When Netflix initially pitched the idea of what would become That '90s Show to That '70s Show creators Bonnie & Terry Turner, it was initially a hard pass. "And then we thought about it some more," Terry said. "And we said 'no' again." Not only did the streamer approach them, but their creative partner from Carsey-Werner's Tom Werner did as well. The Turners developed an initial concept that wasn't far off from what it ended up being that featured the Forman family in some form. The Turners and showrunner Greg Mattler spoke to Variety about how the show came to be.
"Our first pass what that Eric [Topher Grace] had at some point gone to a rock festival and hooked up with someone, leading to an unknown grandchild," Terry said. "And at the doorway shows up a 14- or 15-year-old kid who says he's Red [Kurtwood Smith] and Kitty's [Debra Jo Rupp] grandkid." After Netflix passed on the surprise love child idea, the duo went back to the drawing board with Mettler, who was with them as a writer on the original Fox show, asking him if he wanted to be the showrunner. The parents also asked their daughter Lindsey Turner for creative input.
"We agreed amongst ourselves; we weren't going to do it unless we could find a reason," Lindsey said. "And the thing that Greg said that I really loved, and I know mom and dad did too, was, 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." Netflix signed off on the 10-episode season for That '90s Show, which features holdovers Rupp and Smith, to lead a new younger cast.
"I wanted to have the same feeling as 'That 70s Show did," Mettler says. "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." The new show brings back Grace and Laura Prepon (Donna Pinciotti) from the original series with their daughter, Leia Forman, played by Callie Haverda) as the new focus of the series. She meets next-door neighbor Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide) — named after artist and No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani — and falls in with Gwen's crew, including Gwen's brother Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan), his girlfriend Nikki (Sam Morelos) and their pals Ozzie (Reyn Doi) and Jay (Mace Coronel).
Every season will take place only during the summer, as Leia will regularly visit her grandparents while school is out. "They physically change, they emotionally change, their lives have changed, their goals have changed," Bonnie said. "It just was great story fodder." "Setting it only during the summer gets the whole school and having-to-go-to-class thing out of the way, which we discovered on the original show, that wasn't where it was interesting. It was more interesting in the basement… also, people change where they go away," Terry adds. "They come back nine months later, and when they're teenagers, sometimes there's a radical change, sometimes not. But sometimes people have decided to go a completely different path."
Other That '70s Show alumni set to return in a guest capacity alongside Grace and Prepon (who directed several episodes of That '90s Show), including Wilmer Valderrama, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Tommy Chong. For more on Rupp's and Smith's reaction to their scripts, creative inspiration from Wikipedia, recreating the Forman home from the original series, how Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha and former The Donnas' frontman Brett Anderson worked with Mettler on the show's music, and theme, and a 3rd Rock from the Sun tease, you can check out the interview here. That '90s Show premieres on January 19th on Netflix.