That ’90s Show – Review

Sarah O'Tuama

On January 19th 2023, the first season of ‘That 90s Show’ was released on the streaming service Netflix. Its arrival came just two and a half years after ‘That 70s Show’, the original series in which That 90s Show was based off, was removed from the service. With a brand new cast and cameos from our favourite characters from the original series, the question everyone’s asking is- is the spin-off just as good as the original? 

That 90s Show follows the life of Leia (Callie Haverda), daughter of Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon) from the original series, as she navigates life as a teenager. She moves in with her grandparents for the Summer, after meeting a group of other teenagers that she wishes to befriend. Among these teenagers is Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide), who Leia quickly hits it off with and is immediately befriended by the rest of the group as a result.

Much like her father, Leia is evidently the most boring character out of the group, but still ends up being the protagonist and centre point of the group and the programme as a whole. She is an innocent girl, who has not experienced much in life, and still has a lot of growing up to do. These new friends are exactly who she needs to help her gain that necessary life experience and guide her through many things that teenagers feel pressure to experience, like first kisses, sexuality, popularity and parties. 

The rest of the group are far more experienced than her, and certainly less naive. For me, it is her friends that provide the real entertainment in the show, as Leia’s innocence is sometimes frustrating and unrelatable. Similarly to That 70s Show, there is the comedy relief character, Aussie (Reyn Doi), the good looking player, Jay (Mace Coronel) and the bossy girlfriend, Nikki (Sam Morelos). Although I like each of these characters and find them quite entertaining, they feel almost forced to replicate the characters of the past, instead of having their own storylines. Even with that, the replicas feel more ‘Disney’ than the before and don’t leave you longing to be in the friend group the same way that the original group does. 

Overall, I did enjoy the show. Perhaps it was purely for nostalgic reasons, or maybe I’m just a sucker for a good coming of age series, but I can definitely understand why people were disappointed. I enjoyed the parallels between the 70s and 90s, but often felt it was too forced and didn’t feel as authentic as before. I definitely applaud all of the actors, as That 70s Show is so iconic that it would be difficult to attempt to recreate. All in all, if it is renewed for a season 2, I will be watching, but hoping that the characters have more of an opportunity to come into their own and create their own path, instead of the one already paved for them. It’s definitely not as good as the original, but it made me laugh and could keep my attention for more than 5 minutes at a time, so I’ll take that as a win. 

Sarah O’Tuama

Image Credit: Netflix