You know how sometimes the supporting TV character is about a thousand times more interesting than the lead?
That’s how it felt watching Lifetime’s controversial “Unauthorized Full House Story” over the weekend. While viewers were supposed to be invested in the “drama” behind the scenes of the hugely successful ’90s sitcom, there was a far more fascinating subplot that deserves its own movie.
That would be the story of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the twins who became stars as babies on “Full House” when they starred as young daughter Michelle Tanner. They went on to be multi-millionaires by the time they were in first grade, continuing their film and fashion empire to this day. Their storyline was by far the most intriguing in the Lifetime movie — and if the film is to be believed, the Olsen twins have been stealing the spotlight since before they were old enough to talk.
While the actual “Full House” stars have dismissed the movie as terrible, it appears the Olsen plot points were at least inspired by true events. During one scene, the actor playing Bob Saget storms into the dressing room and shows Dave Coulier and John Stamos a piece of paper that features the cast’s “TVQ” scores, which measure a star’s likability. And who is at the top of the list? Mary-Kate and Ashley.
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“Such bullcrap!” Stamos says. “They’re 3 years old.”
“Michelle Tanner is currently the most recognizable female character on TV,” Coulier read sadly.
“It’s gonna be hard to hate them because they’re so cute and so nice, but I’m going to try to my best anyway,” Saget promises.
Another scene portrays Candace Cameron, Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber stewing with jealousy as the twins get all the good talk show appearances. But regardless of whether the cast was actually that annoyed (debatable, even though Stamos recently admitted he did try to get them fired at one point), the twins did become the true breakout stars of the show, often eclipsing their adult co-stars. In 1991, their combined TVQ score was 48, the second-highest of any celebrity in the country.
In a Washington Post profile of the Olsen twins that year, writer Jay Mathews described how the two young stars had captured everyone’s attention. Noting they had “little acting talent,” he said, they still had a “mesmerizing quality.”
“Like much of the viewing public, my family and I are hopelessly infatuated with the Olsen twins,” Mathews wrote. “The two blond, big-eyed girls, in most ways unremarkable members of their generation … through psychic forces imperfectly understood, now rank just below Bill Cosby as the most likable people in America.”
Setting aside the now extremely distracting Cosby reference, the Olsen twins were a force to be reckoned with at a very young age. “Full House” was their first audition: Their parents took them to the casting call on a whim, and creator Jeff Franklin noticed them right away, later saying that they had a certain “spark” and were much happier around strangers than most babies.
The Lifetime movie imitated real life as it showed the twins’ parents and lawyer negotiating Mary-Kate and Ashley’s salary. According to People magazine, the girls started with a $2,400 per episode rate during the first season, which eventually jumped to $25,000. Thanks to their attorney, who in the movie demanded that executives double their pay, the twins wound up making $80,000 each episode by the end of the sitcom’s run.
In the Lifetime film, this doesn’t sit well with Mary-Kate and Ashley’s mother, Jarnie Olsen, who is horrified that combined with their lucrative direct-to-video movie series, her daughters were millionaires at age 7. The movie blames this for Jarnie’s divorce from the twins’ father, Dave Olsen. (“The twins are so wildly successful that sometimes that creates more problems than people can handle,” one character whispers.)
Again, this actual story in itself would make a riveting tale, especially looking at how their intense fame affected everyone’s psychological well-being. During an interview in 2010, Mary-Kate referred to her childhood as being a “little monkey performer” with her sister. “I wouldn’t wish my upbringing on anybody … but I wouldn’t take it back for the world,” she told Marie Claire.
Given that the twins are famously very private, an actual biopic is unlikely — not that getting permission has ever stopped Lifetime before. There’s just so much material from the past to the present, such as one of their company’s interns suing them for wages. As an added bonus, in real life, the twins have yet another opportunity to steal the spotlight from their colleagues next year when Netflix debuts “Fuller House.” Most of the cast is already on board, but the big question is whether the Olsen twins will actually show up.
Many assume that the elusive sisters, who have shied away from acting in favor of their fashion business, wouldn’t be caught dead on the reboot. Yet Netflix isn’t saying no quite yet: At the Summer TV Press Tour last month, Netflix president Ted Sarandos was cautiously optimistic.
“The Olsen twins are teetering whether or not they’ll be around,” he said.