THE spin off That ’90s Show has a certain audience: it seems to want to reach those who enjoyed the series That ’70s Show, which was produced by Fox for eight seasons between 1998 and 2006. But I say this not only because of the theme related to the original – That ’90s Show follows the daughter of Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon) twenty years later – but for one more factor: the kind of humor that the new series carries.
That is to say, That ’90s Show, which was produced by Netflix, is in almost every way just like its parent series. This can be seen, for example, in the dynamics of the characters themselves. The narrative begins when Eric and Donna visit his parents, Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) during the 4th of July holiday, one of the most traditional in American culture. At the end of the trip, teenager Leia (Callie Haverda) must leave with her father, Eric, for a Star Wars convention.
But Leia rebels: she doesn’t want to go on that tour. Instead, she asks to spend the holidays with her grandparents. Thus, he has the opportunity to meet and develop a relationship with his neighbors: the smart and cool Gwen (Afro-descendant actress Ashley Aufderheide), who is the half-sister of Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan), who, in turn, is dating the Asian Nikki (Sam Morelos). They also make up the group Jay (Mace Coronel), who is Nate’s best friend, and a gay teenager named Ozzie (Reyn Doi, who is of Japanese and Hawaiian ancestry). It is quite clear: the “functions” of the characters in the plot are practically the same as in the original series.
I highlight the ethnic origins of the actors to emphasize that we are watching a contemporary update of a much loved series, but which, in many ways, was considered problematic. That ’70s Show, at one point, was accused of stigmatizing the Latino population with the character Fez (Wilmer Valderrama, who returns to That ’90s Show as a guest star), who was presented as someone dumb and with stilted mannerisms that were used to belittle him.
Still, the spin off clearly returns to seek out the audience homesick for the riots and the pot rings that occurred in Red and Kitty’s basement (without them realizing it, of course). The idea is to continue bringing a series lightbut adjusted to its time.
New series, old humor
You’ve probably come across some discussions that suggest that certain speeches circulated in series and movies became dated after a while. They are characters that disrespect minorities, jokes that offend all kinds of people or another type of practice that, over the years, began to be seen as harmful.
But little is said that this tiredness also occurs in the formats. Comedy, for example, has changed a lot in recent decades. In the 1990s and well into the 2000s, the format sitcom with cheering (audience laughter, as these programs are recorded in theaters with an audience) was practically the rule. Just remember Friends, Seinfeld, How I met your mother and so many shows that followed or preceded them.
It so happens that cheerleading – also pejoratively called “canned laughter” – has almost fallen into disuse in recent years. One of the reasons may be the sophistication of the type of humor in series. The Office, for example, catapulted the format mockumentary (a play on the documentary format), and many series have emerged that mix drama and humor in equal measure – like, for example, The White Lotus or even Succession.
Therefore, watching a series based on the format of jokes timed by the minute and punctuated by background laughter in the middle of 2023 seems a bit like going back to the past, without having much desire to do so. But the worst part is: That ’90s Show’s jokes aren’t even very funny.
Is it worth seeing?
(Source: Netflix)Source: Netflix
I would therefore say that That ’90s Show sounds a bit like eating reheated food. Most of the time, we do this out of sheer laziness. But there are times when that pizza from yesterday looks better than the day it was ordered.
By this I mean that this spin off, sometimes it has that sweet little comedy flavor that you want to watch without having to think about it too much. The attraction brings a certain amount of teen naivete, in a non-cynical view of life, which is a little different from the original series – giving the feeling that, while That ’90s Show evokes nostalgia, it is also seeking to appeal to pre-teens. .
Just to give you an idea, a good part of the first season is centered on Leia’s discoveries (who was so named, of course, on account of her father’s nerdiness and his devotion to Star Wars), such as the anguish of not having given her first kiss. She is involved in a possible romance with Jay Kelso, a young womanizer who, not by chance, is the son of Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutscher) and Jackie (Mila Kunis). Both also make special appearances, to the delight of fans.
At certain moments in history, the excess of “silliness” sounds tiresome. The character Nate, who is manipulated by his sister and his girlfriend, gets irritating due to his inability to show facets that go beyond that. The same goes for Ozzie, who appears to have been formatted to generate buzz on social media – like someone echoing phrases or scenes that can turn into memes.
Amidst the mixed feelings that this spin off is capable of causing, it is worth highlighting the one that pleased me the most: the slightly mocking reading about the elements of youth culture in the years 1990-2000. Pay attention, for example, to making fun of the raves of electronic music (which, viewed from a distance, now seem to have been a great collective delirium), or with the centrality of shopping malls in the lives of teenagers (the youngsters in the series go there to find their “hooks”, in a simplicity that makes older people jealous).
Between the lack of grace and the nostalgic appeal, That ’90s Show seems to be in the middle of the road. Parodying that song by Lulu Santos that was the opening of Malhação: it’s not bad, but it’s not that good either.