In 1998, husband and wife writing team Terry and Bonnie Turner transported audiences back in time with That '70s Show. Now, they, along with their daughter Lindsey Turner and original series writer and producer Gregg Mettler, are once again gassing up the Vista Cruiser and returning to Point Place, Wis., along with some new and familiar faces for That '90s Show.
That '70s Show starsKurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp reprise their roles as Red and Kitty Forman for the new series, which is set in 1995, 15 years after the original show's finale. The stern but loving (grand)parents are once again finding their basement and driveway taken over by a group of teens, this time led by their granddaughter Leia (Callie Haverda). The 15-year-old debate club champion quickly finds herself a new set (her first set?) of friends during the Fourth of July weekend when she and her parents, That '70s Show vets Donna (Laura Prepon) and Eric (Topher Grace), return home for the holiday weekend.
After convincing her parents to let her stay in Point Place for the summer, the bookish teen has her horizons broadened by her outgoing group of friends. There's thoughtful rebel Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide), pop culture junkie Ozzie (Reyn Doi), Gwen's football-playing half-brother Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan), Nate's academically inclined girlfriend Nikki (Sam Morelos), and his best friend Jay Kelso (Mace Coronel). Yes, the son of that Kelso.
The 10 episodes cover the summer months of July and August, more than enough time for this group of teens to rack up plenty of new experiences.
Leia's tendencies to doubt herself are lovingly challenged by her new bestie Gwen, who routinely encourages Leia to stop apologizing for being a dork and start taking charge. Gwen's riot grrrl influence has a major effect, with Leia experiencing her first kiss and eventually finding her first boyfriend in Jay Kelso, who achieves a newfound level of maturity during the couple's relationship. This new Kelso also stands up to Red much earlier than either of his parents ever did!
But young love is fleeting and the summer ends with Jay unsure about committing to a long-distance relationship. To make matters even more complicated, Nate, who is beginning to question his future with his much more studious and focused girlfriend Nikki, shares a moment with Leia in the season finale. But the pair's almost-kiss is interrupted by Gwen, possibly the only person willing to keep her best friend and her brother's secret.
Season 1 also includes a friendship between Gwen and Nikki, who are surprised to find they have much more in common than either realized. And Ozzie, who spends most of the summer trying to convince his friends that his French-Canadian boyfriend is real, continues to practice coming out to adults, even making a declaration to Kitty.
The season ends with most of the group (minus superstar scholar Nikki) in dismay over returning to school. Gwen and Leia promise to talk every day after Leia returns to Chicago (yes, she really does leave by the end of the season, instead of finding a way to stick around a little bit longer), while Leia and Jay also commit to keeping their relationship going.
"Two months is an eternity for teenagers, and so is a school year," Lindsey Turner tells Metacritic.
Here, Metacritic talks to Lindsey as well as her father, Terry Turner, about returning to the Forman household and the importance of giving the young cast their own identities that fit within the world of the mid-'90s.
You said no to a reboot several times, but when you changed your mind, was it always going to be Kitty and Red at the center of the story?
Terry Turner: In COVID, one of the things we latched onto is that we wanted to go back home and return things the way they were. That's why we said it should take place in Point Place, and it should be Red and Kitty there and the second generation because they're the touchstone. Looking back on it, it seems like it was totally logical, but at the moment, it was a thinker.
Kurtwood and Debra Jo are executive producers and Laura directed two episodes this season. What qualities did the legacy cast bring to these hands-on roles as people who were there from the start?
T.T.: When Wilmer [Valderrama] came, he was with the cast and they were all looking at him like, "Oh my god, Fez!" But he was saying, "Get out there and swing for the fences. Don't be afraid, this is a safe place." Laura was doing the same thing. They all did that with the cast and carried on with them, and I think it made the cast feel like they were in a safe environment. "Nobody is wrong here, we're all going out and having fun." I think the legacy cast came in and underlined that for them. It was great to watch them work.
There's a lot of character growth over the season for all the teens, but we see that especially with Jay's character. It would have been easy to make him a mini-Michael. Why was it important to distinguish him from his parents?
Lindsey Turner: It was important because That '70s Show is so familiar to so many people. While teenagers are universal, they each have their own sort of spirit in the decade that they're in. I think it was important to us and important to Gregg when we went through the character development that while we were in that next generation and there were echoes in Leia and Jay of their parents, that they were very much their own people. Teenagers, in particular, when they hit that age of 14, 15, 16, they become their own person, so I think it was very important to us to keep that kind of authenticity that you find in a teenager and at the same time being able to echo the original show. Mace, of course, is so adept at channeling the Kelso side of things. When he auditioned, he didn't know early on that he was going to play Michael Kelso's son and when he auditioned, we kind of looked at him and said, "Oh my god. He sounds like Ashton [Kutcher]. That's an Ashtonism!" He was a great find.
T.T.: Later, we wondered, "Did somebody tell him?" [But] he didn't know at all. He was a natural fit. Somebody said he kind of looks like his mom, and he looks like his dad.
Leia also has a big transformation over the summer. She arrives as someone who is overprotected by her parents and she leaves more sure of herself.
T.T.: Callie knew she was Eric's daughter and Donna's daughter, and she has kind of a gawkiness that Eric had but the intelligence that Donna had. It's a nice mix. And I like the fact that by the end of it, Gwen says, "When you first got here, you had never kissed a guy, you had never had a beer. And look at you now! You're an agent of chaos. You are one of us now."
L.T.: This also speaks to the journey that teenagers go through. They start close with their parents and then they become more of who they are. Leia didn't know she was an agent of chaos until she got to the end of the season.
There's an episode when Ozzie helps Kitty set up a computer with the "World Wide Web" and it's a reminder that the 1990s were the last decade before cell phones and social media. Was there ever a discussion to set the revival in the 2000s?
T.T.: It just seemed natural for it to be the '90s. The distance was far enough back, yet it was close enough at the same time that it had that quality to it. Gregg said the '90s were the last time we looked out instead of looking down.
In that same episode, Ozzie comes out to Kitty. Why was that important to include?
L.T.: I think it was important to us because it was one of those things that had become more pronounced in the '90s. It was that kind of moment when it was more culturally acceptable, particularly among younger generations, to be out to your friends.
Was it always going to be Kitty that Ozzie came out to?
L.T.: I think it was a great opportunity for Kitty to be the person that Ozzie came out too. Any of us would have picked Kitty. She's such a safe space.
There are so many great '90s references in the series, but the one that stands out the most is Brian Austin Green reprising while also poking fun at his Beverly Hills, 90210 character. How did that one come about?
L.T.: I wrote that episode. It was a dream come true. I grew up in the '90s and was obsessed with 90210, and being able to write a fantasy sequence for it was so exciting to be on the floor that week and watch them shoot it. I got to write a letter to Brian Austin Green to ask if he would do it. There are very few more surreal moments in your life than remembering someone from a show you were obsessed with and going, "Hi, would you come and reprise your role please?" He could not have been more gracious and wonderful. He was funny, he was so game, he would do anything, he was such a great member of the cast.
T.T.: One of the things that happened with the 90210 thing is that people knew of it, but they weren't really there for it. We put together the opening credits and ran it on a loop while the kids did their makeup and hair. They were all laughing at it, but they all got into it because they had never really studied it or seen it.
Did any of the teens know who Sally Jessy Raphael was?
L.T.: We had to explain it. The parents knew. I think the parents were a great help on this series.
You recreated the circle with the kids getting high in the basement and climbing the water tower, although no one has fallen off yet in That '90s Show. Were there other iconic bits from That '70s Show that you had to cut for time that you wanted to include?
L.T.: We have a running list, but we knew that we had to keep it to what was really iconic. The 360 is something that everybody recognizes [as is] the water tower. There were other things that we wanted to include, but the ship that we steered into was using some '90s fantasy sequences, rather than finding the original bits. That helped us preserve the soul of the original show, but also create a new generation. Maintaining the iconic stuff but steering into what the new kids would appreciate and watch and know.
What has the discussion been around a second season and what would that look like?
T.T.: One of the things Gregg said was that the show lasts from the Fourth of July to Labor Day, and that's every year, that's where it is. I thought, "There's a reason to do that show!" We were looking for ways that we weren't just repeating ourselves. I couldn't think of a show that ever went in and said, "OK, this takes place during the summer." People change, especially when you're 16 and 17. Those eight months, you can come back and be wildly different or the same. It can go one way or another. Plus, when Leia comes back, we've already started thinking that she's going to want her own money, not just money from dad and grandpa. She will probably get in the summer job market.