There’s an episode of Full House, where Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) has driven the car into the kitchen, and out of fear she has run away to her Aunt Becky’s (Lori Loughlin) house. Meanwhile, the others — Uncle Jessie (John Stamos), DJ (Candace Cameron) and Kimmy (Andrea Barber) — wonder how to tell Danny (Bob Saget) the truth about his damaged kitchen.
Pretending it’s a surprise for him, the children lead Danny into the kitchen. He’s thrilled and says cheerfully, “Oh you know how I love surprises!” He enters and sees a broken kitchen. It’s this comical expression of shock, horror that I still remember to this day, as well as how he immediately checks on his daughters to see if they’re okay, before agonising over the state of his unusually spotless kitchen.
There were many reasons why the methodical, disciplined and organized Danny Tanner stands out as an iconic and relatable TV Dad — terribly annoying at times, overly protective about his daughters, manic about keeping the house clean, and yet, a dad who loved his children, unconditionally. Messy, flawed, unnerving but with a soft heart — just very human. A Full House episode ended with ‘a talk’ with Danny Tanner, accompanied by cheesy music to signify the importance of a new life lesson for the kids. You didn’t have to learn anything from it, but you would still want to know what Danny Tanner had to say. Bob Saget brought his own brand of personality and humour to Danny — he could say the funniest things with a deadpan expression. That sense of humour worked perfectly for the family sitcom. He never exaggerated, or was ridiculously over-the-top, even though the show did try to edge him in that direction.
As Bob Saget left for the stage in the sky, he took a part of many childhoods with him. Bob Saget immortalised many roles in his lifetime, but it’s his presence as Danny Tanner that is special for so many. For most of us, whose parents were rather picky about we watched — we grew up on a diet of Full House. The show was about three hapless dads, dealing with three girls who walked through adolescence and adulthood in the show that lasted eight years. It was ironic — the show wasn’t a classic, neither was it coming-of-age or profoundly wise, and it didn’t intend to be. It addressed heavy problems—perhaps more so than it could—- that were solved in twenty minutes, a trademark of most sitcoms. Yet, the characters shone through and their dialogues became oft-quoted years later, and they gave the show the cult-status it has today. And, one character was Bob Saget’s Danny.
He didn’t intend to be family-loving, dust-busting Danny Tanner, in fact, he had tried a whole host of other things before he took up the show that defined his career. In an old interview, he recalled his curious trajectory. The first thing he did ‘of consequence’ was a Richard Pryor movie called Critical Condition. “Then I got a PBS TV show called The Morning Program, which went up against Good Morning, America. I did that for about five months and was fired,” he said.
After that, he was asked if he wanted to host a show where people got whacked constantly, so he did America’s Funniest Home Videos for eight years. He was working for over 80 hours a week, at two commercial shows, both of which family-friendly. He moved into stand-up comedy, leaving behind the mantle of Danny Tanner forever, as he forayed into ‘filthy’ humour as he proudly said. His style of comedy evolved and he transitioned into a different era effortlessly.
Yet, perhaps some of us who were not familiar with stand-up comedy scene, wondered where Danny Tanner had gone.
As if to grant our wishes, Bob Saget became another invisible TV dad, when he became the voice of the ‘older’ or ‘future’ Ted Mosby, in How I Met Your Mother. To frame the narrative, Bob Saget was brought in to chronicle Ted’s experiences to his children and was a storytelling device to move the plot ahead. Later, Saget explained that the makers were looking for an older actor, with a recognisable voice. Recalling how he got the part he had said, “I was doing a play in New York, an off Broadway play. And I get a call from Pam Fryman, who was one of the exec producers of How I Met Your Mother. She also was the director. And she’s just one of the best people I know. I knew her from my kids’ school because her daughters are my daughters’ friends. She called and said, ‘Look, we think you’d be right to be the voice Josh Radnor.’ And I said, ‘Why doesn’t he do it?,’ which everybody’s been asking since. [Laughs] And the reason was, they just wanted him to sound older, and people knew my voice, it was a familiar voice. They had another guy in mind for it too, and they went with me.”
This was clearly the right call, as it separated the narration from the on-screen character, that was played by Josh Radnor.
Even without being present, Bob Saget could bring humour, little mystery and sadness into the scene, using just his voice. Considering HIMYM belonged to the 2000’s and wasn’t quite meant for younger children like Full House, the life lessons that Bob Saget expounded were far more profound and impactful. He didn’t have too much to say either, as there was a different cast acting out the story—but there was always some gravitas to his words.
In one of his final interviews, Bob Saget said that he just wanted to make people laugh. Well, he always did. Be it as Danny Tanner or just a floating voice.