Lifetime has always been known for its sordid, affair of the week-type movies, but now the network seems to be rebranding itself to be known for their unauthorized biopics. Last year, they kicked it all off with The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story, followed by movies on Brittany Murphy and Whitney Houston. Their latest addition to the canon, The Unauthorized Full House Story, promised to give us a look at what went on behind the scenes of one of America’s favorite sitcoms from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
In 1996, Candace Cameron was cast in a Lifetime movie called No One Would Tell, in which she played a teen who was being abused by her boyfriend (played by Fred Savage)—with Unauthorized Full House, the network finally made a movie about the actual show that made her famous. But with it, there was no scorned cast member ready and willing to dish dirt, the way Dustin Diamond informed and executive-produced Lifetime’s Saved by the Bell biopic. Execs admitted to conjuring up the Unauthorized Full House story based on interviews and public knowledge.
It was my duty to watch the film, not as a Full House fan, but as an obsessed John Stamos fan. As someone who owns two Uncle Jesse dolls (one includes Rebecca and their twins), a puzzle in his likeness and who once had stickers made of his face during a street art phase over a decade ago, I was curious to see how Lifetime would portray my Grecian boo.
When I first saw a photo of Lifetime’s designer impostor John Stamos and the other cast members, I described the feeling it produced was uncanny valley. They looked similar to the real actors but very, very off. At least Justin Gaston, the actor playing Stamos, is hot. Real-life John Stamos sent a message:
The first scene depicting “John Stamos” shows him working at his father’s diner. A couple of years before, he had a breakthrough role as Blackie Parrish in General Hospital. There is a crowd of soap opera fans in the diner, ogling him. “They’re not here to see John Stamos, they’re here to see Blackie Parrish,” John complains. There is no mention of his under-appreciated roles from the years before that, like when he appeared in the eerie, live-action version of Alice in Wonderland. There is not even a whisper of the awesomely-terrible cult film Never Too Young to Die, which teamed Stamos up with Vanity (yes, of Vanity 6) to fight an evil hermaphrodite named Velvet Von Ragner played by Gene Simmons. “I’ve had two failed series and I’m not even 22 yet. No one’s gonna hire me, I’m damaged goods,” John complains.
In my dreams, Cher’s character from Moonstruck comes in and screams, “Snap out of it!” But instead, his dad gives him a motivating pep talk. “Fewer parties, more work,” he advises. Oh, the dad is played by Peter DeLuise. Lifetime has been doing this thing lately where they throw someone surprising in some rando cameo. For instance, two weeks ago I watched a Lifetime Original Movie in which Stacey Dash (aka Dionne from Clueless) was playing a secretary.
The film then transitions to the auditions, in which everyone starts trying out for Full House and getting cast in their roles, except for Bob Saget (played by Garrett Brawith). They first give the role of Danny Tanner to an actor named John Posey. There are many moments where Bob acts chill or makes a dirty joke, then when the other person leaves the room, the camera closes up on his Very Concerned Face. Candace Cameron (Shelby Armstrong) sucks at first and bummed, but somehow barges in the audition room and forces them to give her a do-over. Jeff Franklin, the creator of the series, has dinner with John. John suggests changing the name of his character, from Uncle Adam to Uncle Jesse, inspired by Elvis’s twin brother who died at childbirth.
During their depiction of the shooting of the pilot, I was happy to see Uncle Jesse wearing one of his signature outfits: a tight red shirt with a black vest over it. JUST LIKE HIS DOLL! The show gets picked up, but Jeff is just not into the guy playing Danny Tanner. He’s been thinking about Bob. And just like that, they get rid of the original actor and hire him.
Saget and Stamos meet for the first time on set. Little do they know, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Saget and Dave Coulier try to trick Stamos by saying that their characters are gay. “If I swung that way, I would peel you like a soft shell crab,” Saget tells Stamos. That line is so weird, I wish one of the actors would verify its authenticity on Twitter.
There’s a road trip to Vegas for male bonding, with a soundtrack that reminds me of the transitions on Seinfeld. Are we watching a sitcom within a sitcom?
Of course, Unauthorized Full House absolutely had to depict scenes of John Stamos with his band. In one, he does a cover of Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”; Jodie Sweetin (Dakota Guppy) gets on the bongos. Everyone’s having a BLAST! In another, he’s doing a cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and wearing an acid wash vest. This is when I realize I would totally bang this designer impostor Stamos.
The show is doing well while the casts’ lives are on the up and up. Dave announces his engagement to a model named Jayne. John has a look of melancholy on his face. A life where one is constantly being surrounded by beautiful women can be so lonely.
Bob and Dave tease Stamos about his dating roster: Chelsea Noble (who ended up with Kirk Cameron), Marlee Matlin and Denise Richards. The timeline is wrong since Denise and John didn’t date until after she was divorced from Charlie Sheen. His current flame is thee one and only Paula Abdul. They show a scene with the impostor Paula Abdul (Lisa Marie DiGiacinto) and I am happy to see her in sequins and an extremely high ponytail. They break up shortly after, and I am disappointed there is no reference to him being the inspiration for her song, “Cold Hearted Snake.”
There’s a lot of real life sadness: divorce happens to Bob, Dave, the Olsens’ parents and Lori Loughlin. Bob and Dave’s sisters both die. A scene shows Candace Cameron reading a tabloid about her brother’s Growing Pains co-star, Tracey Gold, being anorexic. Candace doesn’t know what to do about the seedy underbelly of fame. “My brother says I should get closer to God,” she says. “We all have our own way of keeping our heads on straight,” John says, dropping his wise words on the young Candace. “Kirk has religion, I have music. You have to find out what’s best for you.” We all know how that turned out. This is the real-life Candace’s reaction to the movie:
There’s a scene where the three guys are so bored, they hang out in the prop room and do whip-its. I think every person watching this biopic was just as bored and wished there were whip-its around for them, too.
It wouldn’t be a Lifetime biopic without a bad wig, and The Unauthorized Full House had no shortage of them. One of my major problems with the movie was watching John’s hair not evolve. In real life, his hair became way tamer as the seasons went on, eventually transitioning to a Morrissey/rockabilly/mild Elvis-type ‘do. Lifetime sadistically left Justin Gaston in a shitty mullet wig for the majority of the film. How rude!
John literally runs into Rebecca Romijn at a Victoria’s Secret show. Her wig is gnarly. They start dating and later marry. In 2002, the real-life Romijn would tell Jane Magazine that she and John “first had sex at Disneyland.” She later vehemently denies they did it on the rides.
The show gets cancelled, Candace gets married and Stamos’s hair FINALLY evolves. There is an ongoing joke about Dave’s flatulence problem, so the last line belongs to Dave’s butt farting. Even stranger, the movie ends with a cover of Gin Blossoms’ “Follow You Down.”
If I were doing a one-word movie review, I’d describe The Unauthorized Full House Story as BAF—boring as fuck. I think Lifetime knows that it was going to be and is happily trolling us. But in two months, they will bring us unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place movies. I have higher hopes for juicy, Lifetime-esque escandalo in both of those (I Hate Brenda Newsletter, anyone?)
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Images via Lifetime.