Netflix’s ‘That ’90s Show’ follows the story of Leia Forman, who arrives at her grandparents’ house at Point Place, Wisconsin, to spend a summer. Not being very popular at her school back in Chicago, she is glad to find a group of people who are outcasts in their own way. She befriends them, starting the complicated cycle of love and relationships that defines her journey for the rest of the series.
As its name suggests, the sitcom takes place in the 90s, referencing the cultural and political aspects of the time and making the viewing experience a bit nostalgic for the people who grew up around the same time. Even though it’s a comedy, it presents some genuine challenges to its characters, which might make you wonder if the show is based on actual events. Let’s find out.
Is That ’90s Show a True Story?
No, ‘That ’90s Show’ is not based on a true story. It is a spin-off of the hit sitcom, ‘That 70s Show’, created by Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, Gregg Mettler, and Lindsay Turner. The original series previously received a spin-off in the form of ‘That ’80s Show’. However, it could not replicate the success of ‘That ’70s Show’, so when Netflix approached Bonnie and Terry Turner to create ‘That ’90s Show’, they didn’t immediately agree.
In a conversation with Variety, Terry Turner revealed that they thought about it and refused to set a spin-off in the 90s because they didn’t want to create just another similarly themed show for the sake of it. Although, when the pandemic forced the entire world into lockdown, they gave it some more thought and came up with different ways in which they could go back to ‘That ’70s Show’ world with a fresh twist. The idea was to return to Point Place, back to the Forman basement, but they needed to figure out what the fresh batch of characters would look like.
At first, they came up with the concept of Eric’s daughter, of whose existence he was unaware. They’d have a teenager show up at the Forman house, where Kitty and Red would be shocked to find out they have a grandchild. Nevertheless, the streaming service advised against it, believing that “audiences just don’t warm up” to such twists. It would be better to give something familiar to the fans of ‘That ’70s Show’ while inviting the new audience to join in the experience, and the ’90s felt like just the right time.
“The ‘90s was the last time that people were looking up, they weren’t looking down at their phones. It was that last place of a real kind of engagement, having to make your own fun and really connecting with each other,” said Lindsay Turner. For Gregg Mettler, it was important the spin-off is created in the same mold as the original. “I wanted to have the same feeling as ‘That ’70s Show’ did. The show had a very special tone. It was playful, it had a heart, it was sarcastic, and it was filled with love within this family, within the friend group. I missed being in the basement with those kids,” he said.
Mettler further divulged that to keep the new characters distinct, rather than have them turn into a copy of the originals, he looked toward the kids around him. He stated, “Some of the characters are based on friends of my kids, who are both teenagers. Some of them were just based on me looking at a bunch of ’90s stuff and going, ‘Oh, I remember a dude like that.’ It was just doing a lot of character work.” Once the actors came on board, things got much more precise as their personalities added to the characters.
Similarly, the writers kept in mind that Kitty and Red Forman would have changed over the past fifteen years, especially after the kids weren’t around anymore. Hence, how the arrival of a new bunch would affect their peace and quiet also became an essential element of the story. Considering this, it is clear that while ‘That ’90s Show’ is fictional, the cast and crew of the show have done their best to make it as relatable an experience as possible for the viewers.
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