While That ‘90s Show is not perfect, there are a handful of things that the Netflix spinoff does better than its predecessor, That ‘70s Show. It is never easy for a spinoff to recapture the success of its predecessor. If a spinoff’s tone is too close to the original show, it will feel redundant, but if the new show’s tone feels too different, the two series won’t feel like they are related. For every success story like Young Sheldon or The Conners, there are many cautionary tales like Joey that could put viewers off checking out the latest sitcom spinoff.
Fortunately, That ‘90s Show largely falls in the former category. From Jackie and Kelso’s That ‘90s Show reunion to the return of Eric and Donna, the Netflix sitcom spinoff did have its fair share of shameless nostalgic moments. However, That ‘90s Show season 1 also spent much screen time establishing its new heroes and the unique dynamic among their friend group. While the humor of That ‘90s Show felt similar to the style of That ’70s Show, the characters were more than mere carbon copies of Eric, Donna, Kelso, Jackie, Hyde, and Fez. In some pivotal instances, That ‘90s Show even outdid That ‘70s Show.
7. That ‘90s Show Dropped Kitty’s Worst Trait
One of the wisest decisions That ‘90s Show made early on was cutting Kitty’s drinking problem. Introduced late in That ‘70s Show, Kitty’s excessive drinking was never a dramatic or serious plot line in the sitcom. Instead, the character detail was played for cheap laughs as the family discovered countless liquor bottles around the house or Kitty made herself a drink before noon to get through the day. That ‘90s Show dropped this trait likely because the character detail never really fit with Kitty’s optimistic, cheery persona in the first place.
In later seasons of That ‘70s Show, Kitty’s drinking jarred with her idealism and gave her character an underlying sadness. That ‘90s Show was understandably eager to drop this grim note, which made the decision to cut this gag from the spinoff a wise one. Meanwhile, the fact that Eric and Donna were happily married might also explain why Kitty was not driven to drink as often. Her life was a lot more stressful when an unhappy Eric lived with her after Red’s heart attack late in That ‘70s Show. However, Kitty seemed happier now that Eric was happily married, and Red mellowed out somewhat.
6. That ‘90s Show Soften Red’s Persona
Speaking of Red’s newfound mellowness, That ‘90s Show wisely dropped the harsher elements of Red’s character. Ozzie coming out to Kitty proved just how much Kitty and Red were That ‘90s Show’s real stars, so making Red as taciturn as he was in That ‘70s Show would never have worked. Red is still a classic authoritarian (grand-)parent in That ‘90s Show, and it is amusing to see him happy when Eric proves that this tendency rubbed off on him. However, he isn’t the emotionless stoic that he once was. That ‘70s Show’s Red couldn’t tell his son he loved him, whereas That ‘90s Show’s Red seems healthier.
5. That ‘90s Show Improved That ‘70s Show’s LGBTQ+ Representation
While there was some LGBTQ+ representation in That ‘70s Show, That ‘90s Show improves on this significantly. Ozzie is a member of the primary friend group rather than a one-off guest star like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Buddy in That ‘70s Show. Where Buddy was seen in one episode of That ‘70s Show season 1, Ozzie plays a major role in every episode of That ‘90s Show season 1. His burgeoning relationship with his unseen Canadian boyfriend might be a source of laughs, but this classic sitcom trope allows That ‘90s Show to offer better, more substantial LGBTQ+ representation than its predecessor.
4. That ‘90s Show Is More Diverse
While Ozzie’s LGBTQ+ status improved the diversity of That ‘90s Show’s lineup, that wasn’t the only improvement the spinoff made in this realm. Half of the primary cast members in That ‘90s Show are POC, compared to only one member of That ‘70s Show’s main friend group. Not only that, but unlike Fez, their characters aren’t defined by stereotypical tropes. This makes That ‘90s Show feel more inclusive than its largely white predecessor and expands the range of stories the series can tell. While That ‘70s Show occasionally addressed race, viewers who recall the absurd story of Hyde’s father will remember how well that strategy panned out.
3. That ‘90s Show Ignored Jackie and Fez’s Relationship
While the final season of That ‘70s Show is not necessarily the disaster that some fans claim, Jackie and Fez’s much-maligned relationship deserves all the criticism that the relationship received. The character pairing never made sense, and That ‘70s Show did little to explain the match beyond the pair being two of the only major main characters who had not yet been paired off. Fortunately, That ‘90s Show ignored this issue entirely by effectively retconning the plot. This made more sense than trying to keep Fez and Jackie together, even if they were still a couple when viewers last saw the characters.
2. That ‘90s Show Avoided That ‘70s Show’s Weakest Twist
That ‘90s Show dropped Danny Masterson’s Hyde entirely due to ongoing criminal charges against the actor. This meant That ‘90s Show avoided mentioning Hyde’s father. Thus, the spinoff ignored the worst twist in That ‘70s Show history. That ’70s Show season 7 revealed that Hyde’s father was a successful black businessman, a twist that resulted in a lot of questionable gags. This plot was particularly jarring because Masterson was not biracial, making the twist inexplicable and unwelcome. Luckily, That ‘90s Show avoided That 70s Show’s worst plot, which was an improvement on its predecessor.
1. That ‘90s Show Dropped That ‘70s Show’s Worst Characters
That ‘70s Show attempted to replace Topher Grace’s Eric twice during the show’s eight seasons, but neither of the character’s proposed replacements won over fans. The first of them, Charlie, was killed off in That ‘70s Show’s darkest gag, while his replacement fared scarcely better. That ‘70s Show season 8’s Randy was disliked by viewers and critics alike, and his relationship with a newly single Donna did little to endear the character to longtime fans. Fortunately, That ‘90s Show paid attention to fan reaction and ignored the existence of That ‘70s Show’s Charlie and Randy.