That ‘90s Show will be a more direct spinoff from That ‘70s Show than 2002’s That ‘80s Show, but the upcoming Netflix series can still learn a valuable lesson from the unsuccessful spinoff. That ‘70s Show ran from 1998 to 2006, earning high ratings and a loyal fan following, but That ‘80s Show only lasted 13 episodes, missing a key element of its predecessor’s success. That ‘90s Show won’t necessarily be successful by simply being the opposite of That ‘80s Show, but if the showrunners use the older spinoff’s failure to highlight what made That ‘70s Show so beloved, the upcoming series will avoid That ‘80s Show’s mistakes.
That ‘70s Show follows the misadventures of six Wisconsin teenagers from 1976 to 1979. With a likable cast of characters, numerous ‘70s-era pop culture references, and a decent amount of character development, the sitcom was highly successful and gracefully ended on its own terms in 2006. Its spinoff, That ‘80s Show, had a brief concurrent run in 2002, taking place in San Diego in 1984, with only a loose connection to the characters of That ‘70s Show.
That ‘80s Show wasn’t well-received, especially compared to That ‘70s Show. The ‘80s-set spinoff lacked the likable characters and chemistry of its predecessor, relying too heavily on ‘80s nostalgia, which wasn’t the ultimate appeal of That ‘70s Show. That ‘90s Show is intrinsically connected to That ‘70s Show through three of its main characters, giving it an advantage over That ‘80s Show. Still, the lesson it must learn from the failed spinoff is that it’s not nostalgia or continuity that will make it a success, but rather good comedic writing and a cast with chemistry, with the decade-specific nostalgia simply being the backdrop. The stronger connection also allows for instant possibilities when it comes to cameos from other That ’70s Show characters.
That ‘90s Show will take place in 1995, centering on Eric Forman and Donna Pinciotti’s daughter, Leia Forman (whose first name references Eric’s infamous Star Wars obsession), as she stays with grandparents, Kitty and Red Forman, for the summer. While Kitty and Red are returning from That ‘70s Show, the rest of the cast will be original characters, allowing the series to strike the right balance of standing on its own and being a continuation of the original sitcom. Some set photos, such as Kitty and Red’s basement, have raised concerns among That ‘70s Show fans regarding the upcoming spinoff’s originality.
Kitty and Red’s basement appears relatively unchanged since it was last seen in That ‘70s Show, leading some to worry that That ‘90s Show will lean too heavily on nostalgia for the ‘70s and That ‘70s Show, failing to properly depict the ‘90s and not giving its new characters a chance to shine. This would make the series the opposite of That ‘80s Show, where it’s too closely tied to the original series’ antics and doesn’t stand on its own merits while ignoring potential ‘90s nostalgia.
That ‘70s Show was successful because of its characters and comedic writing, with its ‘70s setting largely serving as a backdrop and source of anachronistic humor. That ‘80s Show failed in large part because it prioritized nostalgia over its characters, missing the point of its predecessor. To succeed as a sitcom, That ‘90s Show will need to keep itself grounded in the ‘90s without relying too heavily on cultural references or nostalgia for That ‘70s Show.