'Full House' was Bob Saget's signature show, but he wasn't the first actor to play Danny Tanner
Bob Saget was so entangled with Full House patriarch Danny Tanner that, as he tells it, fans were shocked when they first learned of his bawdy sense of humor as a stand-up comic.
"I realized I was kind of the Rich Cunningham on the show," Saget, who died Sunday, told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. "I was the straight guy. I wasn't the acerbic guy, which wouldn’t have worked. I was the pure guy. And when I do comedy, people are like, why aren't you Danny Tanner? It's like, do you want Anthony Hopkins to eat people? I was acting, guys!"
But the truth, as Saget explained over the years, is that he wasn't the first person to play the role. It was actor John Posey who portrayed the irrepressibly corny, clean and loving dad in the show's unaired pilot. The actor had explained that, as a young comic, he had a gig warming up the audience of the Tom Hanks-Peter Scolari sitcom Bosom Buddies. One of the producers of that show, Tom Miller, also had seen him in a 1987 Richard Pryor movie, Critical Condition, and they wanted him for an upcoming show about a dad raising three daughters with two other men. Saget turned them down at first, because he had landed a job on CBS's The Morning Program, but he went back to the producers after he was fired. And they took him up on his offer.
"They were reshooting my stuff from the pilot because I replaced someone, which is always sad," Saget told Alabama.com ahead of stand-up dates in Huntsville in August. "I always feel guilt about it, but that's life."
In fact, Yahoo Entertainment spoke with the actor Saget replaced, John Posey, who happens to be the father of Teen Wolf alum Tyler Posey, in April 2014. He explained then that he found out that he had been replaced by Saget while relocating from Atlanta to Los Angeles, where Full House filmed. He had gotten as far as Mississippi.
"It made for a long drive, as you can imagine," Posey said. "I was part of a pretty successful comedy group — Comedia — in Atlanta, and somebody from ABC was in town. They saw [our] show, pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, we'd like to see you get in front of our comedy development people'... I went ahead and went [to Los Angeles]. And then of course the pilot they gave me right away was Full House. And from what I was told, they were looking all over the country for people and couldn't find a guy, although I later found out that Bob Saget and Paul Reiser were the two guys they were after first, and they were both unavailable. They were obligated to other shows. How you go from those guys to me is kind of a mystery, because we couldn't be more different."
Posey, who has gone on to appear on Seinfeld, Cheers, How to Get Away With Murder and dozens of other shows, told us that he had never spoken to Saget, although they had plenty of mutual acquaintances.
"John Stamos is a friend. Dave Coulier is a friend," Posey said. "I know that the young girls were all a little bit shattered when it happened, because we developed a pretty good relationship. Candace [Cameron Bure], she was very upset that [it] fell apart. It was hard for the kids to have to do this all over again with somebody they didn't know."
Posey also commented on Saget's 2014 biography, Dirty Daddy, in which he wrote, "Upon seeing the pilot, I thought [Posey] had done a really good job in it. I actually didn't understand why they wanted to replace him."
Posey said he appreciated those words.
"I just couldn't tell, because it was so... when I did Seinfeld and NewsRadio and those kinds of comedies, that was much more [humor], sarcastic, cynical, more adult-themed humor, and I never was sure in Full House, in the two or three weeks I worked on the show, whether I was on or not," Posey said. "Nobody said there were problems. It seemed like everything was fine. We shot it. I learned as much as I could in a short period of time. And next thing I know... 'Hey, you're no longer employed.'"
It didn't take long for Saget to make the role his own. As he told The Times, he was the one who came up with the idea of making Danny Tanner a hugger: "That was one of my contributions."
Over the years, Saget referred to Full House as a show for kids and said he could never do a network sitcom again, but he also expressed gratitude for having been part of the show and having connected with his TV family.
"It was part of a culture, part of a generation," Saget said. "There's a lot of the anecdotes we've heard through the years: 'You helped raise me' or 'I would watch this with my mother or my father.' I think that the show made a heartfelt impact on people — that's why it's exciting for people for it to come back. I pay homage to it in everything I do because it put me on the map."
He was deeply affected by the chance to play Tanner again in the sequel series, Fuller House, 30 years later.
"There were a lot of chills going on through the whole thing, just as you would expect," Saget said of returning to the set. "I don't have that much hair on the back of my neck, but whatever hair I do have left stood up."