Although it may be tempting for That 90s Show to bring back members of That 70s Show’s beloved cast, the series should steal How I Met Your Father’s best trick and wait a while before giving in to this temptation. It is never easy for a sitcom spinoff to live up to its predecessor. Even successful spinoffs like The Big Bang Theory’s Young Sheldon struggle with continuity and canon, attempting to avoid creating plot holes as they expand the fictional universe of the earlier series.
However, this is just the case for successful spinoffs. For the majority of spinoffs, recapturing the tone of the original show is too big a challenge and the new series fails to transcend its origins. This is one challenge that faces Netflix’s upcoming That 90s Show, a reboot of the iconic That 70s Show that could benefit from stealing another recent reboot’s approach to cast cameos.
That 90s Show will pick up a generation after That 70s Show and will focus on the misadventures of a new group of lovable youths. Similarly, 2022’s How I Met Your Father picked up where How I Met Your Mother left off and followed the personal, social, and romantic lives of a group of friends in New York City. HIMYF managed to carve out a considerable audience and even gain some modest acclaim by the end of season 1 despite a shaky start to the series, something that was helped by the show avoiding many direct nods to HIMYM early on. Keeping big cameos from old cast members under wraps until How I Met Your Father’s season 1 finale also helped the reboot establish an identity of its own—something That 90s Show will also need to pull off.
How I Met Your Father Got Reboot Cameos Right
By holding off on How I Met Your Mother’s returning cast cameos until the last two episodes of How I Met Your Father season 1, the reboot managed to make itself feel like a new show before bringing back elements of the earlier hit. This proved vital since critics weren’t kind to HIMYF in its earlier episodes. As such, relying too much on its connections to the original series could have sunk the spinoff fast. How I Met Your Father arrived burdened with hype and high expectations. Avoiding any direct comparisons with How I Met Your Mother‘s characters didn’t stop fans from finding connections between the two shows, proving that How I Met Your Father was right to avoid underlining the show’s similarities and shared universe early on.
Why That 90s Show Will Struggle With Reboot Cameos
Unlike How I Met Your Father, That 90s Show will have a built-in struggle with reboot cameos. Since That 70s Show’s Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp are back—albeit as grandparents rather than parents this time around—this means that the sitcom reboot can’t conveniently ignore the original cast of That 70s Show as much as How I Met Your Father was able to separate itself from its origins. Where HIMYF had the luxury of never needing to connect its characters to the original show, choosing to give fans an unexpected treat in the lat two episodes of season 1, the fact that Kitty and Red play a pivotal part in That 90s Show makes it impossible for the sitcom reboot to completely ignore That 70s Show.
Why That 90s Show Shouldn’t Bring Back That 70s Show Cast
There are myriad reasons why That 90s Show should not rely on cameos from That 70s Show cast members as the show debuts. Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Topher Grace are all busy stars and it’s unlikely they could commit to central roles in the reboot, meaning their return would be unlikely to last more than a cameo. Additionally, their star power would distract from establishing the new cast of That 90s Show, something that How I Met Your Father was aware of when waiting until the finale to bring back a major cast member.
Not only that but there are also complications with the cast of That 70s Show that weren’t relevant for How I Met Your Father’s planned HIMYM cameos. That 70s Show star Danny Masterson is on trial for serious criminal offenses while series star Lisa Robin Kelly died tragically young in 2013. Supporting stars Tanya Roberts and Betty White also recently passed away, meaning that the ensemble cast of That 70s Show can no longer be reunited in the way that How I Met Your Mother’s cast could. While That 90s Show can pay tribute to the stars of the earlier series—and would be a tasteful decision on the part of the reboot—the series won’t be able to recapture the light-hearted tone of That 70s Show if season 1 is spent explaining the absence of former stars and eulogizing their actors.
That 90s Show Should Be A Fresh Start
Although it could sound somewhat callous, That 90s Show deserves a chance to replicate How I Met Your Father‘s biggest successes with a fresh start. The reason That 70s Show succeeded in its original incarnation was thanks to the show’s upbeat tone and its fresh-faced young cast, something the Netflix reboot can also provide. If That 90s Show instead opts to focus on nostalgic memories of That 70s Show and the 90s themselves, the Netflix series will be trapped in a feedback loop with nothing new to say. However, if like How I Met Your Father, That 90s Show embraces its cast and story rather than relying on That 70s Show, the Netflix reboot may prove a success.