Nearly 20 years after the beloved cast of That 70’s Show left our screens a new set of characters has moved into the Formans’ basement. With That 90’s Show featuring the same setting and cameos from the original cast, it is perhaps not surprising that the new teens have some striking similarities to the original characters. So in a battle for superiority, who comes out on top?
The Nerdy Lead: Eric Forman vs. Leia Forman
Leia (Callie Haverda) is the only daughter of Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon). She is just as nerdy as her dad, although she favors debate club over roller dancing as an extracurricular. She is no smoother with the boys than he was with the ladies – as she accidentally grinds up on her grandfather (Red) at a rave, and her first kiss is problematic (being that she clearly did not have his consent). So even though he went AWOL for Season 8, and left Donna at the altar (he meant well), we still have to give this round to Eric and his famous “porky mouth.” Winner: Eric.
The “Rebel” Best Friend: Steven Hyde vs. Gwen Runck
Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide) is the new resident of Donna’s old bedroom. She wears a lot of flannel and has enviable self-confidence and bravado that hide a sweet heart. She is instantly a good friend to Leia, calling her on her overreactions and helping her with her confidence. While Gwen likes to spout feminist theories, she also admits to not having read all the books she likes to reference. Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson) seemed to have a far better handle on his political ideologies, and when he moved in with the Formans after his mum skipped town, he fit seamlessly into their family. While he could never pass up an opportunity to mess with his friends, and loved raging at the man, he was always a loving and respectful son to both Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and Red (Kurtwood Smith). This one is tough to call. Gwen has definite potential — and maybe after another season she’ll have earned top Point Place rebel but for now, the win goes to Hyde. Winner: Hyde.
The Love Interest: Donna Pinciotti vs. Jay Kelso
Jay (Mace Coronel) is Red’s worst nightmare, another Kelso in the house and this time dating his granddaughter! While his dad, Kelso Sr., claims he gets straight A’s we never saw much in the way of smarts from him. He can be sweet, when he’s not following dating advice from his dad, but can also be a full-on cringe fest that can be hard to watch. While Jay lives far from Leia when she’s not visiting, Donna lived right next door to Eric and was his high school sweetheart. She was a staunch advocate for equal rights for men and women but still loved being “Hot Donna” on the radio (though she refused to wear a bikini on a billboard). She knew a woman didn’t have to be any one thing, but could be whatever she damn well pleased. Considering who her totally-nutty parents were it is impressive that she was as smart, cool, and totally badass as she was. This win goes easily to our favorite (sometimes blonde) redhead. Winner: Donna.
The Doofus: Michael Kelso vs. Nate Runck
Nate (Maxwell Acee Donovan) is Gwen’s half-brother and is more than a little over the top in early episodes. His first few lines are “nicked my nerps” and “whiny vagina music,” which as dialogue goes make him sound like less of a sweet idiot and more of an annoying twerp. Although he does get more three-dimensional as the season goes on, he struggles to measure up to the All-Star doofus that came before him. Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) was the heart of That ’70s Show, and it suffered greatly for his absence. While there is no doubt that he was an idiot, he could occasionally pull off a genius-level burn on his friends. He also lived his life with an enthusiasm (Canoeing down a mountain, anyone?) that was endlessly entertaining, and watching him fall down or get punched will never not be funny. Sorry, Nate, but you never really stood a chance. Winner: Kelso.
The Doofus’s Girlfriend: Jackie Burkhart vs. Nikki
Nikki (Sam Morelos) is Nate’s girlfriend, and some of her early lines are a little stomach-turning – like when she babies him “are you feeling frustrated, is that why you’re lashing out at others?” Or when she sincerely consoles him/ gets turned on by his fear that the McRib wasn’t coming back. Also, as she says almost no words to other characters in the first few episodes, so initially he makes up her entire personality. As the show continues she gets far more interesting, showing us that she is smart, driven, and has her own dreams, like having her face put on a stamp, so her enemies have to “lick it.” She also helps Kitty get a job which should make her all right in anyone’s book, especially in contrast to Jackie (Mila Kunis) who was rarely willing to help anyone but herself. She was introduced as Michael’s rude, bossy, bitchy, shallow, vain girlfriend. She was all that, but she could also be sweet and funny, and let’s face it adorable. Unfortunately, her attitudes towards certain groups of people just aren’t OK. Winner: Nikki.
The Quirky Comic Relief: Fez vs. Ozzie
Ozzie (Reyn Doi) is snarky, sarcastic, and often mean — he told his math teacher his wife was cheating on him and believes the basement needs “some throw pillows and a tetanus shot.” His 16-step coming-out plan is incredibly sweet (not to mention brave) and we love that he has an imaginary Canadian boyfriend, Etienne, who turns out to be real. He is even prone to a little break dancing when the mood strikes him, which makes him similar to the 70s’ own dancer — Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). Fez’s love for candy was legendary and his willingness to laugh at himself made him very hard not to love. He has some of the best catchphrases in the show — “Good day… I said GOOD DAY!” and “I am going to DO IT.” Unfortunately, he is another character that suffers from some problematic traits that we just can’t bring ourselves to condone. Winner: Ozzie.
Which Cast Wins?
With four categories going to That ’70s Show and two going to That ’90s Show, the winner is That ’70s Show! No big surprise here, we did have eight seasons to fall in love with these characters. Luckily, it looks like That ’90s Show could return for a second season — and our new kids on the block should be able to give the original characters a real run for their money in the future.
The first season of That ’90s Show is now available to stream on Netflix.