This story contains spoilers.
The beloved and charismatic misfits who made a dingy basement look like the ultimate hangout space are back 17 years later — but now, they have mini misfits running amok in Point Place, Wisconsin. The Foreman household is also officially back in full swing as a new set of teenagers sit at Kitty Foreman’s kitchen table for advice.
On Jan. 19, Netflix released That ’90s Show, the awaited sequel to the popular teen sitcom That ’70s Show. Five of the six cast members from the original, tight-knit friend group star in the first season to reintroduce their older selves — which, luckily for us, haven’t changed much — and more importantly, to introduce their feisty offspring.
Eric Forman (played by Topher Grace), Donna Pinciotti (played by Laura Prepon), Jackie Burkhart (played by Mila Kunis), Michael Kelso (played by Ashton Kutcher) and Fez (played by Wilmer Valderrama) all return to pass the torch onto the next generation of social oddballs.
Danny Masterson’s character, Steven Hyde, remains absent from the sequel as Masterson faces trial for allegedly raping three women in the early 2000s. Fortunately, Masterson isn’t missed too much despite his character’s influential role in the original series. With numerous new plotlines, I truly didn’t question his absence after the first two episodes.
But before going into the new series, I want to clarify one thing: although That ’90s Show keeps the same energy and comedic script writing for which its predecessor was known, it’s not and will never be That ’70s Show. It’s a progression, not a reboot.
If you want to watch That ’70s Show, then rewatch it. Don’t come into That ’90s Show expecting lines to be delivered with Eric’s quirky tone or Hyde’s cocky attitude. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the show and sink into the nostalgia a lot more when you let go of your favorite characters and make room for the new gang.
That aside, I will note that when jokes seem to not land, think about how it would sound if a similar character were to deliver it in That ’70s Show. I laughed a lot more once I started doing it, and soon the characters themselves made me chuckle more.
Now, let’s get into who exactly makes up the new crew riding around in the Vista Cruiser. Donna and Eric’s appropriately named and understandably tall daughter Leia is the perfect combination of Hot Donna’s towering stature with Eric’s Star Wars-obsessed awkwardness. It’s an outdated stereotype, but hey, we’re talking about the ’90s!
And who else would Leia fall for but the newest playboy of Point Place, Jay Kelso. Taking after his studly father, Michael, and pretty, but self-absorbed mother, Jackie, Jay exudes self-confidence that’s a bit cringy to watch, but slowly it transforms into self-awareness and vulnerability at the hands of the sexually inexperienced Leia.
While those two get ahold of the ropes of dating, viewers get to know the rest of the group. Next door to the Forman’s in Donna’s old house lives Gwen Runck (played by Ashley Aufderheide) and her half-brother Nate (played by Maxwell Acee Donovan). Gwen, a RIOT GRRL-inspired punk teen with a soft side, quickly becomes besties with Leia.
Along with Gwen, the leader of the social misfits, comes the simple-minded Nate, his academically driven girlfriend Nikki (played by Sam Morelos) and the stone-faced and sarcastic friend Ozzie (played by Reyn Doi).
Wisconsin is slowly diversifying in the ’90s, but writers haven’t dove into any culturally significant plotlines yet. However, they open up conversations about sexuality as Ozzie executes a 16-step coming-out plan.
Throughout the season, we also get to see some unusual relationships form. Most notably, Fez appears in three episodes to secure a romantic relationship with Gwen and Nate’s mom, Sherri (played by Andrea Anders). While it’s nice to see Sherri, an unfiltered and rowdy single mom with a heavy midwestern accent, build a serious romantic relationship, I can’t help but feel disappointed that it means Fez’s tacky hairstyle gets even more screen time.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to keep a straight face when Bob Pinciotti (played by Don Stark) and Leo (played by Tommy Chong) return. True fans may even beat Bob to his classic entrance phrase — “Hey there, hi there, ho there.”