Over the past two days, as details of the shocking college admission bribery scandal made their way around the internet, one phrase kept showing up on social media: “Not Aunt Becky!”
The reference was to Lori Loughlin’s most famous role as Becky Katsopolis on ABC’s hit sitcom “Full House.” Loughlin was one of nearly 50 people named in Tuesday’s indictment, in which wealthy parents were accused of facilitating bribes to get their children into prestigious colleges and universities.
According to the criminal complaint, Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly paid $500,000 for their two daughters to gain admission to the University of Southern California under the guise of being crew team recruits — even though neither rowed crew. Loughlin was arraigned on Wednesday and released after posting $1 million bond. Giannulli posted bond and was released a day earlier.
Loughlin also built a lucrative brand in recent years as equally wholesome characters on the Hallmark Channel. She starred in “When Calls the Heart,” the drama set in an early 1900s Canadian coal-mining town, and the “Garage Sale Mysteries” series, which she executive produced. Her holiday movies included “Homegrown Christmas” and “Northpole: Open for Christmas.” On Thursday afternoon, Hallmark announced that Loughlin has been dropped from all future projects.
“We are saddened by the recent news surrounding the college admissions allegations,” the network said in a statement. “We are no longer working with Lori Loughlin and have stopped development of all productions that air on the Crown Media Family Network channels involving Lori Loughlin including ‘Garage Sale Mysteries,’ an independent third party production.”
For fans of “Full House,” Loughlin’s indictment was especially shocking, as it was another example of a celebrity’s real life apparently being very different from their TV character and public persona. While we all know, in theory, that we actually have no clue how our favorite actors live, sometimes what we see on-screen has a deeper effect on our psyche than we realize.
Nostalgia has a powerful pull on our minds, and — particularly among millennials — it’s hard to find a show with more attached memories than “Full House,” which ran from 1987 through 1995. (The reboot, “Fuller House,” is one Netflix’s most-watched shows.) Although the series is better known for launching the careers of Bob Saget, John Stamos and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Loughlin was a vital presence on the sitcom. She made her debut in the second season as a TV co-host to Saget’s character, Danny Tanner. She immediately became a love interest for Stamos’ Jesse Katsopolis, Danny’s brother-in-law, who moved in to help take care of Danny’s three daughters after his wife died.
“Have mercy,” Jesse growled, using his famous catchphrase, when he first saw Becky. Though Becky’s story line was originally a six-episode arc, producers were so thrilled by the chemistry that they made Loughlin a series regular; thus, she became “Aunt Becky” when she and Uncle Jesse got married. Sensible and kind with excellent comic timing, Loughlin became a beloved cast member. As a maternal figure for Danny’s daughters, DJ (Candace Cameron), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Michelle (the Olsens), Aunt Becky had some of the most emotional scenes of the series.
And unlike the actors who seem embarrassed about their earlier work, Loughlin had a great sense of humor about her famed role. Even as “Full House” became a pop culture punchline for being quite cheesy, she was always happy to discuss how much she loved the show and seemed to recognize how important it was to fans. So yes — it was upsetting to many that there was a warrant out for Aunt Becky’s arrest.
A less common refrain, but still one that circulated: “Not Lynette Scavo!” Felicity Huffman, who has also earned a ton of goodwill over her years in Hollywood, is accused of paying $15,000 to arrange for her daughter’s SAT answers to be corrected. Her daughter’s score was 1420 — 400 points higher than her PSATs. Huffman was arraigned and released on $250,000 bail. (Huffman’s representatives did not return a request for comment; Loughlin’s spokeswoman said there’s no information at this time.)
As one of the four leads on the prime-time soap “Desperate Housewives,” which was a massive hit for ABC, Huffman was lauded for her portrayal of a character that was candid about the difficulties of motherhood. She landed an Emmy in 2005 for playing Lynette, the corporate executive turned stay-at-home mom of four wild kids. In a much-analyzed scene in the first season, Lynette broke down after being so stressed that she got hooked on her son’s medication for attention-deficit disorder. When her friends found her crying in the middle of a soccer field, and admitted they also sometimes felt hopeless as moms, Lynette looked up at them through tears: “Why didn’t you ever tell me this?” she asked. “We should tell each other this stuff.”
Huffman is also a popular celebrity at award shows, particularly when she’s with her actor husband, William H. Macy. (He was mentioned in the criminal complaint but not charged.) Huffman and Macy are frequently featured with gushing headlines such as “Couple goals! Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy have a blast as they pack on the PDA on the Emmys red carpet,” or “Inside Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy’s Unconventional Hollywood Love Story.”
Even now, the approach to them hasn’t changed much: A recent piece from Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara is titled “We’re used to celebrity scandals, but oh my God, Felicity Huffman?”
“So much for the woman so many of us rooted for over the years,” McNamara wrote, lamenting how “normal” Huffman seemed. “Instead the curtain was pulled back to reveal someone so used to wealth and privilege that it seemed acceptable to pay someone to cheat for her daughter so she could get exactly what she wanted.”
And while the thinkpieces and memes continue, the apparent downfall of Loughlin and Huffman is a stark reminder of the cliche-but-true-lesson: Now matter how rich, famous or successful a person seems, we never really know what may be going on behind closed doors.