Home » ‘That ’90s Show’ Review – It’s Time to Leave Wisconsin Behind

‘That ’90s Show’ Review – It’s Time to Leave Wisconsin Behind

by Anna Miller
Kurtwood Smith reprises his role as the grumpy grandpa Red Forman in the spin-off series That '90s Show on Netflix.

Revisiting beloved pieces of media – from remaking classic films, sampling old songs for modern music, or reviving fan-favorite tv shows – always comes with the huge risk of not living up to expectations and failing to do the source material justice. That ’70s Show showrunner Gregg Mettler along with original creators Bonnie and Terry Turner ran with this risk anyways with That ’90s Show on Netflix, trying their best to use nostalgia and familiarity to their advantage as a tool to appeal to both new audiences and those who grew up with Eric Forman, Michael Kelso, and the gang. Sadly, That ’90s Show mostly falls flat, dulling in comparison to its iconic predecessor. In all fairness, it’s quite a daunting reputation to live up to and this spin-off can be charming enough at times. However, it’s simply incomparable to the original show at the end of the day.

That ’90s Show follows Leia Forman (Callie Haverda), daughter of Eric and Donna Pinciotti, as she meets a fresh gang of misfits which prompts her to ask her parents if she can stay the summer with her grandparents’ Red and Kitty Forman in Point Place, Wisconsin. Upon her arrival, Red acts like he’s less than pleased to have kids back at the house, groaning and shuffling along, but Kitty has never been more elated. Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp fall back into their staple roles with ease as they prepare their infamous basement for this latest era of youngins ready to infiltrate their humble home.

Topher Grace as Eric Forman and Laura Prepon as Donna Pinciotti reunite and sit on top of the roof of their car like old times in the reboot series That '90s Show on Netflix.
Topher Grace and Laura Prepon in ‘That ’90s Show’ courtesy of Netflix

This new young cast is comprised of six members who have striking behavioral similarities to the classic That ’70s Show ensemble. Callie Haverda as Leia is the nerdy, awkward, and endearing goof, Nikki played by Sam Morelos is the self-obsessed yet caring one, and Mace Coronel as Jay Kelso (yes, the son of that Kelso and Jackie Burkhart) is the thick-skulled heartthrob with sweet intentions. Other new faces include Ashley Aufderheide as the rebellious Gwen, Reyn Doi as the perceptive Ozzie, and Maxwell Acee Donovan as the easy-going Nate. Altogether, these players make for the main squad of troublemakers taking over the Forman household, causing hijinks and mischief that’s certainly reminiscent of times past. 

An aspect of That ’90s Show that will definitely draw in viewers is the multiple guest appearances from the legacy cast. Topher Grace and Laura Prepon pop in here and there as the beloved married couple Eric and Donna to give advice to their daughter, but ultimately have very minimal screen time. Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher briefly appear as Jackie and Kelso, bickering the whole time as they explain why they’re remarrying for the umpteenth time. Wilmer Valderrama squeezes in screen time as Fez, who’s now a local salon guru with his own hair company, complete with over-the-top, suave commercials. Tommy Chong and Don Stark also get some time to shine. Obviously, Steven Hyde actor Danny Masterson is the only one to not reprise his role due to his sexual assault allegations.

Wilmer Valderrama as Fez styles the hair of Kitty played by Debra Jo Rupp in his new styling salon in Point Place Wisconsin in the spin-off series That '90s Show on Netflix.
Wilmer Valderrama & Debra Jo Rupp in ‘That 90s Show’ courtesy of Netflix

Even if it is admittedly fun to see these familiar faces again, each member of the original cast making the best with what they’ve got, they are truly just cameos as That ’90s Show puts the utmost priority on its hip new leads. The only main recurring stars from back in the day are Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp, who are arguably the most delightful part of the series. Despite the severe empty void that is left from shuffling the old ensemble aside, Smith and Rupp are just so undeniably heartwarming to see in action again, wrangling teenagers and secretly loving every minute of it. 

Though Red and Kitty are an absolute joy to see return, their involvement isn’t redeeming enough for the entirety of That ’90s Show. The current group of kids, as pleasant as they can be, do not come close to living up to the chemistry of their predecessors. Their inner circle dynamics and friendships never ever really feel completely organic. The jokes and gags are often cute enough to produce a smile sure, but their humor is aggressively forced and more theatrical than what was probably intended.

The fact that this new generation of point place kids are meant to each symbolize or fill the previous role as the core characters of That 70s Show doesn’t do this Netflix spin-off any favors. When Jay is mimicking Kelso’s mannerisms or pickup lines or Leia drops a punchline exactly like her father once did, viewers will more than likely just wish they were watching the original cast again instead of these carbon copies. The problem isn’t necessarily that younger characters are introduced to take over the wheel, as another risky revival in Disney’s Girl Meets World managed to make it work enough for 3 seasons, though That 90s’ Show puts little effort in giving its juvenile leads their own identities.

That 90s Show isn’t horrible by any means, however, it’s wholly unmemorable and arguably an unnecessary addition to That 70s Show. There’s nothing profound or totally original to be found here. And even if That ’90s Show doesn’t have to necessarily be any of those things, it doesn’t really try to act like it’s anything else. There will definitely be some fans who will find joy in seeing a new group of kids interacting in the iconic basement, discovering hidden stashes throughout the house, sneaking into parties, frequenting the diner, and tormenting old Red Forman. Consisting of 10 episodes, there’s plenty of nostalgia to be found in this redundant streaming revival, but if someone is looking for a fresh and unique story, characters, and gags, perhaps they should venture out of Wisconsin. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

That ’90s Show is now streaming on Netflix!

Follow writer Anna Miller on Twitter: @itsaimmedia


Greg January 19, 2023 || 2:21 pm - 2:21 pm

Brilliantly nostalgic and a very likeable new gang of kids. I think people know what they are going to get going into this one. I’m personally hoping for more seasons and revisit Point Place again

Griffin Foster January 21, 2023 || 3:15 am - 3:15 am

Complaining that they don’t compare to the original cast is nothing short of nitpicking. Of course they’re not on the same level as the original cast… It’s only season 1. Glad I only wasted time reading half of your critique.

Lee January 19, 2023 || 6:02 pm - 6:02 pm

I disagree! I haven’t watched all of the episodes but I’m loving it! It’s also so much fun to see the cameo appearance of some of the original characters. Plus you can’t beat Red and Kitty. They’re truly unique!
It’s better than some of the new sitcoms that are in now.

Áine January 20, 2023 || 5:06 am - 5:06 am

I really, genuinely, enjoyed it. It’s a shame you didn’t.

George January 20, 2023 || 5:46 am - 5:46 am

I agree with much of what you said. Red and Kitty were by far the best part of the series. I do feel that if given time, That 90s Show, can become something fun and entertaining for years to come. Having just 10 episodes vs the 24 that occurred with That 70s Show, gives them far less time to mesh and develop their characters.

Jimi Fortune January 20, 2023 || 9:06 am - 9:06 am

Totally agree . Great the see the old cast but whoever did the casting and writing should never again work in tv. If I thought they were trying to make a show for 13 year olds , like Saved by the Bell yet far worse, I wouldn’t have wasted my time. It could have been great if not for the creative department be so 110% out of touch.

Joel January 20, 2023 || 9:48 am - 9:48 am

I actually throughly enjoy it and hope it continues from someone who grew up in the 90’s and enjoyed watching the 70’s show. I want more summers and see how the 90’s show can capture the true nostalgia of the era I grew up.

Jacqueline Premeaux January 20, 2023 || 9:54 am - 9:54 am

Lol I feel like only a miserable miserable person could write a review. I’m 32 and I have a 35 year old husband, 28 yr old sister 21 yr old sister and 19 yr old sister and this hitttt for all of us. Like I cried happy tears. And the fabulous fucking wardrobe?! The writing was amazing and the details — everyone’s dad was growing tomatoes in the 90s. Lol this article came up on my google news and I was just shocked. If you’re doing this for clickbait good job: I’ll make sure I never take this publication seriously again. Because lol you either are entirely miserable, or lived under a rock in the 90s if you didn’t relate to or enjoy the revival. Girl , lol go masturbate or something, chilllllll.

Dan Curtis January 20, 2023 || 10:42 am - 10:42 am

I thought it was as good as that 70s show. Erick’s daughter is funnier than he was. Great reboot.

Sarah January 20, 2023 || 10:42 am - 10:42 am

You’re just mad the rapist wasn’t allowed back. The shows hilarious, get over yourself, Hyde 🤣🤣

Patti January 20, 2023 || 10:44 am - 10:44 am

Totally disagree. I’ve seen 7 episodes and enjoyed them all. Would I rather see the original cast more? Yes, of course but I enjoyed the new kids very much. Red and Kitty are amazing. Highly recommend!

Ary January 20, 2023 || 12:02 pm - 12:02 pm

Okay here is the thing, shows should not be the same as previous shows. That 90s show was actually good. It brought back memories of that 70s show here and there. The mind set is supposed to be different. It shows funny potential plot how Eric’s daughter is going through the same phase as Eric did but for short period of time.

Denise January 20, 2023 || 2:03 pm - 2:03 pm

I actually enjoyed watching the 10 episodes. I found them rather amusing and nostalgic. I really look forward to more of it.

Scott January 20, 2023 || 6:42 pm - 6:42 pm

You’re not old enough to get the old show, much less the just of it. If you’re not a fan, how can you appreciate the new show? No thanks, I don’t need your op.

Fred January 20, 2023 || 9:01 pm - 9:01 pm

My daughter and I watched it and absolutely loved the show! I hope Netflix keeps it going. Looking forward to more seasons!

Elisabeth Moore January 20, 2023 || 9:40 pm - 9:40 pm

Watched the whole season was not impressed at all the kids are like watching a Disney show that smoke weed best parts are kitty an red and the rest of the gang hopefully if their is another season it will be better

Joshua Tanner January 20, 2023 || 11:04 pm - 11:04 pm

Anyone who goes into That 90s Show expecting that it could ever even come CLOSE to “living up to the original” is being moronically delusional AT BEST. There was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY this show could be even 40% of what the original was. Period.

If you go into it with intelligence and reasonable expectations, the show is MUCH better than one could expect, and definitely holds up at that level. Anyone decrying how “it’s not as good as the original” was probably also SHOCKED that Jaws 3D wasn’t as good as Jaws.

C’mon, Miss Miller. Use some sense next time, and be better.

Mariah January 21, 2023 || 1:07 am - 1:07 am

I thought it was amazing. I watched that 70’s so religiously and was worried about what this would bring as well but I absolutely loved it and can’t wait for the next season!

Jim Ratzburg January 21, 2023 || 4:21 am - 4:21 am

😄 😆 😂 🤣
Lame review!

Maranda January 21, 2023 || 7:52 am - 7:52 am

I liked it as much as that 70’s show but I did not like the fact that Hyde did not come back

Latrice January 21, 2023 || 8:19 am - 8:19 am

I loved it! It kept me entertained the whole way thru and it was funny sure I missed Hyde’s character but seeing leo made up for that 😂 I love the new kids! I didn’t really like the ending episode tho I don’t buy leia falling for her best friend’s brother that’s already in a relationship and him falling for her when you couldn’t pry him off his girlfriend! Other than that tho I really loved it and want to see more!

Jenn January 21, 2023 || 12:51 pm - 12:51 pm

The sequel is a preteen Disney show with pot which makes the whole thing feel weird. Even the dilemma plots are overly predictable and cheesy which I won’t spoil. The overacting by the new cast and flat jokes is just cringe.
Red and Kitty definitely saved the season along with the cameos of the old cast as their character acting and jokes were actually good and funny. The new characters have boring personalities and while they are all suppose to be misfits, who really wants to listen to corny jokes from dorks for 10 episodes?
Example: Gwen being sarcastic to her brother: “ How are we even related?”
Audience laugh
Nate: “We have the same mother, duh!”
Audience laugh
Nate: “Why do you always ask that?”
Audience laugh
They need to mature the jokes and write lines that better match the new cast ages as if they are 15 and 16 instead of 11 and 12.
Hope next season is better.

JAB January 24, 2023 || 5:21 pm - 5:21 pm

Wow, everyone’s a critic, eh? I think Anna’s review is quite fair. Paradoxically, what makes the show good is what makes it bad. This isn’t That ’90s Show; it’s That ’70s Show — now with new kids!

The problem with the show is that it’s EXACTLY the same as its predecessor; the sets, the locations, the plots, the tone — even the car — are identical. The cast are new actors, yes, but they’re playing the same characters as the original cast. Leia is Eric; Gwen is Hyde; Jay is Donna and so on.

On the one hand, that familiarity, especially given the recurring roles of Red and Kitty and frequent cameos from the original cast, give the show a comforting safety and huge nostalgia rush, but once that wears off, what’s left?

The new cast is pleasant in a Disney XD sort of way, but simply can’t hold a candle to the once-in-a-lifetime magic of the original troop. The plots and locales are well worn and, most damningly, there’s no reason for this show to be in the ’90s — other than the occasional pop culture reference, some posters and an out-of-town rave (which, again, mimics the original’s covert trip to the Todd Rundgren concert, to diminished returns), the show occupies the same world as before, down to the shawl-covered couch in the basement.

So after a too-brief run of 10 episodes, the objective reality is we’re simply watching That ’70s Show with a worse cast. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable, but based on what we’ve seen so far, it really doesn’t give it anywhere to go. The showrunners have also painted themselves into a bit of a corner with the “Leia visits for the summer” plot in that the arc of every season (assuming there are more) will have to begin and conclude within the confines of the season, meaning that after four “summers” the cast will all be seniors and off to college. Not great.

If they can work around the summer-only issue and shoot full seasons that give the new characters a chance to grow and mesh and give the ’90s a more central, meaningful role in the show, we might get somewhere and have something new. Right now, however, I think your time would be better spent on watching reruns of the fantastic original version.


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