Anyone who is a fan of comedy TV or sitcoms should be familiar with the brilliant That '70s Show. The series revolved around a cast of teenagers navigating life in the seventies and ended up spanning multiple seasons, bringing laughter all the way. But times change, decades move on, teenagers grow up, and That '70s Show had to end. There was an effort to continue and reboot the series a little while after, something known as That '80s Show, but this didn't do even half as well as the original and ultimately disappeared into the ether. Despite this failure, Netflix is trying their hand at bringing back this iconic series, with the follow-up, That '90s Show, which debuted on the streamer today.
For those who saw the original That '70s Show, That '90s Show features a list of returning faces and ideas, all of which have been tailored for the era. The settings are still similar, the Forman house and basement, the Pinciotti house (although the Pinciotti's no longer live there), and many other iconic places all set in Point Place, Wisconsin. Red and Kitty Forman are still leading characters, and the former-teenagers of the 70s (be it Eric, Donna, Michael, Jackie, or Fez) make fleeting cameo appearances that tie into how they are connected with this new era's teenagers - spoiler alert, the majority are parents to some of the new young cast. And then to add to this, some of the iconic scenes return, with the most instantly memorable one seeing the cast all sat around a table in the basement surrounded by a cloud of weed smoke. It's a very familiar show in places, be it all of these aforementioned areas, but also the tone of humour, which is always brightened up when Kurtwood Smith's Red whips out the classic "foot in your ass" line.
But, as this is set in the 90s and not the 70s, the set design is different and more colourful. The technology that many of our readers grew up with is found dotted around and often joked about - including, as you would've guessed, dial-up modems. And the general theme of the show is more progressive and diverse, to fit with both the 90s but also the expectations of showrunning in this actual day and age. Yet, despite navigating all of these areas, That '90s Show manages to keep the charm, charisma, and light-hearted humour that made the original show so brilliant. And this is all largely with a new cast.
Because while many of you will absolutely love the cameos from the original cast, these are only fleeting and for the most part the story revolves around the younger generation, headlined by Eric and Donna's daughter, Leia (yes, named after a certain galactic princess). And aside from Michael and Jackie's son, Jay Kelso, the rest of the cast is made up of brand new faces, who don't have any relation to the older stars. But that hasn't hampered the fact that there's a great balance, and the gang bounce off of each other incredibly well to make for an entertaining, albeit short ride.
Considering the failure of That '80s Show, I can understand why Netflix only looked to produce ten 30-minute episodes for this season, but I will say that for a sitcom of this style where character development often takes a side-step for wacky adventures, the shorter total run-time does mean that you don't quite get to know and connect with the new crew in the same way as what That '70s Show achieved - which still stands to this day, as the original troupe only needs to walk on-screen before all manners of hilarious memories start flooding over you. Still, the young generation work together well, and make for a cast that you want to see more of down the line, and hopefully with more appearances from their parents as well if possible.
And this is why I see That '90s Show as a success for Netflix. It continues on the legacy of the former series and does so in a way that is fun yet familiar, even if the overtly used laugh track can take the hilarity out of some of the situations. If you're looking for a new sitcom to sit down and watch, or have been waiting to return to Point Place for another summer vacation, then this is worth the watch, even if it doesn't quite deliver to the same level as its original, brilliant predecessor.