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That ’90s Show (2023): Revisiting A Childhood Classic

That ’70s Show, the comedy that aired from 1998 to 2006, serves as the foundation for That ’90s Show on Netflix. The exploits of a gang of adolescents hanging out in a grandparents’ basement in the fictional Wisconsin hamlet of Point Place between 1976 and 1979 yielded 200 episodes. You can therefore watch it with fond memories of the gilded age of the late 1990s to the middle of the 2000s, when (I’m going to take a chance here) you were younger and happier and enjoyed a lighthearted comedy that helped launch the careers of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Topher Grace, and Laura Prepon.

Alternately, you may long for the show’s 1995 incarnation with all its meticulously chosen mid-90s musical and sartorial touches. You can also lose yourself in misty memories of the original show, its carefully curated version of the 1970s, or even (if you can bear so much brown nylon reality) the 1970s themselves as more familiar faces appear. Debra J. Rupp and Kurtwood Smith return as grandparents Kitty and Red Forman for the duration, and most of the original gang make at least cameo appearances.

THE PLOT

That ’90s Show, which was created by That ’70s Show founders Bonnie Turner and Terry Turner, their daughter Lindsey Turner, and That ’70s Show producer Gregg Mettler, does make some significant changes to the original, as the title suggests. Now that it’s 1996, there are appropriate updated cultural references: There are entire tales based on Clerks, raves, and AOL, as well as references to Beverly Hills, 90210 and Donkey Kong. Our main character is now his teenage daughter Leia rather than Eric (Topher Grace), who has grown up to become an adjunct professor in Chicago (Callie Haverda). Additionally, there is self-referentiality that was never necessary previously, with cameos, running gags, and the sporadic narrative element alluding to earlier decades. Fortunately, a soft touch prevents these allusions from becoming too adorable.

Gang in That '90s Show
Pic By: Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

But a lot more things remain unchanged. Negotiations to convince Leia to spend the summer with her grandparents Kitty and Red (returning actors Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith) take up a significant portion of the first episode. After she settles there, Leia spends her time with her pals camped out in the basement of the Formans, just like her parents did before her. Leia has some of her father’s dorkiness, and flirtatious jock Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan) seems even more like the new Michael Kelso than the actual new Kelso, Michael’s smooth-talking son Jay, despite the fact that That ’90s Show wisely resists the temptation to swap in one-to-one analogues of the previous cast (Mace Coronel).

Leo Jay and Laiya in That '90s Show
Pic By: Sportskeeda

Even though Leia is a relative newbie to Gwen’s circle of friends, the ensemble quickly develops a comfortable, lived-in relationship. Leia flails like the clumsy goody-two-shoes that she is. But Haverda anchors the ensemble with the surety of a seasoned veteran, and her chemistry with Aufderheide. It makes for possibly the group’s liveliest combination. Donovan and Coronel are the second pair of closest friends in the gang. And they get along so well that they just by saying the word “bro” back and forth. While the younger performers occasionally stray just a little too Disney Channel in their broadness.

THE GOOD/THE BAD

The relatively short 10-episode season of That ’90s Show has one drawback. There is just not enough time to fully use each member of the group. Sam Morelos’ direct style Nikki spends the most of the first half hooked at the lips to her lover, Nate. And doesn’t really come into focus until the second half. However, despite being the only homosexual member of the clique and played by Reyn Doi. Ozzie is frequently left out of other characters’ storylines.

Jay and Laiya in That '90s Show
Pic By: Netflix Life

But in the great scheme of things, these are inconsequential defects. Any ensemble comedy must be able to pair off any combination of performers with confidence. That they would be able to ignite funny moments, and That ’90s Show passes this test with flying colours.

That ’90s Show only sometimes touches on the poignancy of the cast the used to hang around in that basement. As Red describes it, Eric and Donna (Laura Prepon) are now “upstairs people”. Grownups seated at the kitchen table while the kids get up to who knows what below, as Red puts it. Millennial fans will no doubt feel moved by the infrequent opportunities. They have to commiserate with their adolescent counterparts while imparting the lessons. However, the series uses it sparingly since they are conscious that their world has changed significantly. According to that same old theme music, the kids from the 1990s now live in the basement.

MY THOUGHTS

Gang in That '90s Show
Pic By: Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

With “Fuller House,” Netflix has previously ventured into these sentimental waters. But in terms of follow-ups to iconic comedies. “That ’90s Show” is better suited to stand on its own with fresh characters. Sometimes to its fault, “Fuller House” utilised its recurring characters more effectively. If Netflix and viewers give “That ’90s Show” room to develop, it can find a position in the middle. With just enough of Kelso screaming “Damn, Jackie!” to make us feel something without finding it tiresome. Just enough affection for Leia’s parents to have us care about her as much as we do for them.

MY RATINGS

4.5/5

OTHER REVIEWS

HERE’S THE TRAILER OF THE WEB-SERIES

Also Read: That ’90s Show Trailer Review – Cinegenics

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