REVIEW | ‘That ’90s Show’ is high on nostalgia but falls short

Laura Prepon, Debra Jo Rupp and Topher Grace in "That '90s Show".  (Credit: Netflix)

() — The fact that That ’70s Show released 25 years ago is something that truly belongs in the “Time Flies” category, shrouding the latest attempt to revive the franchise in a haze of nostalgia. However, while it’s smoky here, there isn’t much heat, as an uninspired new-gen crowd offsets the performances of most of the original cast, leaving That ’90s Show half.

To get the obvious out of the way, Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp reprising their roles as Red and Kitty Forman, now slightly less grumpy grandparents to a teenager, Leia (Callie Haverda), and a new basement full of Kids, it’s wonderful.

Laura Prepon, Debra Jo Rupp and Topher Grace on “That ’90s Show.” (Credit: Netflix)

At the end of a visit with her parents (yes, Topher Grace and Laura Prepon came back, sporadically), the socially awkward Leia asks to spend the summer at her grandparents’ house, having befriended the free-spirited girl next door (Ashley Aufderheide). ) and his gang.

The group also includes Jay (Mace Coronel), the son of Michael and Jackie (Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis), who is a bit old school, at least in terms of possessing a laid-back charm with the girls.

Before it’s over, audiences will also get to see Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) again, who has his own hilarious career path. (Danny Masterson, whose recent rape trial ended in annulmentis conspicuously absent).

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis in "That '90s Show".  (Credit: Netflix)

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis in “That ’90s Show.” (Credit: Netflix)

The focus, however, is ultimately on the young, and as written, they and other new characters (including Andrea Anders as the Formans’ single mother next door) are the weak links in this version. This may be because, instead of charting a new path, the series uses these characters as cut-outs to recreate aspects of the original series, such as camera flips and smoke-filled basement epiphanies.

The writers also don’t make the most of the 1995 time frame, which is largely limited to pop culture references, like Eric and Donna naming their daughter after a certain “Star Wars” princess and, in one episode, a somewhat dated homage to “Beverly Hills, 90210.”

What do we have left? Mainly Red and Kitty adjusting to their new roles, with the former clearly delighted to see his son wrestling with the whims of parenthood; still, even that produces diminished results before the Wisconsin summer is over.

Netflix doesn’t have a particularly long history among entertainment delivery systems, but it has certainly been aggressive in exploiting name value in older productions, reviving series like Full House Y Gilmore Girls and restarting One Day at a Time.

The impulse is understandable and, with Night Court on NBC, has become a two-comedy revival week, an obvious way to try to cut through the clutter of programming.

Nevertheless, That ’90s Show it primarily serves as a reminder of what made “That ’70s Show” popular back in the day, creating an awkward scenario in which parents, even as they approach middle age, are much cooler than their children.

That ’90s Show premiered on January 19 on Netflix.

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Written by Editor TLN

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