Back in the day

Published date24 January 2023
Publication titleSignal
THAT ’90s Show comes shrouded in layers of nostalgia. It is a spin-off from That ’70s Show, the sitcom that ran from 1998-2006 and wrung 200 episodes out of the adventures of a group of teenagers hanging out between 1976 and 1979 in a parental basement in the fictional town of Point Place, Wisconsin. So you can come to it nostalgic for the halcyon days of the actual late ’90s to mid ’00s when (I’m going to play the odds here) you were younger and happier and watching a warm-hearted comedy that launched the careers of Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Topher Grace and Laura Prepon. Or you can be nostalgic for the 1995 of the show, with all its carefully curated mid-’90s sartorial and musical details. Or, as more of the old faces turn up — Debra J Rupp and Kurtwood Smith return as (now) grandparents Kitty and Red Forman for the duration, and most of the original gang make at least cameo appearances — you can lose yourself in misty reminiscences about the original show, its carefully curated version of the ’70s or even (if you can bear so much brown nylon reality) the ’70s themselves

The show itself sticks to the original formula. The first episode sees Eric (Grace) and Donna (Prepon) return to the homestead with their teenage daughter Leia (Callie Haverda), to find Eric’s parents much as we left them. There’s grouchy Red with a heart of gold, forever threatening to plant his foot in the behind of anyone who annoys him (at least until he gets a massage chair that transforms him into a new man). And there’s Kitty, fluttering gamely around her empty nest and eager to fill it again. Her wish is granted when Eric and Donna agree that Leia can stay for the summer.

Like rereading Adrian Mole and finding you now identify with his mother, or revisiting Anne of Green Gables and finding Marilla to be the greatest character, there is a profound sense of dislocation induced when you find yourself rooting more desperately for Kitty’s happiness than you ever did for Eric and Donna’s back in the day.

The new generation, who soon take up residence in the basement of old, comprise Jay Kelso (Mace Coronel, playing son of Michael who is a chip off the horny block but slightly more romantically inclined), feisty girl next...

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