About halfway through the pilot episode of Grandfathered, the first half of FOX’s Handsome Guy Family Hour, I thought to myself, “Man, whoever thought to pair John Stamos with a cute baby is a genius.”
It took me until the next commercial break to remember that the reason most people know John Stamos to begin with is because some genius thought to pair him with a cute baby. While Jimmy Martino and Jesse Katsopolis aren’t the same person, it’s difficult to watch Grandfathered and not expect Stamos to humbly ask for mercy. And let’s be clear: that is, by no means, a bad thing.
Full House looms large throughout this episode, and it’s clearly intentional, from the Bob Saget cameo to the photos of a younger Stamos sporting the Uncle Jesse coiffure. The years have sprinkled the Tanner residence with a fair amount of nostalgia—perhaps more than is warranted—and it’s understandable that Grandfathered would choose to lean into that, but it’s not necessary. Nor does the newer show suffer by comparison. It may not have the world’s most original premise, but it’s got charm. To co-opt the description that Jimmy’s chef (Ravi Patel) gives of his “gluten-free” parpardelle, it’s got tons of charm. It’s basically nothing but charm. And that can be pretty delicious.
Much of that is due to its lead, of course. Like Rob Lowe, who’s holding down the fort on Grandfathered’s next-door neighbor The Grinder, Stamos has made a career of pairing great hair and a strong jaw with undeniable appeal. He’s got a certain twinkle in the eye that makes him really difficult to dislike. Watching Stamos toss out punchline after punchline is a genuine delight, because watching anyone do something they’re great at is a delight. He’s an actor built for exactly this kind of material, and so he makes it sing.
He’s not the only one. Community’s Paget Brewster has no little amount of charm herself, and it’s of a completely different stripe. As Sara, the mother of Jimmy’s suddenly-appearing son Gerald (winningly played by Josh Peck), she puts the military-grade deadpan that served her so well at Greendale Community College to great use. From her first appearance, she proves to be a great foil for Stamos, and most of the episode’s biggest laughs are hers. When she says she’s cool (“I almost went to Coachella last year until I decided not to”), it’s easy to believe, and just as easy to understand why Jimmy might still be a little hung up on this girl from his very distant past.
And that brings us to what isn’t so grand about Grandfathered (sorry, couldn’t resist). The pilot breezily and efficiently executes item after item on its to-do list: Montage showing the glossy surface of Jimmy’s perfect life, check; introduce premise in form of unknown son and granddaughter, check; reconnect with former girlfriend and mother of said son, check. So of course it takes less than 12 minutes for Jimmy to let slip that out there, somewhere, is the girl he called ‘Sushi,’ the only girl he ever loved. Before the episode ends, of course, we know that Sushi is Sara. That’s how these things work. It was clear before Gerald ever picked up the photo that gave it all way. Jimmy might be surprised by the sharp turn his life takes, but it’s unlikely that the audience will be—at least not yet.
Still, it’s a promising start, made more promising by the tiny moments that do surprise. Stamos has a few moments that hint at Jimmy’s greater depths—depths probably filled with self-loathing, not to mention the Botox that’s not in his face. “I hate this feeling,” he mutters to Brewster in the hospital waiting room. “Suddenly I’m not just worrying about myself, I’m worrying about someone I actually care about.” It’s a great moment, followed minutes later by my favorite scene of the episode: Sara tells him the baby’s harmless fever is actually a failing liver, and that he’s the only potential donor, and without hesitating, Jimmy leaps into action. He answers her few questions, about hair-dye and cometic injections, without hesitation, and goes so far as to start removing his shirt in the hospital lobby.
This is a guy who will absolutely give this tiny child, a stranger to him a few days ago, his liver at a moment’s notice. He’s one-upped Jack Donaghy’s “Kidney Now!” telecast, that’s for sure. It’s a hell of a way to show the audience what exists at the core of this walking magazine cover. “I’m a 50-year-old bachelor,” he tells Gerald. “We’re society’s most worthless people.” Proving to us that he’s not might not be an incredibly original journey. Still, if each step is as pleasant as this one, and if Stamos gets to really explore the unsettled stuff we see peeking out around the edges, then have mercy.
- In case it isn’t already obvious, I had a great time watching this, so it’s hard to narrow things down to just a few choice quotes. But for whatever reason, “People are meat!” just cracked me right up. People are meat. Throw out that thermometer.
- Brewster is the supporting cast’s obvious standout, but Patel and Kelly Jenrette, playing the restaurant’s chef and management respectively, also turn in great work. I liked Jenrette in particular—”Employee. Lesbian.”
- I feel like Vanessa (Christina Milian) describing Jimmy as a Clooney and not a Rob Lowe was something of a missed opportunity.
- Speaking of Vanessa: please oh please, let’s skip the episode where she decides to hit on Jimmy. No thanks. Let’s not, and not say we did.
- That is one cute baby (babies, actually, since Edie is played by twins Layla and Emelia Golfieri), and the snot dripping out of her nose in her first closeup was spot-on.
- If you were wondering about the song in the episode’s final moments, that’s Jamie Lidell’s “Another Day,” and I highly recommend it. Great tune, great (and really strange) video, and it kicks off a really great album.
- Hi! I’m Allison. I like the memory of Full House more than the show itself, I’ll be here all season, and I’ll probably be watching the rest of the Handsome Guy Hour, too. Who doesn’t love Sam Seaborn (or Chris Traeger, for that matter)?