Netflix Revival is a Sweet But Safe Return
The Pitch: 17 years after the Formans shuttered their basement doors forever, a new era of revels, reefer, and joyrides is unfolding in Point Place, Wisconsin — this time on Netflix, rather than Fox. That ’90s Show follows Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon)’s daughter, Leia Forman (Callie Haverda), as she spends the summer crashing with her grandparents, the inimitable Red and Kitty Forman (played by Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp, respectively).
Now in the era of grunge-influenced fashion, Alanis Morrissette, warehouse raves, and disposable cameras, That ’90s Show introduces a new era of fun-seeking basement dwellers: Ashton Kutcher’s Michael Kelso and Mila Kunis’ Jackie Burkhart are mostly out of the picture, but their son Jay Kelso (Mace Coronel) appears as a central member.
Meanwhile, The Formans have some new neighbors — Riot grrrl-tinged rebel Gwen Runck (Ashley Aufderheide) and himbo-esque jock Nate Runck (Maxwell Acee Donovan) are half-siblings that live with their haphazard mother, Sherri (Andrea Anders). Rounding out the sextet is the sassy-but-hilarious Ozzie (Reyn Doi) and the fashionable and mature Nikki (Sam Morelos), and the group is constantly on the hunt for new adventures before Leia heads back to her native Chicago.
Throughout the series’ 10 episodes are major cameos from That ’70s Show‘s principal cast: Topher Grace and Laura Prepon make some memorable appearances, Kutcher and Kunis reunite briefly, Wilder Valderrama guests as a hair guru and Sherri’s love interest, and Tommy Chong returns as the spacey stoner Leo for a couple of episodes. (Notably absent is Danny Masterson as Steven Hyde, who is currently in the midst of a criminal trial for sexual assault.)
The era may be different than That ’70s Show‘s previous offerings, but the reliable multi-camera sitcom style is back and in full swing. The 360-degree camera pans of a basement smoke sesh returns, familiar locations like the water tower and video store are featured. And, like the show’s predecessor, there are era-specific needle drops galore.
The New Gen X: One of the smarter choices in That ’90s Show is not just to focus on a new set of cast members, but to give the new group some room to grow. Each member of the core group is somewhere around 15 or 16 years old, and Leia Forman in particular is a little green when it comes to the usual small-town teenager adventures. Keeping the cast members young (and they all look like they’re 15, which doesn’t always happen on Netflix “high school” shows) cements that the series will take after the same silly tone as That ’70s Show, and will follow the group as they grow out of adolescence and into the challenges and maturity of adulthood.