‘Full House’ Sitcom Creator Touts Flexibility as Key to Career Building

Television writer Jeff Franklin says great luck propelled his career, but that’s really only part of the story. At Samsung 837’s final Fall Discovery Series on November 7, he revealed to an audience of college students, young professionals and assorted other “Full House” fans that being flexible and learning from colleagues were also key factors in his success.

“Show business was not where I thought I would be,” said Franklin, who created “Full House” for the ABC TV network 30 years ago and, more recently, “Fuller House,” now in its third season on Netflix, the on-demand streaming media giant.

“I was really lucky to go to a college that taught flexibility,” he said of the now-defunct Raymond College, where he also learned “how to learn.” Upon graduating, Franklin said he was committed to paying those gifts forward by becoming a teacher, but student teaching soon proved to be a non-starter for him, and he went home to Los Angeles to start life in show business.

“That was the beginning of a lot of really fortunate accidents for me,” Franklin said. In an improv-comedy class, he befriended the late comedian Garry Shandling, then a writer on the sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter.” “He told me, “you think funny, but you’re really not that funny. You should think about being a writer,’” Franklin recalled.

With that advice, Franklin’s stand-up days were over and he moved on to writing funny, with Shandling as his mentor.

He landed a research and writing internship on the wildly popular television sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” then the most-watched show in the U.S. His second season on the job, he said the bulk of the writing team was sacked over a proposed script seen as irredeemably offensive. Franklin was suddenly thrust into the lead writing position and at 24 became a Hollywood show-runner.

“You can’t plan that. Life is very random. You’ve just got to put your head down, keep going and find your passion.”

Jeff Franklin, the creator of  ‘Full House’

How did he master such a high-profile job with so little experience?

“I asked everybody for help, and I soaked it all up,” Franklin said. “I worked hard, and I made friends.” He also worked closely on script rewrites with the show’s legendary executive producer, Garry Marshall.

Following that stint, Hollywood was eager to work with him and, he said, luck once again intervened. The pitch that became the pilot for “Full House” was one he cared little about and was secretly hoping would fail. It went on to run for eight seasons and, according to Franklin, has ultimately captured the attention of hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide over the past 30 years.

Franklin said he fell in love with the show and the cast soon became his “second family.” Reprising the show years later, as “Fuller House,” has been equally satisfying.

Members of the audience were eager to share the inspiration they received from hearing about Franklin’s journey.

“His story makes me more comfortable about the path that I’m taking,” said 23-year-old Bazini Bah-Traore, a fan of Franklin’s work and a clothing designer who’s funding his business by promoting parties and events. He said that learning about Franklin’s winding road to success was encouraging. “He could have been a teacher, but it snowballed into him doing something else entirely, and at the end of the day, he did what he wanted,” said Bah-Traore.

For those also pursuing careers in entertainment, Franklin noted they are doing so at a great moment, because in recent years, technology has democratized the creation and showcasing of work.

“So careers are happening in all kinds of ways,” he said. “But you still have to be interesting, and you have to have some good luck.”

Franklin said he’s grateful he’s had “so much” serendipity and so many happy accidents in his life.

“You can’t plan that. Life is very random. You’ve just got to put your head down, keep going and find your passion.”

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