Photos from the set of Netflix’s That ’90s Show give a glimpse of the Formans’ relatively unchanged basement, which, while exciting, is also a clear example of the biggest challenge that the sequel series must overcome. Joining a slew of modern reboots and revivals, Netflix is creating an official sequel series to That ‘70s Show, the beloved 1990s and early 2000s sitcom set in the nostalgic sex, drugs, and rock and roll era of the 1970s. Since That ‘70s Show premiered 20 years after the decade it covers, Netflix’s upcoming That ’90s Show series chose the perfect time to revive the iconic characters on a nostalgic trip nearly 30 years back in time to 1995.
While it is the first sequel series/spinoff to revive the original characters, That ‘90s Show isn’t the first sitcom offshoot of That ‘70s Show. Four years before That ‘70s Show’s 2006 finale, Fox tried its hand at That ‘80s Show, though not as a direct spinoff. The series was critically panned and canceled after only one season, which may partially explain why it took so long for That ‘90s Show to come about. That said, the upcoming That ‘90s Show is in a sweet spot of the show’s larger timeline, with just enough time having passed to establish a new generation of teenagers in a completely different culture, while also having the advantage of the protagonist, Leia Forman, being Eric and Donna’s teenage daughter.
At first glance, the notion of That ‘90s Show taking place at the Formans’ old Point Place house as Leia spends the summer with her grandparents Kitty and Red is a recipe for success, but it also introduces a problem for the sitcom establishing itself beyond the original. That ‘90s Show’s first set image of the basement, a location well-known as the gang’s hangout spot in That ‘70s Show, reveals that it has been left virtually unchanged. The Formans’ basement staying the same allows audiences to return to the universe of That ‘70s Show with more ease, but it also creates a complicated nostalgia problem that That ‘90s Show is apt to suffer from. While That ‘70s Show’s basement setting was meant to specifically elicit nostalgia for the 1970s, That ‘90s Show keeping the same exact set is thus also nostalgic for the ‘70 when its main focus needs to be on the titular 1990s.
The overarching premise of bringing That ‘70s Shows characters back in the 1990s is to present a new era in their lives, which is why it’s a mistake that nothing in the basement has changed in the past 20 years. That ‘90s Show‘s spinoff venture must establish that the basement is now a product of nostalgia for the ‘90s, which would include a change of interior design, posters on the walls, and notable relics of this decade. While it would make sense in-universe for Kitty and Red to have left the basement relatively the same after Eric moved away and stopped using it so often, the fact that it’s also a prominent set piece in That ‘90s Show for Leia and her teenage friends suggests they would restyle it to fit the modern cultural tastes.
That ‘90s Show needs to establish how the style and interests of That ‘70s Show’s characters are now out-of-date and old in terms of the new 1995 generation, which isn’t properly accomplished when they leave all of the original furnishings. While leaving the Green Bay Packers “Stupid Helmet” and a Led Zeppelin poster are great Easter eggs and homages to That ‘70s Show, it also exacerbates a problem for That ‘90s Show in which the 2020s sitcom is nostalgic for the 1990s, but is in-universe nostalgic for the 1970s. That ‘70s Show wasn’t nostalgic for the 1950s–only in very few cases for flashbacks of Red and Kitty–and perfectly allowed itself to explore the nuances of the ‘70s that many were looking back on the 1990s. Now, That ‘90s Show has to do the same by being a 2020s sitcom that is specifically nostalgic for the 1990s, which means keeping the ‘70s sentimentality to a minimum.