That ’90s Show, the revival/sequel/spin-off sitcom of That ’70s Show tries to re-propose the same formula and magic of the original series, but it doesn’t quite succeed. It still remains a better experiment than other “nostalgia” series on Netflix.
Revivals/spin-offs/sequels are a real genre, increasingly frequent in this era we are living in and which we could define as “nostalgia”. In the wake of this feeling, after a few unsuccessful attempts, he comes up Netflix from 19 January That ’90s Showthe spin-off/sequel/revival of That ’70s Show, the MTV sitcom that was successful (more in the US than in Italy) in the 90s and now tries to bring old-fashioned comedy back to TV, only partially succeeding. As we will try to explain in the review of That ’90s Showentirely available in streaming with its ten episodes, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the original series (which was also available on the platform until recently, but then the rights expired) to be able to appreciate the new serial, even if it plays a lot about references to the past.
That ’90s Show takes up the stylistic features and basic plot of That ’70s Show: a group of boys try to understand their place in the world while spending time together in the tavern of the protagonist’s grandparents. In That ’70s Show the same happened with the protagonist’s parents, and this simply because there was a generational leap. Twenty years have passed and now Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon) are the parents of Leia (yes, the very name of the princess of Star Wars, played by newcomer Callie Haverda). The couple decide to spend the summer with her grandparents, Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp, who had already returned to the world of sitcoms in WandaVision) e Red (Kurtwood Smith).
The serie sequel focuses precisely on this summer that will make her discover many things typical of adolescence: friends, first love, the first existential questions about life, and so on. The sitcom, shot with a live audience just like the mother series, therefore takes up the characteristics of the multi-camera comedy with few environments and four fixed cameras. In addition the peculiar look that had characterized That ’70s Showor the camera placed in the middle with the protagonists in a circle that turned 360° to show comments and anecdotes about their lives, especially while they were excited by the joints they had smoked in the tavern.
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… new cast
It is interesting to note how an attempt is made to rejuvenate a genre that perhaps has had its day – even if many of us have grown up with it – with more current themes and ones close to today’s generations. Except that in this case this technique is used in a story set in the 90s anyway, therefore in the past. Issues such as feminism and LGBT are therefore not out of place but certainly perhaps a little ahead of the times for how they are talked about on the show, or with the awareness of the years 2010 and 2020. A similar argument can be made for the varied cast for ethnicity and sexual preferences, compared to the original one, which seems to be born from the algorithm – even if it doesn’t clash that much. The new group that supports Leia is formed as follows: the determined and independent Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide) and her big and naive brother Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan), engaged to the ambitious and intelligent Nikki (Sam Morelos). Together with them Jay (Mace Coronel), the playboy of the group and Ozzie (Reyn Doi), cynical and insightful gay boy.
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There will be discoveries, clashes, rivalries, friendship, first kisses, references to pop culture such as Beverly Hills, 90210. All surrounded by the love of grandparents who continue to act as a glue compared to the other parents of the boys, who we see more rarely. It is right that the sitcom, which is also open to new followers, focuses on new entries and the strength of veterans Debra Jo Rupp e Kurtwood Smith and their innate chemistry, but the old guard cameos could have been expanded and handled better. However, none of the original cast will be missing, from Ashton Kutcher’s Michael Kelso to Mila Kunis’ Jackie, up to Wilmer Valderrama’s Fez (continuing the tradition of not revealing which country he comes from) and others that we leave you to discover.
The only one you won’t be able to review is Danny Masterson’s Steven Hyde, due to the allegations that hit the actor years ago and that distanced him from his Netflix projects, including the sitcom The Ranch which had already reunited him with his ex co -star Ashton Kutcher and in which they played two long-estranged brothers. Even the theme song keeps the same musical theme (In the Street of Big Star) and the same style, only that instead of the car (symbol of the show, which Red gives to Eric and then takes it back and will also return in the revival) there is the Forman sofa. Everything, from the colors to the sets to the makeup, goes from the 70s to the 90s (like the first Forman home computer) for a rendering family friendly comedy to all effects.
What to say at the end of the review of That ’90s Show except that the sequel/revival/spin-off of That ’70s Show embodies all the peculiar characteristics by transporting the story – and the protagonist generation – in the 90s. Staging and typical characteristics of the old-fashioned sitcom are inserted quite well, thanks to the fact that it is still a period comedy. Some casting and thematic choices that seem to be made at the table are more out of tune. The return of the historic cast could have been expanded further, to keep the old fans closer together with new possible spectators.
Because we like it
- The new cast works.
- Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith maintain good chemistry.
- The staging that takes up the original.
- The topics covered…
- … which, however, are perhaps a little too ahead of the times, as is the casting.
- More cameos from the old guard and better diluted would certainly have been more appreciated.
- The sitcom remains a genre that has had its day, especially in streaming.
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