Netflix hopped on the nostalgia train with one of their most recent new shows. That 90s Show was announced way back in 2021as a spin-off of That 70s Show with Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp returning as Eric Forman’s parents, Red and Kitty. By 2022 it was revealed that Red and Kitty would take in Leia, the daughter of Eric and Donna, over the summer of 1995 and that she would interact with the locals in Point Place much like her father and mother did in the original series. It was also announced that most of the original core teens from the series would return in one-off cameos or multi-episode appearances. In late 2022 it was announced that the series would be released on Netflix on Thursday, January 19, 2023.
The series opens like the original series pilot, establishing the day, time, and location of the opening scene. Then we are greeted by the very 1990’s sound of Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” and Kitty Forman dancing to it only to be joined moments later by Red Forman. Then Eric and Donna Forman, along with their daughter, appear and the original characters fall right into their traditional roles from the original series. From there the series follows Leia as she is introduced to her next door neighbor, Gwen, and Gwen’s brother, Nate. After quickly bonding with Gwen and hoping to have a more fulfilling teenage life, Leia decides that she wants to stay with her grandparents for the summer. From there, Leia meets the rest of the teens in the show, old fans get a glimpse at more classic characters, and the show spends the rest of its ten episode run developing the new cast and eventually setting up a second potential season.
As expected the series revolves around Leia (Callie Haverda), the sugary sweet and innocent daughter of Erica and Donna as she attempts to experience new things with a host of newfound friends. Her best friend, Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide), represents the angry, Riot grrrrl teen that rose to prominence in the 1990’s thanks to music from artists like Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair. She’s a free spirit that helps Leia make bad decisions (with good intentions). Perhaps her second closest friend in the group is Ozzie (Reyn Doi), an openly gay young man with a steely wit. He’s one of my favorite characters in the series. Then there’s Mace Coronel as Jay Kelso, who also happens to be the son of Michael Kelso and Jackie Burkhart of the original series. He’s not as much of a dim bulb as his father but he’s just as much (if not more) of a lady’s man. He provides a lot of friction in the series for Red. Sam Morelos portrays Nikki and Maxwell Acee Donovan portrays Gwen’s older half brother, Nate. The pair play the resident couple with Nate being something of a doofus (like the original Kelso), and Nikki being an extremely intelligent and ambitious young lady. Also in the fray is Andrea Anders as the Forman’s neighbor and mom of Nate and Gwen, Sherri. She is sort of a surrogate version of Laurie Forman for Red and Kitty, as she shares many of Laurie’s traits. Sadly the original Laurie, Lisa Robin Kelly, passed away in 2013. Due to Kelly’s personal issues involving alcohol, Laurie was written out of the series for some time and eventually returned in season. Kelly was let go and Laurie would be portrayed in the sixth season of the series by Christina Moore.
The series is okay. I believe that the best way to describe it would be a Nickelodeon version of That 70s Show set in the 1990s. Sure, the kids smoke pot, do plenty of dumb things, and Red still threatens to put his foot in posteriors, but something is missing. The comedy is often forced and downright silly at times. The only new characters that really had any type of impact on me were Leia, Gwen, and Ozzie and, to a lesser degree, Sherri. The 90s references are definitely there, but it is obvious that the series is written by folks firmly planted in the 2020s. Hopefully a second season will be ordered and the show can find its footings. For now, I don’t see myself rewatching the series over and over as I do with the original.
Heads Up! That’s the full review of the series. Following the photo below I discuss the cameos. Don’t read it if you don’t want spoilers!!!!!!
There were plenty of expected cameos on the show. All of the original teens returned with the exception of Danny Masterson as Hyde (legal issues). Lisa Robin Kelly (Laurie) passed away as did Tanya Robers (Midge). Topher Grace (Eric), Mila Kunis (Jackie), and Ashton Kutcher (Kelso) all had one episode cameos. Laura Prepon (Donna) appeared in multiple episodes and directed the final two episodes of the series. Wilmer Valderrama (Fex) features in a multi-episode arc involving Sherri. Of all of the original teen characters, he looks to be the one who will continue to appear in the second season if there is one. Don Stark (Bob) makes his hilarious return in one episode. Hopefully we will see more of him in future episodes. Tommy Chong wanders in and out of a couple of episodes as Leo. Pastor Dave, portrayed in the original series by Kevin McDonald, is mentioned by name but not shown on screen. There’s also an hilarious cameo by Brian Austin Green as David Silver from Beverly Hills, 90210. Hopefully we’ll see more characters like his or 90s actors pop up on the show like 70s stars did on the original series. The most shocking and funniest cameo came from Jim Rash reprising the sinisterly funny Fenton, arch nemesis of Fez. I screamed his name out loud and laughed entirely too much. The return of Fenton gives me hope that even more minor and/or recurring characters will make cameos. It would be great to see Caroline (Allison Munn), Pam Burkhart (Brooke Shields), Big Rhonda (Cynthia Lamontagne), Casey Kelso (Luke Wilson), or other characters return. Hopefully that happens.
So, there you have it. That 90s Show is good but something is definitely off with the show. Hopefully a second season will remedy this and will get even more episodes. I want to like this show but it just doesn’t grab me like the original one.
Thanks for reading my post. See you again real soon!