Number 11 -- Saved By The Bell and Full House
(Full House title card by MaroBot. Check out his DeviantArt page for more NC title cards!)
Release Years: 1989-1993 (SBTB); 1987-1995 (Full House)
Networks: NBC (SBTB); ABC (Full House)
Posting Dates: August 25, 2008 (SBTB); May 26, 2009 (Full House)
Okay, to start off this countdown we have a tie. A flipping tie, like I said would pop up eventually. And what are these two reviews? A couple of sitcoms? One a likeable, but silly, dopey, and cheesy Saturday morning sitcom representing the 80s backwash bleeding into the 90s. The other a cutesy, safe, kid-friendly, sappy family sitcom with lame jokes.
Oh, but I kid. From the perspective of my own personal nostalgia, these two shows have a lot in common. Like I said about the Raiders of the Story Arc reviews, I had a couple of older siblings and they were both children of the 80s the same way I was a child of the 90s. Even prior to my formidable years, they had started to get into live action shows, my older sister in particular. (One of her biggest favorites was The X-Files, FOX's mystery procedural about the weird, paranormal occurrences and the alien invasion conspiracy.) As such, she had an attachment to both these shows, which were very popular in their heyday and still are fondly remembered today. And honestly, I caught a lot of it as well.
But what set the two apart? Really, not a whole lot. Saved by the Bell aired on Saturday mornings, and was in fact at one point in its run the only kid's show NBC was airing anymore. Full House, on the other hand actually aired in prime time, one of many youth-focused or family-friendly sitcoms airing on the ever popular TGIF. (And for that matter, those shows weren't the only sitcoms on ABC at the time about families or focusing on young characters. Hell, that tradition actually continues today, between Modern Family, The Middle, Last Man Standing and Suburgatory.)
Most relevant to here though, the Critic takes a rather different approach with each. His Saved By the Bell review a gentle, but stern ribbing of a cheesy, cliche-reliant show. On the other hand, his Full House review is incredibly scathing, particularly towards the cutesy, hard-G tone.
The Saved By the Bell review is most indicative of nostalgia, as the Critic admits it represented his ability to look back on his youthful impression and really laugh. It's comparable to today's kids enjoying Disney Channel sitcoms (where this show's influence is most clear, including the High School Musical telefilms), or even the modern teenage girl fawning over Twilight. Back then, he saw the upbeat depiction of teenage life and assumed that high school was naturally going to be like that, and not as difficult as it turned out to be.
There wasn't much to the show itself, except cheesy recurring elements like the generic stinger music or the bombastic studio audience. Instead, he just discussed the development (including part of its complex history as Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which was supposed to be about Hayley Mills as a teacher), the standard-issue cast of characters it codified for all future kids' shows, and individual episodes exemplifying the light, silly, cliched tone.
I thought the best jokes in the review were about how the show caught the tone of the 1980s, even though by the time it caught on we were already in the 90s. The show worked like a time capsule like that, following that awkward period in the early part of the decade when the 80s culture wasn't ready to fade away quite yet. As the Critic himself said, "It's like the 80s are trying to die, but someone keeps trying to resuscitate it." I mean, there's one episode where the gang starts a band and actually hits it big (spoilers, it was all just a dream), and we get the predictable point where Zack starts a solo career, and gets a image makeover to look like this:
If you watch the review, you can see the Critic absolutely powerless to control his laughter.
But to be fair, he admitted that while the show was stupid and for all his riffing, it was also pretty harmless. I agree with that sentiment, and have a good deal of respect for this show. While it may have happened on its own, it takes a lot for something like this to have as much influence as it did. Hell, a lot of the cast is still working prominently today, between Mark-Paul Gosselaar as a lawyer and Mario Lopez as an entertainment reporter.
And then you have the Full House review, which was more merciless and had more of a solid structure to it. The Critic knew exactly what it was about this show that annoyed him and zeroed in on those elements, including the cast of characters and it's Archie Comics level of humor (and that may be overestimating it). This was the kind of show that knew just how to evoke sentiment from the audience, and I admit even bordered on manipulation for it. Not that other TGIF sitcoms didn't do that on occasion (in particular, shows like Perfect Strangers and Family Matters from the same production team), but this show made a regular function out of a big, dramatic speech over a simple, harmless conflict, and even playing that big, overwrought music over it.
The Critic would describe such the series as "The life of people in picture frames", because there weren't any serious dilemmas. I can see what he means, but I'm also going to risk annoying a lot of people by also giving it the benefit of the doubt. You can tell this was an inexplicable kind of show the Critic watched, Doug Walker describing the experience at one point as "Cocaine for the eyes", because he was so annoyed that he didn't pick up one crucial plot point. He says the mother died from an illness, but she was actually killed by a drunk driver. Personally, I consider this the darkest the show has gotten. They never did much with it, but I feel like giving it a little credit. Still, I can understand the Critic saying things in his second F--k-Up video like "I don't remember it being mentioned, but enough people insist that I'm not going to debate them...I'm surprised at how many people follow Full House...lore, but there you have it."
And to follow up on that, let me bring up the truly scathingly hilarious bits about the Olsen Twins, who play the most dynamic character as youngest daughter Michelle. The best way he could describe the character was "She had the job of spewing catchphrases", but there's more to how famous the Olsen Twins became. They had this multi-million dollar empire based around merchandise and straight-to-video movies called Dualstar, and even made another TGIF sitcom close to the end of the block's run, Two of a Kind (which, honestly would get more out of their father and their babysitter). The Critic would describe these two with terms like "Gremlin Babies" or "Troll Children", and even ended the review with the two as the demon twins from The Shining.
On the other hand, I've heard nothing but good things about their sister, Elizabeth Olsen.
But overall, I can say that the night this review went up, I was watching Doogie Howser, MD on Hulu right before catching wind of it. That should remind me of how superior that fellow ABC show of the time was. There are plenty of other TGIF sitcoms that held up better, from the King of the Hill to the lineup's Animation Domination, Boy Meets World, to Growing Pains spinoff, Just the Ten of Us. Hell, I think even Saved By the Bell held up better. (In fact, the more I think about it the more I realize that it was this show that inspired Hannah Montana more.) I don't hate Full House, but it's not really "good" either.
So, on the whole sitcoms were actually a big part of my life, right down to my older brother's obsessions with Cheers and the Fonz. I mean, The Simpsons may be animated, but it's a sitcom too. And today, I proudly have Community to look upon. The Critic doesn't review TV shows often (although after he depleted his resources, he covered three Stephen King miniseries, but those are more like long movies), and if you watch his "Top 11 Nostalgia Critics I'll Never Do" vlog, it's easy to see why.
But, I am glad he covered at least two sitcoms in his run (though most of his TV shows were video game cartoon adaptations). And between Saved By the Bell and Full House, the choices were all but natural.