Hanging out down the street, the same old place we used to meet. I’m not going to lie, I was excited about this one. Part of me knew there was a very real chance it would be a train wreck. But there was that other part of me that held out for hope. After all, That 70s Show was a big part of my teen years. I was hoping That 90s Show on Netflix would have that same spark for me.
That 70s Show was fun, had relatable characters, and gave me a (sometimes accurate, sometimes not) look at life in the 70s — the time when my own parents were growing up. Fast forward to today, I have a 13-year-old daughter and I’m excited to give her a look at the 90s from the lens of a modern show that she’ll be able to relate to better than re-runs of its predecessor.
That 90s Show is out now, but is it actually worth watching? For nostalgia alone, it was absolutely worth the 30 minutes I spent on the pilot episode. Of course, not everything about it is perfect. Below are my general thoughts and impressions.
Light Spoilers warning: In this article, I mention funny callbacks from That 70s Show and a few funny lines said by the cast. I’m careful not to give too much away though, don’t worry.
Kitty, Red, and Eric steal the show and transport me back in time
I have to say the best part of the pilot was seeing how Red and Eric’s dynamic has and hasn’t changed. Towards the end of the episode Eric threatens to put his foot up Leia’s ass. Eric is immediately appalled, Red says he’s the proudest of Eric he’s ever been. These moments really were a lot of fun for me and had me grinning like a fool.
Kitty was as energetic and witty as ever. She had plenty of jokes and her usual eccentric charm. Donna’s performance felt a little flatter to me, largely just because she didn’t get as many witty retorts and jokes in as the other returning cast. She still had her moments though, and seeing Eric and Donna on top of a car in the driveway was an absolute flashback to my own teen years.
There were also plenty of meta references to That 70s Show jokes and locations. Things like dumbass, getting foot in your ass, and other very Red-centric phrases. There were also callbacks to familiar places like the iconic Foreman basement and the sometimes deadly water tower. Even cannabis had to play a role, with the teens finding an old batch that apparently is still magically good. The mold alone… but alas it’s TV and I guess I’ll suspend disbelief this time.
There were also plenty of 90s references
Honestly, I felt transported back to the 90s while watching this show. There were no distracting cell phones in the hands of the teens, there was mention of landlines, and there were plenty of classic 90s songs scattered throughout the first episode. I also enjoyed references like bringing up Zima, a really gross alcoholic beverage that was popular in the 90s and briefly came back not that long ago only to disappear again.
I’m not so sure about the new cast
Andrew Grush / Android Authority
Every new teen character introduced in the pilot had a lot of personality and quirkiness. There were also a lot of parallels to That 70s Show characters starting with Leia who is very similar to her father in terms of snarkiness and wit, but not nearly as nerdy. She’s still just as awkward, though. Then there’s her new best friend Gwen which has the same kind of rebel “try anything once” mentality that made Hyde such a popular character.
Really all the characters were fun and seemed decently written. But the chemistry isn’t there for me. Let’s circle back to That 70s Show. Back then Donna and Eric immediately clicked for me, same with Kelso and Hyde. Fez was weird but felt right. Jackie was probably the only one that took a few seasons for me to warm up to fully. The characters all fed off each other with great jokes and chemistry abound.
The chemistry between the new characters isn’t as strong as the That 70s Show cast, but hopefully the interactions will improve with time.
That 90s Show attempts to do the same thing, introducing jokes that are often a bit too lame but designed to get a chuckle. I just don’t feel like the characters mesh as well and at times these new characters felt a bit too much like forced caricatures of That 70s Show teen characters.
It’s not all bad though. I felt that Leia and Gwen’s new friendship had a lot of potential, and these two teens probably had the best on-screen chemistry of the batch.
I also really liked Ozzie and while not all his lines were great, he felt like a character with promise. The best of all the new characters was definitely Leia. The new Foreman member perfectly fit with the behaviors and tone of the rest of the Foremans, and her interactions with her grandpa really harkened back to Red and Eric’s relationship. I also really liked Leia’s interactions with her friends and a funny moment when she uses her debate skills to buy a tap for a keg.
Should you watch That 90s Show?
That 90s Show is perfect for those who loved the original or are just nostalgic for the 90s. It’s also a good way to connect with your kids by making it your next family TV night show. I’m less certain it has potential for new audiences beyond those teens that are basically convinced to watch it by their parents. This show really focused on nostalgia for That 70s Show, even more so than nostalgia for the actual 1990s. I hope it can find its footing and establish itself as more than that in the coming episodes.
The good news is under all the references and callbacks there were a few sparks of genuine humor with the new characters. It just might take a bit more time to fall in love with them as it did for me to take to the original Point Place kids. While I can’t tell you if you should watch it or not, I will tell you that I’ll be rewatching the pilot with my kids tonight. And I’m definitely excited to check out the rest of the series.
Does That 90s Show live up to the hype?