When Netflix first approached “That ’70s Show” creators Bonnie and Terry Turner about rebooting and producing a 1990s reboot, the response was swift.
“Then we thought about it more,” Terry Turner said. And again we said ‘no’.
But the idea is open. This was during the Covid-19 quarantine and the Turners were stuck at home too often to think about it. Meanwhile, Carsey-Werner Tom Werner, who successfully brought back “Roseanne” (with one hiccup, of course, leading it to turn into “The Conners”), also meets and asks about the Turners.
The Turners thought more about it and began to consider it – but only if they came up with an idea that worked. “That’s Eric, our first pass. [Topher Grace] At some point he goes to a rock festival and meets someone that leads to an unknown grandson,” says Terry Turner. “A 14- or 15-year-old boy appeared at the door saying he was red. [Kurtwood Smith] And Kitty [Debra Jo Rupp] grandson”
Netflix told them to try again, because “audiences aren’t warmed to” by the surprising love child. The Turners then approached Gregg Mettler—who wrote them on “That 70’s Show” and “3rd Rock from the Sun” – about taking over as showrunner. Mettler and the Turners (including their daughter Lindsey) hatched a concept together.
“We agreed internally, we weren’t going to do it unless we had a reason to,” Lindsay Turner said. “And what I love about Greg, and I know his mom and dad did too, was the last time people in the ’90s were looking down at their phones. It was the last place of real engagement that you had to have fun and really connect with each other.”
Their 10-episode live-action spin-off, starring Smith, Rupp and newcomers, will air on the stream on January 19. Variety has a first look at the teaser trailer and cast photos; Scroll down for more.
“I wanted it to feel like that ’70s show did,” says Mettler. “The show had a unique tone. He was playful, he had a heart, he was sarcastic, he was filled with love in this family, in a group of friends. I miss being in the basement with those kids.
In “That ’90s Show,” Eric and Donna (Laura Prepon) are married and have a 15-year-old daughter. (“Eric called his daughter Leia,” Mettler said of the “Star Wars”-inspired name. “That whole idea made me smile so much and I knew I had something to build on.” Her grandparents, Red and Kitty, still live in Point Place, Wisconsin. The Foreman family is living in the house.
Leah (Kali Haverda) recently meets next-door neighbor Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide) — named after ’90s icon Gwen Stefani, natch — and joins Gwen’s gang, which includes Gwen’s brother Nate (Maxwell Ace Donovan), his girlfriend Nikki (Sam Morelos) and their friends. Ozzy (Rain Doe) and Jay (Macy Coronel).
Each season only takes place during the summer, as Leia takes a trip to see her grandparents after school. The organizers say they love the idea of a new skate every season for these teenagers. “They change physically, they change emotionally, their lives change, their goals change,” says Bonnie Turner. “It was great story fodder.”
Terry Turner added: “Setting it up just for the summer takes the whole school and going-to-class thing out of the way, which wasn’t the fun we got in the first show. It was more fun in the basement… also people change where they go. They come back after nine months and when they are teenagers, sometimes there is a radical change, sometimes not. But sometimes people decide to go a completely different route.
Original “That ’70s Show” cast members Grace, Prepon (who directed several episodes of “That ’90s Show”), Wilmer Valderrama, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis all make guest appearances. (Not returning is Danny Masterson, currently on probation and charged with three counts of rape.) But the real continuity with the original is Smith and Rupp, this time executive producing.
“They didn’t need a second of convincing,” says Bonnie Turner. “They both spoke separately. If you’ve been there, we’ve been there. They read the scripts and were very helpful in talking to us about how Red and Kitty have aged and maybe become like that. Lindsey Turner says: “The first thing that was key was that after the kids left, Red and Kitty who quietly It was talking to Debra Jo and Kurtwood as they were. And how do the kids who come back change. How do they get their pieces back? How do they change, how are they the same? One of the reasons we knew we were doing well was that those conversations were funny, and complex, and fun.
Mettler (also 200) wrote the “That ’70s Show” ending.Th Class) But he didn’t go back and see old parts.
“I didn’t want to rewrite that show,” he said. “And as for the list of characters, Wikipedia is a good thing to refresh your memory. I didn’t want to get too bogged down in it, really, because I wanted to write more from my heart and the feeling of the room. The most important episode for the new series is where Eric and Donna are now and where their daughter is. Other than that, Red and Kitty is a classic pairing that never goes out of style.”
As for the look and feel of the sequel, the original “That ’70s Show” returning staff includes costume designer Melina Ruth, head of hair Gabriella Pollino and more.
“That was one of the most amazing parts of this experience,” says Mettler. A lot of people with DNA with the old show were coming back. I believe that when they put together those sets that were exact replicas of the ’70s Show’ set, they used the old plans. That’s when I started to get the chills when I started to load up on the little details like the chocks on the kitty shelf and the things in the kitchen. When will you get this chance in life to come back home like this?”
Bonnie Turner added: “I’ll never forget walking on stage for the first time and seeing the set again. I had all kinds of emotions. I was crying.”
And then there’s the new theme song. Mettler said he was under a lot of pressure to come up with something as iconic as “That ’70s Show” theme, “on the street.” The original was edited by Todd Griffin and Ben Vaughn from Big Star’s original song. Cheap Trick reported it as a “70s song”, which is the version used since Season 2.
At this point, Mettler says he’s brainstormed ideas and listened to a lot of ’90s-era Spotify playlists, trying to find just the right song. James Iham, the Pumpkin Cookie player who served as composer on “That ’90s Show,” weighed in.
Eventually, Mettler produced a version of “On the Street” himself, but in the 1990s Sound and Demo (with his daughter on vocals). Iha took that track, recorded it with Brett Anderson – former lead singer of the Donnas – and it became the new theme for “That ’90s Show”.
“I love all the music from the ’90s, all the genres, and we try our best to pack it all into the show,” Mettler says. “And there’s something for everyone in the show.”
In addition to Mettler, Turners, Smith & Rupp, executive producers include Marcy Carsey and Tom Wermer – originally The Carsey-Werner Co. Banner. Jessica Goldston and Chrissy Pietrosh are also EPs.
As for what’s next, the Turners say, “3rd Rock” Revival? “Actually, we were in London at the same time as John Lithgow was doing ‘The Crown,'” says Terry Turner. “I was sitting with John, and I thought, ‘There’s no reason why the aliens can’t come back to London.’
“Maybe, maybe not,” said Bonnie Turner. Three or four years ago, someone asked, ‘Are you going to reboot That ’70s Show?’ If he asks, it is the same way. We would say no way. But it turned out well. If the story is there, it’s there. But you have to be very careful about this. Chimes by Terry Turner: “Because you’ve made a deal with your own personal devil!”
Here’s a first look at “That ’90s Show”: