How 'That '90s Show' Compares to 'That '70s Show'

Hello, Wisconsin — again.

Allison Bowsher

The cast of 'That '90s Show'


Warning: This story contains spoilers for That '90s Show, streaming now on Netflix. Read at your own risk!

They're still hanging out down the street and doing the same old thing they did last week. Er, last decade? The premiere of That '90s Show, a sequel to the Fox sitcom That '70s Show, confirms that while music, clothes, and slang changed, teenagers largely stayed the same between the 1970s and 1990s. At least on TV.

The latest revival to hit Netflix introduces audiences to a new cast of basement-dwelling high schoolers in the fictional Point Place, Wis. The teens are different, but their hangout spots are the same, the weed stash has remained just as potent 15 years later, and Red Forman (Kurtwood Smith) still has his foot locked and loaded for anyone who requires the threat of a swift kick.

Along with Smith, That '90s Show also features the return of Debra Jo Rupp as Kitty Forman, who is much more excited than her husband to welcome their 15-year-old granddaughter Leia (Callie Haverda) into their home for the summer. While visiting her grandparents on the Fourth of July along, Leia befriends Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide), the teen next door who is the most recent resident of Donna's high school bedroom. After bonding over Alanis Morissette, Gwen introduces Leia to her crew, including her half-brother Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan), Nate's girlfriend Nikki (Sam Morelos), Gwen's friend Ozzie (Reyn Doi), and Nate's best friend, Jay Kelso (Mace Coronel). That's right, Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) reproduced. 

Read on to find out who else from the original show is still in Point Place in the '90s, how the new kids compare to the previous teens, and what iconic set pieces got updates.

The original cast returns

The season premiere sets up that Red and Kitty will once again be regulars in this world, but it also proves other original characters and cast members from That '70s Show will pop in and out. Most importantly, Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) head back to their childhood hometown for the Fourth of July weekend with their teenage daughter. While they are back, they get a quick visit from Kelso and Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis), who are preparing for their second marriage to each other. 

Michael and Jackie's cameo in That '90s Show is just long enough for Kelso to deliver a trademark "Burn" directed at Red and for Kitty to question Jackie's decision to wear white to yet another of her weddings. It's a decision Jackie defends, explaining, "It's before Labor Day and if people think it's our first time, we get better gifts."

While on-screen and real-life married couple Kutcher and Kunis only make that one brief appearance in the new sitcom, other familiar faces pop up throughout the first season. Tommy Chong is back as Leo, the consistently high and always chill Army veteran. Don Stark returns in Episode 6 as Bob Pinciotti. The proud dad is now a proud grandfather, making the trip from his new home in Florida back to Wisconsin to celebrate granddaughter Leia's 16th birthday, much to the chagrin of his former neighbors and now in-laws, Red and Kitty.

Grace and Prepon, who also directs two of the episodes, return at the end of the season to bring Leia home. The loving couple are now loving parents, and while some things have changed (they're upstairs people now), much is still the same. Kudos to Eric for parlaying his love for George Lucas into a gig as a professor teaching a course on the religion of Star Wars.

Another original cast member who makes several appearances throughout the season is Wilmer Valderrama as Fez, who is now the owner of a successful hair salon, Chez Fez. 

"I was stepping out for the first moment of Wilmer being shot on stage and the eruption that happened in the audience, I just grabbed him and I said I was going to cry," says Andrea Anders, who plays newcomer Sherri, mom to Gwen and Nate, and Fez's latest romantic interest. "I could feel the intense affection for him and him for them. It was lovely and really cool."

Die-hard fans of That '70s Show will also be excited for the return of Jim Rash as Fenton, who spends much of his on-screen time in That '90s Show doing what he does best — fighting with his renters. In this case, it's Anders' Sherri renting the old Pinciotti home from Fenton and turning to her new boyfriend Fez when she needs help reasoning with the often unreasonable landlord. 

Introducing the new cast

The Formans' basement is full once again on That '90s Show, thanks to their granddaughter Leia and her new group of friends. While Leia displays some of the same nerd-adjacent tendencies of her father (swap an obsession with Star Wars for debate club), the rest of the group is made up of characters who have little in common with their teen predecessors.

"Obviously, That '90s Show is a continuation, but it's not a copy and paste, which is amazing," Aufderheide says, adding that the writers even adjusted her character Gwen to better fit her own personality. 

"When I got the audition for it, Gwen was described as a 'petite powerhouse with pink hair.' They actually changed the character to be more how I am as Ashley," she explains. "She's very punk, she's a riot grrrl, she's bold and confident. I would say I'm those things, but I also have this very happy side to me, and they incorporated that into the character."

Donovan's Nate is a lovable jock whose favorite activities are hanging with his girlfriend Nikki and his bro/best friend Jay. Morelos' Nikki is the most academically inclined member of the group and the only teen who is actually excited about the start of school.  And even though he's a Kelso, Coronel's Jay is an evolved version of his parents. Sure, he has a similarly track record when it comes to dating, but he also has an emotional maturity, especially in regard to his burgeoning relationship with Leia.

And this time around there is more inclusivity in both casting and storytelling, with Doi's Ozzie identifying as gay. While his friends accept him easily and without question (even if they don't necessarily believe his Canadian boyfriend is real), he is more concerned about coming out to adults in his life and small town. But in the first season, he takes a major step in that direction by confiding in Kitty, who embraces him warmly, concerned only over his concern about what she would say when he told her. 

One thing that did stay the same with the teenage characters is their close connection, a lighting-in-a-bottle effect that was crucial to the success of the original series.

"Something that I took from That '70s show is having the same sort of chemistry between the characters. For me, as a viewer of That '70s Show, something that really drew me to the show was the relationship between the characters," says Aufderheide. 

As for the adults, Anders' Sherri brings something the franchise has yet to see, or more specifically hear — a Wisconsin accent.

"My dad is from Fargo and I'm from Wisconsin where the accent is thick, but in my house, it's particularly strong," Anders says. "I spent eight years in theater school getting rid of that accent and now I feel like I'm free."

"There was a really great line that ended up getting cut where Kurtwood said, 'Do you know anything about her?' And Fez says, 'I can't understand her with that accent.' I just thought, 'Oh, there it is,'" she continues.

Returning to Point Place

Since a decade and a half passed since the series finale of That '70s Show, the familiar Forman house set had to be recreated from scratch. But since so much time passed within the timeline of the story, too, many changes were made for period accuracy, not simply because an old prop or piece of set decoration no longer exists. But a few essential items remain from show to show.

"Being on the set and seeing the living room and the basement, it's a little bit different but the same vibe," says Aufderheide. "It was so surreal."

The Hub received a slight facelift, thanks to a new arcade game in place of the old jukebox. And while the Formans' driveway and garage are largely the same, including its contents of the Vista Cruiser and basketball hoop, Red and Kitty's bedroom received a makeover, as did their kitchen, which has new wallpaper and appliances. 

The couch that was previously in the Formans' living room is now in the basement, where many of the same items that appear in the original series are still stored. This includes Eric's stash of pot in his Candy Land board game, which makes an important reappearance early on in That '90s Show. Soon enough these kids, too, are hanging out in the "circle," getting high and sitting around a round table in the Formans' basement.

"It's so fun because the camera is here and then it whips around and whips around until it comes to you. It's like, 'Oh, it's coming to me,'" says Aufderheide with a laugh. 

That '90s Show also includes a return to the water tower, although, in this instance, no one falls off the structure. 

"Shooting those scenes was crazy because I would watch it on That '70s Show, and then I'm there, sitting on the water tower," says Aufderheide. "My audition scene was one of the scenes on the water tower, so that's a scene that is dear to my heart because it has been with me throughout the whole ride."