5 Ways That ‘90s Show Succeeds As A Nostalgic Reboot (Where Others Failed)

That ’90s Show has used its nostalgia factor in a way other reboots have not, resulting in a delightful sequel to That ’70s Show. It seems as if the series learned from other recent reboots that have failed to draw audiences back in after decades of its parent series being off the air. These flops made many cautiously optimistic about returning to the Forman residence since it could potentially taint That ’70s Show’s reputation. However, That ’90s Show came ready with an excellent recipe for a successful reboot, all the way from how it featured its returning characters to the respect it shows the nostalgic ’90s.

The sequel to That ’90s Show picks up in 1995, about 16 years after the conclusion of That ’70s Show. Audiences were immediately welcomed back into Kitty Forman’s kitchen and greeted by familiar faces. However, it wasn’t long before the show began to feel entirely new. This combination of the familiar and original is a stark contrast to other sitcom reboots like Fuller House, which tried so hard to pander to audiences with nostalgia that it only succeeded in breaking the immersion of Full House. That ’70s Show managed to stand on its own—with a sprinkle of nostalgia—but how did it do it?

5 That ‘90s Show Avoids A Contemporary Setting Mistake

What makes shows like Friends and Full House so nostalgic is that they are frozen in a simpler time. When the series originally aired, their settings were contemporary. However, as the decades went on and audiences binged them again and again, the characters seemed like comfortable companions that would never change. However, returning to these characters to see what they are doing « today, » like in Fuller House, breaks this illusion. They are no longer representations of a simpler time—the characters are brought to the real world and lose something in the process.

That ’90s Show had the benefit that its predecessor show wasn’t set in the decade it aired. That ’70s Show already had nostalgia baked in, so it didn’t require years of binging to help it represent a simpler time. Ever-advancing technology like social media has made the world even more complicated today. So, That ’90s Show allows audiences to return to these characters 20 years later without seeing them in the modern world—thus continuing the illusion that they perpetually exist outside today’s troubles.

4 That ‘70s Show Had Already Established A Winning Nostalgia Formula

The entire premise of That ’70s Show was nostalgia, and it pulled it off perfectly. This could have gone catastrophically wrong since depending too heavily on jokes and references from the 1970s would have isolated any audience member that couldn’t relate to growing up in that time. Or, if it had depended entirely on making fun of the decade in which it was set, the gimmick would have grown old quickly (as was seen in That ’80s Show). However, That ’70s Show established the 1970s theme but focused mainly on the timeless relatability of being a teenager.

This winning formula has been repeated perfectly in That ’90s Show. It’s clear from the title, sets, conversations, etc., that the show is set in the 1990s. However, the plot focuses entirely on the characters’ experiences together and individually. The relationships of the teenage characters are still relatable to anyone, whether they grew up in the ’90s or not. Therefore, even those who may not relate to every aspect of the show can appreciate the nostalgia, just as they did with That ’70s Show.

3 That ‘90s Show Is Nostalgic For All Ages

Part of what makes That ’90s Show so unique is the representation of several different age groups. This had already been done to a degree in That ’70s Show, where adult audiences could remember what it was like to be a teenager in the ’70s and relate to Red and Kitty Forman as adults and parents. Now, That ’90s Show has added yet another layer to this. The representation and relatability have never been better.

That ’90s Show features three generations. Give or take, Red and Kitty represent the Baby Boomers. Generation X is seen in those like Donna, Eric, and even the new neighbor Sherri Runck, and the new group of teenagers in the basement are the Millennials. Therefore, no matter a viewer’s age group, they can recognize themselves or loved ones in the characters. Even modern teenagers and young adults, known as Generation Z, can participate in the nostalgia since 1990s music, fashion, and aesthetic are once again all the rage.

2 That ’90s Show Focuses On New Characters

Sitcom reboots often struggle to find the balance between old and new characters. If a show focuses entirely on its past characters, it can often begin to fall flat. However, a wholly new cast can detract from the comfort that a nostalgia reboot is supposed to bring. In fact, some of the biggest concerns from That ’70s Show fans before That ’90s Show began streaming on Netflix was that the new characters wouldn’t effectively fill the shoes of the old. However, these new characters are exactly what helped the reboot work—supported perfectly by past character cameos.

That ’90s Show has managed to bring back every central That ’70s Show character, aside from Steven Hyde, but the show has remained largely about the new teenage characters. Leia Forman and her friends might have taken some getting used to, but their easy chemistry allows the show to stand on its own without depending too heavily on That ’70s Show. Cameos from Jackie, Kelso, Eric, Donna, and Fez are done tastefully, and the steadfast presence of Red and Kitty brings it all together. It all came down to this perfect balance.

1 Red & Kitty Forman Make That ’90s Show Work

Red and Kitty Forman were always a treat in That ’70s Show, but That ’90s Show has used their characters to demonstrate the realization teenagers often have when they grew up—their parents aren’t as bad as they thought. The duo may have served as the comical (and somewhat clueless) support to Eric and his friends, but That ’90s Show proves that they were really always the main characters.

As the common denominator of both That ’70s Show and That ’90s Show, Red and Kitty Forman provide the central aspect of nostalgia that makes the reboot work. They are essentially unchanged from the parent series, other than the sense of peace that seems to come from moving from the « parent » stage to the « grandparent » stage. They are hilarious, relatable, and carry the other successful elements of That ’90s Show on their backs. Ultimately, the reboot would have been nothing without them.