That ’90s Show premieres on January 19th on Netflix.
By Zachary Greenberg
Netflix has rebooted a blast from the past sitcom “That ’70s Show” with a sequel series called “That ’90s Show.” The new series follows a new generation of teenagers taking up the mantle in the same fictional town as the original show at Point Place, Wisconsin.
I have not watched all episodes of That ’70s Show, but I have seen some scattered throughout. What made the show great was its ability to showcase the nuances of the 70s with all of its funky hairdos and outfits. The acting was top-notch, and the characters had great chemistry and comedic timing, drawing viewers into the drama of their lives. The episodes I’ve seen have made me smile or laugh out loud due to their clever jokes or absurd setup. The show had a relatable, down-to-earth feel that made it feel like I was watching a group of friends I could connect with.
Now, 20 years later, That ’90s Show attempts to rekindle the fire of a with a new cast of characters. The pilot episode sets up the plot of the series by introducing the main character Leia (Callie Haverda), who is Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna’s (Laura Prepon) daughter. Yes, she is named after Princess Leia from Star Wars. Leia is a nerdy girl with no friends visiting her grandparents with her parents from out of town. During her visit, she meets Gwen, a teenage girl who lives next door, and becomes friends with her. Gwen shows Leia around town and introduces her to the local group of friends. Realizing she can finally be part of a group, Leia asks her parents if she can stay for the summer, which they reluctantly agree to, setting up the premise for the rest of the show.
The new series has similar elements to the original, such as scenes shot in a “circle” where the camera goes around 360° focusing on each character’s facial expression one at a time. I did not like most of the new characters.
Leia was my favorite new character in the show. She has a likable, positive personality and goes through relatable teenage struggles. She finds herself in humorous and unexpected situations, such as needing to kiss a boy for the first time. She handles this in a comical and bold way, by approaching every boy in the mall and asking them to kiss her, but she continually gets denied. Eventually, she builds up the courage and kisses a teenage cashier outright. Another character, Jay (Mace Coronel), is the son of Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) and Jackie (Mila Kunis) from the original show. He is similar to his father, as the charming and attractive member of the group, but not as dumb. He is a womanizer but has a soft heart and many of his lines are funny. I did not appreciate the other characters in the group of friends. They were mean to each other constantly for no apparent reason. Most of their jokes did not land well and the acting was a bit cringe-worthy.
Where the show fails is also its biggest selling point: nostalgia. The integration of the original and new cast is poorly executed and brief, with characters such as Eric and Donna appearing in the first episode only to establish the significance of Leia. Kelso and Jackie make a fleeting appearance, which only serves to confirm that the show is a continuation of That ’70s Show. The fake audience’s enthusiastic reaction to these brief cameos made me question why I was watching the show instead of re-watching an enjoyable and funny episode of the original series.
That ’90s Show is a basic sitcom with a lack of engaging scenes and misfired humor. The main saving point in the show is Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp), who reprise their roles as the strict parental figures from the original series (only this time as grandparents). Their lines are as funny as ever and every scene they are in is enjoyable and had me chuckling. I particularly enjoyed the episode in which Red gets a massage chair and finally learns to unwind.
Still, unfortunately, most of the show is not about Red and Kitty. If you are someone who is a big fan of the original show, don’t set the bar high for this one. You might enjoy it purely on a semi-nostalgia level, but I found even that to be lacking due to the original cast not being prominent in the show.
I give That ’90s Show a D-.