Father’s Day is almost here, and this year I’d like to pay tribute to the best kind of dad there is. He doesn’t say embarrassing things in front of your friends. You never have to worry about what the heck to buy for him. You do not, when taking inventory of your genetic shortcomings, have to blame him for passing on his crappy DNA. I’m talking about TV dads, of course. If you grew up in the 1980s or 1990s, there’s a good chance that one of your main TV dads was Danny Tanner from Full House.
Danny Tanner is a perfectly adequate TV dad – infuriating enough that you could project your annoyances with your real Dad onto him, but not a bumbling idiot like the dads on the Fat Guy/Skinny Wife shows. But the older I get, the more I realize that Danny Tanner would make a shitty real-life dad. When his wife dies, he compensates for the loss of a female influence on his girls by bringing his male college buddy and bachelor brother-in-law to dwell in the basement and living room, like some sort of cross between the attic lady from Jane Eyre and a passed-out frat party guest. He frequently ropes his adult male tenants into ridiculing his daughter’s friend, a socially awkward preteen girl. Instead of teaching his youngest child to speak, he just arms her with a slate of catch phrases, like a human See ‘n Say : “you got it, Dude!”, “no way, Jose!”
He’s also kind of a secret asshole:
And a not-so-secret dork:
And then there was the cleaning thing, which was weird, right? It was weird.
But the defining feature of Danny Tanner as a TV Dad were his “Dad Talks.” Now, I have gone over a quarter-century without being subjected to a real-life “Dad Talk,” and if the universe is good to me, it will continue like that. However, in the Tanners’ crowded Victorian row house, not a week passed without a kid having to learn a moral lesson and getting pulled into a hug. I much prefer never talking about anything serious and not hugging anyone ever, but clearly the Tanners were not Irish Catholic. Let’s be honest, the house would have been even fuller if they had been.
By the time I was eight, I had the Danny Tanner Dad Talk formula down. It’s that easy! So, let’s break it down, shall we:
(1) Kid Screws Up
There are so many ways a kid can screw up! Go to a makeout party. Skip out on kindergarten. Tackle Cousin Steve during a rousing game of flag football. Go joy-riding during Equestrian lessons (God, how did I not notice that Michelle was such a rich little brat?) and lose your memory after falling off your horse. Call a classmate “duck face.” Intentionally screw up your Motown Philly routine. If the house was full of anything, it was youthful indiscretions.
(2) Dad Talk Commences
At the end of an episode, Danny sits one of his kids down – usually in their bedroom – and gives one of those Jerry Springer Sermons. I understand that that’s a dated reference but if you’re reading about Danny Tanner Dad Talks, I think you’ll get it. Other things to make you feel old: the Danny Tanner of the Pilot is only 29 years old – which means he was a teen dad. Why is this never discussed?? It gives you a whole new perspective on Danny and Poor Dead Pam, doesn’t it? Another we’re-so-old aside: to children watching Full House reruns today, the show is as old as Brady Bunch reruns were to us 90s kids. Yikes.
Back to the Dad Talks. If it’s a Very Special Episode, the Dad Talk may be delivered by a different cast member. For instance, when Michelle didn’t want Jesse to move out BECAUSE HE WAS A GROWN-ASS MAN WITH A WIFE, he delivered the Dad Talk about how she’d always be his munchkin. Then Jesse forced his wife and, later, two children, to live in the Tanner attic (Jane Eyre!), like what was up with this family’s boundary issues? Aunt Becky delivered the Dad Talk when D.J. had one of those Family TV 72-Hour Eating Disorders (see also: Lizzie Maguire, Roseanne).
(3) The Music Swells
Like The Brady Bunch, Full House uses a maudlin, instrumental version of its own theme song as the score. And as I did during Brady Bunch reruns, my child self couldn’t help but mentally sing along with the drawn-out title song: “eeeeh -ver- eee where you loook …” or “here’s the sto-ho-ho-reeee.”
(4) Hug It Out
It’s like the handshake at the end of a business deal: no Dad Talk is officially over until the child has confirmed receipt of the Dad Talk with a hug.
(5) Danny’s Got Jokes
Those TV geniuses at Miller-Boyett knew they had to break the spell somehow, so one of the characters would crack a joke. This allowed the laugh track to come in, cutting off the instrumental theme song. You can almost see the Full House composer, brow beaded with sweat, worrying how the HECK they were going to get out of this one, then sighing with relief as the laugh track cuts in.
The canned laughs lead straight into the upbeat closing score — “ba-da-ba-BAH-BAH-BAH!” Dad talk: accomplished.