‘That ‘90s Show’ series review: ‘That ‘70s Show’ reboot seems fun, but isn’t

The young cast of That ‘90s Show is charming and the elders are fun, but the sit-com format, while bringing back memories of boxy televisions and TV dinners, also underlines the synthetic nature of the show

January 27, 2023 11:25 am | Updated 11:50 am IST

A still from ‘That ‘90s Show’

A still from ‘That ‘90s Show’ | Photo Credit: Netflix

Can there be something like too much nostalgia? That ‘90s Show, a reboot of the hysterically popular sitcom That ‘70s Show, which aired from 1998 to 2006 and made stars of its teen cast including Topher Grace, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, makes one wonder. Set in Point Place, Wisconsin, from 1976 to 1979, the original show followed six teenagers who learn about love and life mainly in Eric Forman’s (Grace) basement.

With That ‘90s Show, there is a double dose of nostalgia — for the ‘90s and for watching That ‘70s Show in the ‘90s, at the height of India’s great cable television boom. However, (there always is one), there is something off about the sitcom. Unlike say, Stranger Things or Paper Girls, the sit-com format, while bringing back memories of boxy televisions and TV dinners, also underlines the synthetic nature of the show.

That ‘90s Show (English)
Creators: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, Lindsey Turner, Gregg Mettler
Cast: Debra Jo Rupp, Kurtwood Smith, Callie Haverda, Ashley Aufderheide, Mace Coronel, Reyn Doi, Sam Morelos, Maxwell Acee Donovan
Episodes: 10
Runtime: 21–30 minutes
Storyline: On their way to the space camp, Eric, Donna, and their daughter Leia visit Eric’s parents. When Leia meets her neighbour Gwen and her friends, she decides to stay with her grandparents for the summer

That ‘90s Show opens on the Fourth of July weekend in 1995 at the senior Formans’ house. Eric and Donna (Laura Prepon) are visiting Eric’s parents, Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp), on the way to the space camp with their daughter Leia (Callie Haverda). Eric is still a Star Wars junkie and even teaches a paper on the space opera which earns him permanent parking for his bicycle at the college where he is an adjunct professor.

Leia meets her neighbour, Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide), a Riot grrrl, and quickly decides she would rather stay with her grandparents and hang out with Gwen and her friends, which includes her easy-going half-brother Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan), his intelligent, ambitious girlfriend Nikki (Sam Morelos), clever Ozzie (Reyn Doi), and heart-stopper Jay (Mace Coronel).

Through ten tiny, bite-sized episodes that span 20-30 minutes each, Leia also learns about drugs and sex with a smidge of rock ‘n’ roll like her parents and their friends did back in the ‘70s. Smith and Rupp from the original show do most of the heavy lifting for the nostalgically inclined with guest appearances from Grace, Prepon, Wilmer Valderrama as Fez, the exchange student who has grown up to be a successful hairdresser (we still do not know which country he was exchanged from), Tommy Chong as Leo, the local hippie, who is still spaced out, Kunis and Kutcher as Jay’s parents, Don Stark as Leia’s maternal grandfather Bob, and Brian Austin Green as himself.

The young cast is charming while the elders are fun. The zeitgeist is captured with references to The Terminator and Friends among others with a dial-up modem making an appearance. Kitty’s comment on the internet being “two demons yelling at each other” is scarily on point. That ‘90s Showseems like fun and that is its problem — it seems but is not. Hopefully, there is not going to be a That ‘20s Show in 2040, unless it is based on the Flapper generation, which would be a total hoot.

That ‘90s Show is currently streaming on Netflix

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