That ‘90s Show is not the greatest show in the world, but it’s far from the worst. It fills the same spot Fuller House did for Full House fans. It’s television comfort food that has no other ambition than giving its target audience a heavy dose of nostalgia. When it comes to its only mission, That ‘90s Show succeeds. It’s nostalgic without being repetitive while still maintaining what made the original show work so well.
If you didn’t like That ‘70s Show or rarely watched it, That ‘90s Show isn’t going to be enjoyable or make much sense. Half the show’s humor comes from referencing That ‘70s Show. Netflix clearly greenlit this show to capitalize off nostalgia for the original show. After watching the first episode, it becomes clear that the show is less about reliving the 90s and more about reminding everyone how much fun they had watching That ‘70s Show, which ran from 1998-2006 for 8 seasons.
While That ‘90s Show takes place during July 1995, it doesn’t explore what made the ‘90s unique outside of the fashions the cast wears. Nineties touchstones are added for flavor, but add no substance. Donkey Kong is a gag in the first episode. Riot Grrrl is mentioned a few times. Friends is mentioned in one episode because Leia compares her relationship with Jay Kelso to Rachel and Ross. When ’90s cultural touch points are brought up explicitly, it feels like the writers are trying too hard.
Like its predecessor, That ‘90s Show revolved around a group of teens who spend most of their time in Red (Kurtwood Smith, Robocop) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp, Wandavision) Foreman’s house. Like Leia Foreman’s (Callie Haverda, The Lost Husband) parents, Eric (Topher Grace, Home Economics) and Donna (Laura Prepon, Orange is the New Black), they spend most of their time hanging out and getting high off the stash the crew from That ’70s Show left in a box. Unlike the original, this gang won’t be together until they grow up and move away from Point Place. Leia’s only spending the summer with her grandparents, so the fleeting time this gang has together is captured over 10 episodes. That doesn’t stop the kids from smoking weed, getting drunk, and breaking laws. It also gives everyone enough time to make a big deal about Leia dating Michael Kelso’s (Ashton Kutcher, The Ranch) son, Jay (Mace Coronel, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn) because every male Kelso sleeps around, but then get used to it when everyone realizes that Jay is serious about having a relationship with Leia that isn’t just physical.
Of course, this sequel series wouldn’t be complete without frequent appearances from the stars of That ‘70s Show. Most don’t stay very long and make an appearance simply for a quick gag. The only exceptions are Fez (Wilmer Valderrama, NCIS) who has an on-off relationship with the Foremans’ neighbor Sherri Runck (Andrea Anders, Ted Lasso), and Donna Pinciotti (Prepon) who is Leia’s mother and now daughter-in-law to Red and Kitty Foreman.
That ‘90s Show doesn’t need to exist. No one asked for it because That ‘80s Show was so awful it only lasted 13 episodes. While all involved in That ‘90s Show shouldn’t be embarrassed by their involvement with it, there is absolutely no reason to rehash the jokes for a second season. We’ve already heard Eric use Red’s catchphrase about a “foot up your ass” to his daughter in the pilot episode. With Eric using Red’s favorite phrase, That ‘90s Show gave the fans everything they wanted and doesn’t have anything more to give.
That ’90s Show is now streaming on Netflix.