There is something to be said for nostalgia in television today, and that is a big part of why That 90s Show caught my eye. In recent years, every show from my childhood has come back in some capacity; Boy Meets World had Girl Meets World, Full House had Fuller House and now That 70s Show has That 90s Show. Though there are some rough patches, I’d say That 90s Show is the best spinoff that has come out so far.
That 70s Show aired from 1998 to 2006, from when I was ten until I graduated from high school. I grew up alongside Eric and Donna. Teens were experiencing their first kisses right alongside Jackie, and we all knew a Kelso. To be able to go back to those years through That 90s Show was exciting for me, but it didn’t start off as smoothly as I’d liked.
As soon as That 90s Show was released on Netflix, I was excited to dive in. The first few episodes, however, made me cringe. The pilot episode is where we are first introduced to Leia, Eric and Donna’s daughter. We get our first look at the cast, new and old. This episode, to me, felt overacted, and not in the way Topher Grace would overact in the original series.
It felt like teenagers being very obviously written by adults. For a while, I thought maybe I had just become an adult now, and the dialogue was cheesy because I wasn’t a teen anymore, but later in the series, we are greeted with scenes from That 70s Show, and I found it just as funny as I did twenty years ago. Talking it over with my partner, it was brought to my attention that I was a teen during the 90s, and this wasn’t us. It wasn’t relatable. The dialogue between characters felt like they were constantly waiting for a laugh, but it took a few episodes for those to come naturally.
After a few episodes, That 90s Show finally found its groove. I found myself chuckling at jokes, “aww-ing” at tender moments, and investing myself in their relationships. Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp never missed a beat as Red and Kitty, it’s like they have been stuck in time since 2006. I would have liked to see their appearance update a little, Kitty with a 90s haircut could have been fun—but then would she have still been our Kitty?
That 90s Show is filled with cameos from past cast members, Donna and Eric (Laura Prepon, Topher Grace), Jackie and Kelso (Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher), Leo (Tommy Chong), Bob (Don Stark), and most surprisingly Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). With Danny Masterson noticeably missing as Hyde due to some less-than-appealing crime allegations, I was surprised that the show brought back Valderrame—especially so prominently—with grooming allegations and songs like Demi Lovato’s 29 rumoured to be about him.
Callie Haverda plays Leia, the daughter of Eric and Donna, and she plays Eric’s daughter well, meaning not-at-all-smooth. Mace Coronel was perfect casting as Jay Kelso, not only looking like but sounding like Ashton Kutcher in the original series. Reyn Doi plays Ozzie and was by far my favourite character. Not only is he the comedic relief and pile of sass this kind of show needs, but he also had some of the deepest moments that brought us closer to not only him but past characters as well. He had scenes that made me laugh out loud and scenes that made me well up with tears.
I was curious to see how That 90s Show has progressed, especially coming to the small screen in 2023. The cast is diverse, and we see growth in the characters, both new and old. Tackling going off to college, coming out, first kisses and falling in love, the show leaves most people, young and old, with something to relate to.
“I genuinely hope that Netflix greenlights a second season of That 90s Show…”
Maybe I’m relating more to the parents of teenagers now than the teenagers themselves, but I still remember those moments and find myself reminiscing more than I thought I would. Though the show stills to a similar formula as That 70s Show—kooky neighbour, dumb jock, rebel friend etc—it still manages to come into its own further into the season.
They managed to make a pretty successful spinoff here—unlike That 80s Show, which no one talks about. I genuinely hope that Netflix greenlights a second season of That 90s Show, though I’m not sure how they will make sense of it, short of it taking place each summer. I look forward to seeing what comes next, I’d be surprised if That 90s Show was cancelled after one season.