I am kind of amused and slightly disappointed that Netflix couldn’t make the sequel set in the ’80s. That’s because, during That ’70s Show success, they already tried to make a That ’80s Show. Suffice to say, since no one remembers it even exists, That ’80s Show bombed big time. Still, the mere idea they toyed with another time-period based sitcom is a testament to how popular That ’70s Show was when it was out.
That didn’t stop Netflix, however, as, since they couldn’t set it in the ’80s, they decided to set it in the ’90s. That ’90s Show is kind of a sequel as, while it does focus on a new group of teenagers trying to navigate life, it does continue the story of the group we grew up with in Point Place, Wisconsin. Was it worth the 20 year wait? Well, I did watch the entire first season of That ’90s Show and I do have some thoughts.
While That ’90s Show has been on Netflix for a good while now, I’m still making this review of the season a SPOILER FREE review. I’m just playing it safe for now just in case there are still people on the fence because it may “disgrace” the legacy of That ’70s Show. Anyway, on with the review!
That ’90s Show takes place in, well, the ’90s. Leia Forman, Eric and Donna’s daughter decides to spend the summer at her grandparents house, Red and Kitty Forman. She also meets a group of tight knit friends and the show does kind of detail what happens to her during the summer.
Now, I was a huge fan of That ’70s Show. So, you’ll have to forgive me if I compare That ’90s Show to its predecessor. Thankfully, That ’90s Show does manage to capture the general feel and tone of the original for the most part. This is mostly thanks to Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp, who reprise their roles as Red and Kitty Forman. They did such a good job of stepping back into the shoes of the curmudgeonly old hard-ass with a perchance of taking his foot up someone’s ass and the delightfully gleeful housewife with a signature laugh. It honestly feels like they are Red and Kitty Forman and they’ve been living in their house in Point Place all these years.
A few fan favorites do pop in to make the obligatory cameo here and there. Like Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp, they all manage to slip back into the roles that made them famous. The cameos are a little uneven, however, with some characters appearing more often than others. There are even some returning characters who might not ring a bell unless you’re really on top of your That ’70s Show lore. Still, it’s nice to see them back and honoring the memory of the original.
This does lead me to what is supposed to be the heart of the show: the new group of kids. They’re generally not bad, however, they’re not exactly incredible either. Callie Haverda, who plays Leia Forman, is the clear standout and, honestly, it’s a good thing she is good because she’s pretty much the main character and the focus of the show. She does manage to capture the general dorkiness of her father. I also did like Ashley Aufderheide as Gwen, the rebellious riot girl, of the group. She does manage to embody the spirit of the character trope well.
The rest of the kids, however, are a little hit-or-miss. Mace Coronel’s Jay Kelso, the handsome heartthrob, is fine in his role. Maxwell Acee Donovan’s Nate, Gwen’s dimwitted half-brother, is also okay. The same can be said for Sam Morelos’ Nikki, Nate’s ambitious girlfriend. I’m of two minds regarding Reyn Doi’s Ozzy, the sarcastic and wise-cracking teen of the group, as he was clearly set up to be the “sure-fire” comedic character, much like Fez was in the original show. Sometimes his jokes works. Other times, it doesn’t. That’s not all that good when you’re written to be the character who’s supposed to be setting the audience rollicking in laughter.
The biggest issue I have with this new group of kids is that their characters, besides Leia Forman, don’t really feel all that defined and fleshed out. You get their based characteristics but you never really see them act out on them. This is really evident with Nikki as she really doesn’t have all that much to do throughout the show besides boss around and fool around with Nate. I think this is more a problem with Netflix only making 10 episodes for That ’90s Show. Some characters definitely fell by the wayside when in came to screentime. Heck, I knew more about Sherri, Gwen and Nate’s mother, than Nikki! That’s how underwritten the character is.
The humor in That ’90s Show is a little off-kilter when it comes to tone. For the scenes involving Red, Kitty and the returning cast, a lot of the jokes and storylines do feel like ones you’d find in That ’70s Show. Meaning the tone of their humor is a little more raunchy and mature. You’d get jokes focusing on more adult humor with them. For the kids, however, it dives right into PG territory and it kind of feels like a Disney show. I guess it makes sense because the kids in That ’90s Show are mostly in their early teens. So, their storylines revolve around them getting their first kiss or something like that. This weird imbalance in tone does come off as strange as it can feel like you’re watching two separate shows.
As That ’90s Show is generally a continuation of That ’70s Show, I do have to give my opinion whether or not people who didn’t watch the original will like it or not. Frankly speaking, I do think they’ll like it fine but with a few caveats. First, they’d have to like or, at the very least, be okay with the older style of sitcoms. That ’90s Show does still feel like an old-school comedy. They’d also have to know some ’90s history, like the original Beverly Hills 90210 show and the dial-up modem sounds from the beginnings of the Internet.
I do think fans of the original will have a general blast with That ’90s Show, however. It’s much more than nostalgia bait as Netflix surprisingly knew that they didn’t need to mess with the basic formula of That ’70s Show. Getting Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp back because of how integral they were to what made the show so good seems like a stroke of genius if you think about it. The humor is a little hit-or-miss but, then again, that could be said for That ’70s Show as well. If you are a fan of the original, you do need to watch That ’90s Show. If you’re not, I do think you can safely skip this.
Have you seen That ’90s Show? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!