That '90s Show Season 1 Review: Pros & Cons Quick Thoughts | Fanboys Anonymous

That '90s Show Season 1 Review: Pros & Cons Quick Thoughts

Posted by Anthony Mango Friday, January 20, 2023

By no means was That '70s Show my absolute favorite program growing up, but it was still part of that pantheon of staple things I had watched.

In an era where there wasn't a near-infinite amount of options available if you wanted to watch TV (ie, no YouTube, on demand, Netflix, etc), you grew to just start liking shows after watching them enough times. I've seen the majority of Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, and so many other shows like this just because they happened to be on around the time a rerun of The Simpsons was about to air or something along those lines.

This is a long-winded way of saying that outside of some parts of the final season—since it just wasn't the same—I had watched nearly all 200 episodes of That '70s Show and grew up with the characters, graduating high school just before its final season, of which I remember watching the finale and liking that it ended with the countdown to the new year into 1980.

Naturally, when That '90s Show was announced, I was curious. Revisiting nostalgia can sometimes be amazing. Other times, it can fail miserably. I've never felt the need to watch Fuller House, but I'm excited to see the revival of Clone High, for instance.

After binging the 10 episodes of That '90s Show, I figured I'd give my quick rundown of thoughts, mostly in pro/con form. You'll have plenty people super obsessed with That '70s Show that will either love or hate this on principle alone, but I'm one of those middle of the road types, which you might find a refreshing change of pace for this type of review.

Without further ado, let's start breaking down what worked for me and what fell short of the mark.

Pro: The General Premise

This is simple and rather perfect. I feel like they sat down, hashed out a few conversations at a conference table, and settled on the easiest, yet most effective foundation that just flat out works.

The old cast probably wouldn't have been all that interested in being the absolute focal points of the show, would be more expensive, and you're missing Hyde. Plus, That '70s Show was about teenagers, so if this was all about adults, it wouldn't have the same vibe.

But if it had been a scenario where Eric and Donna stayed living in Red and Kitty's house, or had moved next door, or anything along those lines, how do you start the show? Their daughter would have grown up with all her friends and the audience would have been plopped into it just skipping 15 years while being asked to "just go with it and love these new characters and don't pay attention to why we're ignoring their parents that you really want to see."

It wouldn't have worked.

But framing this as a summer break for Eric and Donna's daughter, wherein she can stay with her grandparents at the base home of the series, meet a colorful cast of new friends, go on a personal journey of growth and have some antics along the way is exactly the right formula.

Kudos to them for figuring that out and not trying to force anything else. It very much gave me the exact same vibe of the original, with a logical extension follow-up, rather than trying to reboot it entirely or be the show in name only.

Con: The Laugh Track

Unfortunately, one thing that hasn't aged well compared to 1998-2006 is the laugh track.

Generally speaking, I can't stand this anymore. I can only tolerate it when it comes to Seinfeld reruns.

Every show that I rewatch from back in the day—even a show I loved, like How I Met Your Mother—just doesn't feel right with the laugh track. It has become more obnoxious than anything else.

The Big Bang Theory is partially responsible for this (and before you say it, I've watched every episode of that show, so I'm not "just a hater", even if I grew to dislike how Flanderized the show became). Also to blame are the growing number of shows that don't use a laugh track. Even The Simpsons and Scrubs from back in the 90s didn't, but you can also throw in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Modern Family, The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and other comedies that work better without it.

To be perfectly honest, there wasn't a single joke over these 10 episodes that made me laugh out loud. Part of that is the writing itself, with that old school "oh brother" or "you couldn't have told me that sooner!? womp womp" style behind it that doesn't do it for me anymore, and part of it was the canned laughter.

Of course, if this was abandoned, it wouldn't have felt like the same show, so this is a con in a general sense and not something to ding this show itself on. But if this weren't a relic return show and was just something brand new, I wouldn't have bothered with the second episode.

Pro: Leia Forman

Naming Eric and Donna's daughter Leia is perfect. Having her be awkward like Eric, but not just a full-blown Eric clone, was the right way to go, too.

Callie Haverda didn't quite give me "She looks like she'd be the daughter of Erica and Donna" vibes as far as casting goes, but Eric never looked like the son of Red and Kitty, did he? Shut up. It's a sitcom. Just go with it.

Transitioning from a male protagonist to a female lead doesn't matter. The show retains its spirit without becoming about how "it's a GIRL now", which is often incredibly frustrating to watch. Instead of making a statement about it for the sake of it, the writers do what should be done, in that they just treat it like it is natural, so it feels natural. Major kudos for not falling into that trap.

As mentioned with the general premise, having Leia be a fish out of water (sort of) to act as the audience surrogate while introducing these new characters, where she's familiar with the old characters just like the viewers are, worked super well, and not making her some total brat or a buzzkill went a long way in making her likable.

Con: Ozzie

Not likable, though—at least, not for my tastes—was the character of Ozzie.

I get it. He's the Fez of the group. Fez was the quirky and effeminate one with the sass who stood out as not fitting in with the regular kids of Wisconsin, and they felt they needed a similar archetype character, so they came up with Ozzie.

But holy hell, this character was written to just be "the sass machine" 24/7. Every single line he says has no value to it because they are nothing but punchlines. But they aren't even good ones. They're just bitchy "I wouldn't do that if I were you" and "Sorry. I wasn't listening. I have my own problems to deal with" type tropes.

I knew every time the camera focused on him exactly what he would say and I just grew to roll my eyes.

The only good moment he has was when he comes out to Kitty, but that moment is only made good in her response of treating it like it is no big deal and just accepting him for who he is. So really, it is KITTY who makes that scene worthwhile, rather than Ozzie.

If the show comes back for another season, I'd be more than fine with them shipping him off on a bus and replacing him with someone else. He was easily my least favorite of the cast and needs to be toned down considerably and given some actual depth and better jokes other than being cheeky and impertinent.

Pro: Jay Kelso

Who I did really like, though, was Jay Kelso. Pretty much in every possible facet.

Michael and Jackie getting together made more sense to me than the Jackie and Fez thing. And for their son to be just like his father is great. You get to keep the Kelso character alive, basically, but apply it to another generation.

Great casting. I fully buy that Mace Coronel looks like a mix between Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. He also does a great job being a little dim, but not quite as dumb as Kelso, since he does have half of Jackie's genes, too.

The "Buuuuuuuuuuuuuurn" was a good callback. Definitely a highlight.

I really like how they went with the Kelso/Forman romance, rather than to just frame them as friends. Personally, I'm one of those people who thinks Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon should end up together, I think Sam and Izzy are definitely destined to be a thing for the future of Scrubs, and so on. When you've got the ability to take those characters and merge those families together, it's going to likely be a positive for me, so bonus points there.

Mixed Bag: Gwen, Nikki and Nate

Honestly, when it comes to the other three, I could take or leave them. They were fine, with some good and bad moments each.

Gwen works well as the best friend coaxing something out of Leia, but I'll admit that she often felt like she was there just for that reason. I couldn't tell you what her character actually is beyond "Leia's friend who seems kind of cool, but nobody actually gets her" because that's all they've told us and shown us.

Nikki has more depth to her. She's the smart one of the group and has the right level of sass to her. I like her the best of this trio, but I felt like she was just getting started right when the show ended its season.

Nate needs to find himself. Is he the biggest dope of the group, rendering one of Kelso's traits rather moot? Is he the sentimental one like they suggest at the end? (By the way, I didn't like the whole Leia/Nate thing. That felt forced.) Is he a football player or a lazy schlub? Some retooling could go a long way.

Pro: Red and Kitty Forman

These two were exactly as they were in the original show and haven't skipped a beat. They were absolutely perfect all across the board.

There isn't much more to say than that. 10/10

Mixed Bag: Sherri Runck

The show "needed a Bob" in a sense, so they have Sherri. She fills the void of the annoying neighbor rather well.

At no point did I ever get the sense that she was the mother of Gwen and Nate in any fashion, though. I guess if they had had 22 episodes like network television normally has, they would have explored that further and it would have potentially come across better. But as it is, if you told me she was flat out just a neighbor unrelated to anyone else, I'd have bought it.

I don't know why, but she was the character more than any that I looked at and thought to myself "I don't get a 90s vibe from her" even though I didn't get that with essentially ANYONE on the show, if I'm being honest. My brain must have just thought she needed to be more 90s in some way.

Pro: Pacing

This was a quick breeze of a watch. I had it on while I was working on other things that didn't fully require my attention, and it was easy to just keep it running. Before I knew it, another episode was starting. It didn't seem like it was dragging or rushing.

Pro: Cameos

The best part of the show was the first episode. Seeing Topher Grace and Laura Prepon back as Eric and Donna, interacting with Kurtwood Smith's Red and Debra Jo Rupp's Kitty is what sells the show.

I'm glad they were able to get Donna back in a few more scenes. I wish the same could have happened with Eric.

Tommy Chong coming back as Leo? Great.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis nailed their return as Kelso and Jackie. Awesome. Definitely one of the top 3 highlights of the season.

Don Stark's return as Bob Pinciotti was great to see, too. I'm really glad they were able to put that character back in there.

Even just seeing the familiar sets was a nice flashback that I really appreciated.

I will say, though, that since I'm not a total nut about the show, I didn't remember Jim Rash was even on it, let alone this Fenton character. That didn't do anything for me.

I'm on the fence about Fez. Having Wilmer Valderrama back was something that they needed to do, as it would have been weird not to see Fez in any fashion. But while the character was nailed in many ways, I found myself wondering if I had ever found Fez funny. I don't know if I would care to revisit the original series, but I'm starting to think that maybe if I watched it now, I would actually not like Fez, whereas I remember him being an enjoyable character before.

Con: No Steven Hyde

Who I did like even more than Fez back then was Hyde, and it is a shame that he couldn't make a return in some fashion.

Now, before you lynch me, I know why this is the case. Danny Masterson's assault history—true or not—makes it difficult for Netflix and other parties to want to just insert him in there and deal with the potential backlash.

Nothing outright says that isn't a possibility for the future. It isn't as though they said "Boy, it sure is a shame Hyde is dead and we'll never see him" or anything. In an ideal world, there wouldn't be any issues standing in the way of this (for multiple reasons, not the least of which being those things he's accused of doing just wouldn't be a reality). I would have liked to learn what he's been up to.

Is he in prison? Did he die from some overdose? Is he still working with Leo? I'm curious.

He's the only character that felt missing because he was one of the core cast. Not having a cameo or reference about Randy Pearson or even Eric's sister or anything along those lines can be ignored, but I'll admit that no mention of Hyde whatsoever felt like a bit of a void.

General Verdict

All in all, this was a success. It is a short 10 episode semi-reboot follow-up that keeps the spirit of the original going, doesn't spit in its face by any means, tries to deviate a little here and there but keeps its foundation.

If you're a fan of That '70s Show, you should certainly check this out. You won't be disappointed.

What did you think of That '90s Show?
Drop your thoughts in the comments below!


Tony Mango is the founder, editor-in-chief, head writer and podcast host of Fanboys Anonymous as well as all other A Mango Tree branches including Smark Out Moment. He is a pundit, creative director/consultant, fiction writer and more. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.