A Classic Sitcom Trope Crawls Home To Fuller House
A creepy critter makes a cameo in S02.E08, and the platonic ideal of sitcom moments occurs.
It's a truth universally acknowledged in Sitcom World that if a pair of handcuffs is produced, the two most conflict-prone protagonists will wind up cuffed together. We also know that an elderly recurring character will probably be killed off to teach a Very Special Lesson about accepting death. No wedding will ever go off without one party almost missing the whole thing. And if a tertiary character owns a creepy pet, said creepy pet will escape its confines and wind up perched atop the head of the most potentially creepy-pet-phobic character.
Well, in the show from which this one is descended, DJ and Stephanie got handcuffed together in Season 2; I'm still not quite over Papouli (R.I.P.); and Jesse inexplicably parachuted into a tree and got arrested on his wedding day. When it comes to the Full(er) House universe, there really aren't very many sitcom tropes left to conquer. There, at the bottom of the barrel, lies Chekhov's Tarantula, and it's a bit of a shock to realize that OG Full House somehow never managed to get there. (I checked; they really didn't. Pro tip: Googling pretty much anything in conjunction with "tarantula" takes you to a bunch of thumbnail images that will haunt your dreams tonight, many of which don't even feature tarantulas, but instead are of other creatures that are probably also metatagged with "what's grosser than a.")
It's entirely possible that Fuller House's entire existence owes itself to this single oversight. Perhaps we needed to reboot the franchise in order to make sure a tarantula worked its way onto someone's head. Perhaps prissy, hammy Max was written and cast specifically for that one perfect close-up of a be-spidered noggin and the gradual crescendo of overwrought horror this moment always inspires in its victim. Because truly, there is no moment sitcommier, no moment purely Full House-ier, than this one, and perhaps it will never be topped.
Let's take a look at the tortured machinations required to bring this moment to life. First, the spider itself. From the instant Lola ambiguously asks her friends to care for her "pet," the writing's on the wall: someone's gettin' spidered. Out here in reality, there's no earthly reason a pet tarantula needs round-the-clock ministrations. They eat about once a week. Lola's parents really should have been able to get their housesitter to toss the thing a cricket and call it a day, but then it wouldn't have been able to escape in the Fullers' backyard.
Of course, we also need to make sure the payoff occurs in front of the most people possible, and since the show blew its set budget on that haunted house back in Episode 4, we're doing everything from professional dance auditions to school field trips at the Fuller compound. And so young Max is compelled to face his tarantula moment in front of family, classmates, AND a weirdly skeezy teacher with a thing for Fernando, right in the middle of his completely bonkers science project presentation. This is obviously the pinnacle of Elias Harger's acting career so far, and it's hard for him to hide the joy he feels at finally getting to unleash his full emoting potential as he careens from disbelief to numb shock to full-on "getitoffgetitoffgetitoff" hysteria in a matter of seconds.
Nobody ever came to Fuller House looking for nuanced insight into the human condition, of course, but on a show full of broad moments, this is one of the all-time broadest. And after you consider that the episode's B-plot wraps up with a slow-motion montage of a dog and a baby being best friends, you might need to step away from the sitcoms and binge-watch a couple seasons of The Wire before you overdose on cheese.