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That '90s Show: A Rocky Start, But A Bright Future

For the first time since 2006, viewers worldwide can finally revisit Point Place, Wisconsin, as Netflix has recently released That '90s Show, their hotly-anticipated sequel series to the acclaimed sitcom That '70s Show. 


That '90s Show follows Leia Foreman (Callie Haverda), the daughter of Eric Foreman (Topher Grace) and Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) from the original series, and how her life changes as she spends the summer of 1995 with her grandparents Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp).


Along the way, we get to see the cast of the original series and learn what has transpired in their lives since we last saw them.


Leia immediately befriends rebellious Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide), flirtatious Jay Kelso (Mace Coronel), openly-homosexual Ozzie (Reyn Doi), bright Nikki (Sam Morelos), and goofy Nate (Maxwell Donovan). As if navigating a new group of friends and the challenges of growing up wasn't enough, Leia's life gets more complicated as she develops feelings for Jay, the son of original series characters Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) and Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis).


Let's start with the good: all of the returning actors from That '70s Show killed it. Red, Kitty, Eric, Donna, Michael, Jackie, Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), Leo (Tommy Chong), Bob (Don Stark), and Fenton (Jim Rash) all return in top shape for That '90s Show, and it's a pleasure whenever they show up. If nothing else, the show is worth watching if you're seeking a nostalgic trip down memory lane to see your favorite characters one more time.


Out of the new cast, Haverda as Leia and Donovan as Nate are likable. The rest of the new Point Place teens are mildly enjoyable and have significant potential, but the classic "awkward first season of a sitcom" effect is in full force here. 


The first seasons of sitcoms are typically rough before finding their groove in the second season and onwards. The actors and writers need more time to develop their craft to utilize their abilities to the fullest. That 90's Show is no exception to this.


As the cast becomes more comfortable with each other, I see the series being able to match the highs of its parent show. Some characters, like Doi's Ozzie, are given little more than their basic character trope to work with (the sarcastic gay, in Ozzie's case). With Netflix recently renewing the show for a second season with an expanded 16-episode count, they will likely be able to nail down a winning formula.


Another aspect of the show that needs a bit of fine-tuning is the tone. The bulk of the series felt closer to a Disney Channel sitcom compared to its slightly edgier, more off-color parent show. Whether this is due to the writers opting for the more apparent jokes or the fact that real-life teenagers play the main characters, it is clear that the series needs to borrow more stylistically from That '70s Show and not the modern sitcoms of today.


Things like Ozzie being a sarcastic, openly homosexual person can be fun and a great source of comedy in a way that the original didn't have, but not if that is the only type of material you give the character. Trending away from the low-hanging jokes and focusing more on comedy related to the new actors' developing strengths would significantly improve the show.


Overall, That '90s Show is a decent watch carried by the power of the original characters and cast. The material involving the new cast is not terrible by any means, but it lacks the magic of the original series. With more attention paid to the writing and having the cast get more comfortable with each other, That '90s Show has excellent potential.


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