I had to do was determine the difference between PAL and NTSC versions of the game, as there were separate records for both. However, the PAL record was 68, so either way I had broken both of them. Remember what I said earlier about electronics? Yeah, never gonna know what that means. Even if you tell me, I'll forget.

Secondly, I of course wasn't recording my 61, as I had no idea when I started that it would lead to something this weird, or even knew it was a thing that existed. Considering I had to send a goddamn DNA swab to Twin Galaxies so they could confirm I wasn't an android, a photo of my television amounted to jack shit on the Video Game World Record scene, and rightfully so. If I were to legitimately see this through, I would need to begin again, follow the posted rules and record my 61 from start-to-finish. Assuming I could ever replicate the 61 ever again.

So...

I mean, the only logical next move would be to go for it, right? To take an afternoon, set up a camera and attempt to become immortalized (however temporarily) in Retro Gaming History? To take a diving leap at that Brass Ring in a feeble attempt to ensure that my legacy will remain long after I am but dust in the fragile earth?

They say that everyone is the Best in the World at something. You hope for yourself that it's going to be something worthwhile. As a kid, I thought it would be video games. As a tween, I thought it would be kicking field goals for the Cincinnati Bengals. As a teen, I thought it would be playing the drums.

As an adult, it looks like it might be video games again. I'm gonna go for it.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

FRIDAY: THE TRIUMPHANT PREMIERE OF FULLER HOUSE FRIDAY.