Full House was the rare sitcom that took a premise too cute to turn down and found great success in making it even cuter. “Cut it out!” “Watch the hair!” “How rude!” The show even made being peeved a thing of cuteness. But behind all the bedside heart-to-hearts and grown man/little girl dance-offs, there was a lurking improbability threatening to bring it all down like a (full) house of cards. How did Danny Tanner afford his kingdom?
Just think, two dubiously employed grown men eating from the fridge like they brought home the bacon, three city girls running the wallet-draining gamut from diapers to first cars, all living in one of the most expensive cities in the country with no second income to back it up. The average annual cost of raising three children is around $45k per year, according to the USDA, while the average local anchorman makes around $65k. Even if Danny lived like a monk himself, this would be a tough budget to balance. But then add on the exorbitant cost of living in a historic “Painted Lady” townhouse, the largest of which recently sold for $3.1m, and things get downright impossible.
Sure, with San Francisco’s housing prices in the late-80s being about a quarter of what they are now, Danny’s mortgage would’ve been about the same as renting shoebox in the Tenderloin today. But even another $40k a year in mortgage would seem to break the Tanner family budget even faster than it took to realize Gia was a bad influence on Stephanie. Which was pretty much immediately. It’s no wonder then that they cancelled the show after just eight seasons and 192 episodes. Impossible to maintain so massive a lie for very long! But with Fuller House now out on Netflix and the whole family still mooching off the Tan-man, it’s time to take a closer look at what was really going on financially in that full house on the hill.
First of all, Danny didn’t spoil his kids the way some of their friends might’ve been (looking at you, Gibbler). The girls went to public school, not private. He put DJ in karate, not Cotillion. Stephanie took community hip-hop classes, not ballet. And when DJ turned 16, Joey bought her a classic clunker that he and the guys fixed up themselves (only to learn it was in fact stolen).
Then there were the uncles; quick with a hair tip or woodchuck joke, not so much with rent. Sure, Jesse and Joey could pitch in a couple hundred here and there after a Rippers show or fruitful prop comic gig to help Danny make his nut. But far more valuable were their domestic contributions: Free, on-call childcare, housekeeping, they even learned how to cook. Takeout for six (plus Kimmy Gibbler, Rebecca or human vacuum Steve) wasn’t cheap, even before San Francisco became home of the fourteen dollar salad. That’s why the Tanners hit their bountiful local farmers markets and bought in bulk, save the rare extra-large pizza.
And instead of paying for years of costly talk therapy for his daughters following the loss of their mother, Danny took matters into his own hands holding nightly Danny Talks dispensing life lessons and saving the girls from the perils of adolescence. Which brings up the sinister–yet financially crucial–elephant in the room: Danny’s late wife Pam was killed by a drunk driver, which, while too tragic to bring up most episodes, surely offered a hefty payout beyond any life insurance she had, giving Danny and the girls (and their uncles) the posthumous support they needed.
But why stick with such an ostentatious abode in the absence of a partner when something more befitting a local morning news reporter single dad, say a condo in the East Bay or Outer Sunset, could have sufficed? Danny’s logic here may be hidden in plain sight, right in the title of the show. Danny knew the house would be worth the splurge if it gave him room to pack in his entire extended family/domestic task force. Jesse and Joey wouldn’t be around to help out if they weren’t living on the premises.
In other words, to make any of this work, Danny knew he’d need a Full House. The girls would share a room, the basement converted to be Joey’s bedroom and comedy studio, and the attic Jesse’s bachelor penthouse turned first family home. Have mercy indeed. Stuffing every room with mooches who could double as minor league contributors actually gave Danny the edge he needed to afford it all while giving us one gosh darn heck of a sitcom.