That 90s Show TV Review

We review Netflix’s That 70s Show sequel series, That 90s Show, starring Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp.

Last Updated on March 7, 2024

Plot: Hello, Wisconsin! It’s 1995, and Leia Forman, daughter of Eric and Donna, is visiting her grandparents for the summer, where she bonds with a new generation of Point Place kids under the watchful eye of Kitty and the stern glare of Red. Sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll never die; it changes clothes.

Review: One of FOX’s most popular sitcoms, That70s Show, ran for eight seasons and 200 episodes in the early 2000s. The series’ distinct sense of humor, famous main cast, and retro references made it a hit when it premiered in 1998 and made stars out of Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Valderamma, Ashton Kutcher, and Mila Kunis. Almost two decades after it went off the air, Netflix had revived the series for another retro look back, this time set just three years before the original series premiered. That ’90s Show is a faithful successor to That ’70s Show, complete with the main cast returning to their signature roles. With updated pop culture references but the same style and sense of humor, That ’90s Show season 1 is a welcome return to the Wisconsin suburb made famous in the original series.

That 90's Show,Netflix,Kurtwood Smith,Debra Jo Rupp,That 70's Show

While That ’70s Show already spawned a failed 1980s set spin-off, That ’90s Show is sure to please fans of the original series while winning over a new generation of viewers. Rather than just mining the 1990s for jokes featuring outdated fashion and technology, That ’90s Show utilizes the pacing and storylines that made the series that inspired it a ratings hit but with a fresh-faced new cast of teens. Led by Callie Haverda as Leia Forman, the youth cast in That ’90s Show are all very funny without being replicas of the characters from the original series. Once again, the cast focuses on six teenagers in Pointe Place, Wisconsin, who congregate in the basement of the Foreman home, still resided by Leia’s grandparents Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp). Leia, the daughter of Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon), decides to stay with her grandparents for the summer when she befriends Ashley Aufderheide as Gwen, a neighbor, and Gwen’s brother, Maxwell Acee Donovan as Nate, who live in Donna’s old home.

Leia soon meets Reyn Doi as Ozzi, a friend of Gwen’s and a smartass who is also openly gay, plus Mace Coronel as Jay Kelso, the son of Michael (Ashton Kutcher) and Jackie (Mila Kunis), as well as Sam Morelos as Nikki, Nate’s girlfriend. The friends get into the same kind of trouble as the original gang, including visiting the local water tower and smoking weed in the Foreman basement. Each of the ten episodes in this season works as standalone entries or can be enjoyed sequentially. The character development over the season makes it beneficial to watch the season in order, especially with many references and surprises in store from the original series. The trailers have already teased the return of many of the cast, including supporting players like Tommy Chong and Don Stark. Still, the inclusion of Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp as Red and Kitty cements this series as a continuation rather than a revival. Both actors slide back into their roles, now as grandparents, but with the same energy as they did twenty years ago.

Of course, the cameos from the original teen cast are nicely built into the series and feel more than stunt casting. Topher Grace and Laura Prepon look the same as they did twenty years before, and it is nice to see the continuation of the Star Wars love in Eric’s life. Wilmer Valderrama plays a prominent role this season, while Kutcher and Kunis are relegated to more of a cameo; it is a very good one. Of course, there’s one pretty notable absence, with Danny Masterson the only cast-member not returning. Indeed, his trial (and eventually sentencing) put the show under a shadow that taints the reboot to a certain extent. The teen cast compliments the ensemble dynamic from the original series, especially Callie Haverda, who embodies the same nerd aura as Leia and Mace Coronel, who is every bit a Kelso. The teens all do good work here, and it allows the series to feel more authentic despite none having been old enough to remember the 1990s.

That ’70s Show creators Bonnie Turner and Terry Turner return alongside Lindsay Turner and Gregg Mettler for this series, which is a huge reason why this series works. The set is virtually identical to the original series without many updates to advance it twenty years. Still filmed using a multi-camera set-up with an old-school laugh track, the series benefits from better writing than other sitcom revivals in recent years. Netflix has not had many sitcoms using this format that has been very successful, but That ’90s Show pulls it off well. With director Gail Mancuso, a veteran of many network comedies including Modern Family, 30 Rock, and Community, leading the series off in the premiere, That ’90s Show starts out as if the original show never left the airwaves. The time jump is natural and explained thanks to a well-written pilot establishing this series and then moving onto its own path for the next nine episodes.

That 90's Show,Netflix,Kurtwood Smith,Debra Jo Rupp,That 70's Show

That ’90s Show is the rare sitcom revival that works as well as the original despite a significant time since the original left the air. Because everyone involved from the legacy cast feels like they genuinely want to be there and the laughs are not forced, That ’90s Show feels like new seasons of That ’70s Show as if it never left the air. The young cast is all equipped to succeed their famous predecessors and the shortened length of the season means the jokes feel fresh and the season never overstays its welcome. As someone who came of age in the 1990s, I related to the references that pepper this series more than I did with That ’70s Show which helped me enjoy this series even more.

That ’90s Show is now streaming on Netflix.


About the Author

5916 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.