‘That ’90s Show’ Review: A Fun Sequel That’s Not Just for Nineties Kids
Before we begin, I should mention that I did not see That ’70s Show when it first premiered on Fox in August 1998, mostly because I was five months old at the time. The series had a pretty successful run, hitting 200 episodes and four specials over the course of eight seasons. A streaming run on Netflix and (as of 2020) syndication helped give the show a boost in popularity, which is how I ended up watching it. The point is that That ’70s Show, a series made originally in the late 90s but set in the 70s, actually managed to make its story timeless enough that it’s still enjoyed by new audiences today. So you can imagine the pressure on its sequel series, That ’90s Show. With any period show, especially one set in a decade that’s rather popular these days, it can be a lot of fun to dig around for Easter eggs and references. And there’s plenty there for the 90s aficionado, even an episode that’s clearly the result of an extensive Beverly Hills 90210 rewatch. But even without the period references or the fashion choices, That ’90s Show is a genuinely fun sitcom to watch.
The summer is just beginning and the Formans, Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and Red (Kurtwood Smith), are preparing to welcome their son Eric (Topher Grace), their daughter-in-law Donna (Laura Prepon), and granddaughter Leia (Callie Haverda) for a Fourth of July celebration. Yes, Eric named his daughter after a Star Wars character and has even managed to build an academic career in his very specific area of expertise. Kitty is extremely excited to have a kid at home again because she misses having Eric and the gang around (Red does not). After Leia meets her new next-door neighbor Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide) and the rest of the kids of Point Place, she decides to spend the summer with her grandparents. Instead of going to space camp. Which is what her dad wanted her to do. Seriously, Forman?
This brings us to the new gang. Gwen is the first and best new friend that Leia makes in Point Place, and she is a very cool addition to the story. She’s the resident badass, queen of the outcasts, semi-dedicated Riot Grrrl, and a truly loyal friend, even when Leia gets into some rather questionable situations and people. Then there’s her kind-of dumbass older half-brother Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan), who is best friends with another 70s Show legacy, Mace Coronel as Jay Kelso, son of Jackie (Mila Kunis) and Michael (Ashton Kutcher) of the Point Place Kelsos. Nate’s girlfriend Nikki (Sam Morelos), also part of the group, is usually seen on his arm but is actually quite an independent and determined young woman. (She’s also way less annoying than her closest 70s Show equivalent, Jackie.) Rounding out the kids in the basement is Ozzie (Reyn Doi), a snarky and intelligent kid who’s mostly-openly gay. Kitty and Red are still the heart and soul of the series and still getting up to their own misadventures, this time with a new neighbor who’s around all the time, Gwen and Nate’s mom Sherry (Andrea Anders).