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Lively, quick-witted ‘That ’90s Show’ plays it safe, still entertains

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FEBRUARY 07, 2023

Grade: 3.5/5.0

Whether you’re someone who watched “That ’70s Show” while it was airing on television or someone who discovered the show when it hit streaming services, the show is undoubtedly one of the more iconic series from the ’90s and 2000s. 

As a wave of producers pick up old series and reimagine them, “That ’90s Show” is certainly no different as it returns to the familiar locale of small-town Wisconsin with a new bunch of troublemaker teens. “That ’90s Show” may replicate the formula of its predecessor, but it manages to be just as entertaining in its own right, with the new cast bringing a fun flair to the nostalgic continuation.

“That ’90s Show” picks up in 1995, 15 years after the conclusion of “That ’70s Show,” with a new generation of teens causing a ruckus in fictional Point Place, Wisconsin. Dorky and sheltered Leia Forman (Callie Haverda) successfully gains permission from her parents, Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) and Eric Forman (Topher Grace), to stay with her grandparents, Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and Red Forman (Kurtwood Smith), for the summer instead of attending space camp as planned. As Leia settles into her new group of adventurous friends, the group goes on to show that, even though time may pass and trends may shift, teenage antics never change.

The series definitely takes a moment to find its rhythm, with the first two episodes struggling to lay down the foundation for the successors of the iconic series. The new cast of characters at times falls into the archetypes set by the original, whether its Jay Kelso (Mace Coronel) mimicking the ditzy “pretty boy” his father Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) was known to be or Nikki (Sam Morelos) fulfilling the role of sharp, confident Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis). 

However, once it does find its footing, “That ’90s Show” is an overwhelmingly pleasant and nostalgic watch. The cast members slowly but surely establish themselves as independent characters from the original, and while the acting does occasionally veer into Disney Channel Original territory, it manages to be charming all the same.

“That ’90s Show” packs a punch with some incredible performances; Rupp and Smith reprising their roles as Kitty and Red alone makes the show worth watching, as they easily return to the comedic dynamic and recognizable banter audiences know and love them for. While most of the kids take a moment to settle into their roles, Ozzie’s (Reyn Doi) dry humor and sarcasm immediately make an impression, and he doesn’t falter at all as the series progresses. Alongside some cameos from the original cast — Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) and Leo (Tommy Chong) make a few memorable appearances — there is no shortage of talent in “That ’90s Show.”

The series sticks to what it knows best, even though the laugh track and set-up may feel a bit outdated. “That ’90s Show” makes a safe gamble between sticking with what it knows works and trying for something more ambitious, and it ultimately succeeds. Among an incredible surge of revivals and rehashes of old series, “That ’90s Show” stands out by being perfectly recognizable and laidback.

The one double-edged sword is the show’s episode length, clocking in at a classic 25 minutes per episode, give or take. The conciseness is a breath of fresh air compared to other shows, where producers are set to challenge what qualifies as an episode and what qualifies as a feature length film wedged into a TV show. However, it does mean that there is less time spent with the young blood of Point Place and leaves something to be desired, as there just isn’t enough time to expand on the characters in a way that matters to the audience. With so many shows being abruptly canceled, viewers can only hope that enough seasons are greenlit and produced for “That ’90s Show” to become something more than just another attempt at a nostalgic spin-off.

“That ’90s Show” plays it safe in its execution, never straying from the iconic, nonchalant delivery of its witty humor and clever writing that audiences are familiar with from “That ’70s Show.” While it may not be the most ambitious revival, it satisfies viewers nonetheless — and with Netflix renewing the show for a second season, new and old viewers alike will certainly return to that famous Wisconsin basement for another glimpse at the new generation of rowdy teens in small-town Point Place.

Contact Maida Suta at 


FEBRUARY 07, 2023