The Inevitable 90’s Sitcom
I have it on good authority there are people out there who love the 90’s. We’re starting to get to a point where the 1990’s are far enough away that a sitcom based largely around nostalgia for that decade has to be around the corner. Well, I’ve got news for you. Not only will it happen, but it will be a success. As sure as the sun rises and that The Sun Also Rises will someday be adapted into a love story starring Zac Efron as Phineas Sunrise, it will succeed. Also, I’ve never read The Sun Also Rises.
How can I feel so confident in this assessment? History is my guide. In the 1970’s, there was Happy Days, a successful sitcom based around a family who lived in suburban Wisconsin alongside some hangers on in the 1950’s. Then, in the 1990’s, That 70’s Show premiered. Again, a family and some hangers-on living in suburban Wisconsin, and it took place in the 1970’s. So, here we are: two decades removed from the 1990’s. Time for a Wisconsin sitcom centering on a family and, if time permits, some hangers-on. It doesn’t have to be That 90’s Show per say. Though, that title may be inevitable. There’s no reason for networks to be scared off by That 80’s Show, by the way. That was an even numbered decade and the show took place in San Diego. The formula was all wrong. San Diego is not in Wisconsin. Thus, failed televised entertainment. It certainly couldn’t be based on content. I mean, Glenn Howerton was in that show!
Naturally, once discovering this guaranteed formula, I started to ponder it. What would this show look like? How would it unfold? What would it be? Or, what should it be? We won’t get the chance to deem whether the show is truly worthy of existence.
So, here goes – my thoughts on the inevitable future 90’s based sitcom. Obviously, the show will be focused on a group of teenagers. A two-pronged reason here. First, it will bring in teenagers, who have a lot of free time and disposable income, in as much as pretty much all of their income is disposable. Second reason, it will draw in the people who were teenagers in the 90s. The power of nostalgia!
Another key component – when to start the show, time-wise? Of course, the show has to end on New Year’s Eve 1999. Prince will be prominently involved. Even if the show can’t run long enough to get there logistically, the show should at least have a Six Feet Under type coda.
I figure the show should start in 1992, just after Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Clinton will provide plenty of comedic fodder, especially once the show gets to the days of Monica Lewinsky. I posit an episode in which a Jay Leno impersonator does a half hour of Lewinsky jokes. There’s plenty of other stuff that could be covered. The Packers won a Super Bowl in the 90s and went to another. Ron Dayne was running wild for Wisconsin University. The Milwaukee Admirals had a solid run in the IHL. Admittedly, my knowledge of what was happening in Wisconsin back then is limited almost entirely to sports.
More about show story lines later. Onto the cast. The main group of teenagers should be in 10th grade to start off with. So, 15 or so. Yes, that means they’ll be 23 or so when the show ends. Don’t freak out. That’s not a big deal. That’s why you have younger siblings around. They can become the focus eventually once Joanie realizes she loves Chachi. So yeah, we’ve got our everyman at the center. Should there be a long term love interest? That 70’s Show had one, but I don’t think Happy Days did. I know Richie Cunningham had some dates. I’m pretty sure he had a thing with Laverne and/or Shirley, and I think he got to third base with Mork. I may be confusing things. However, there was no Donna equivalent. There should be one though. People like love interests and “will they/won’t they” stuff, even if they know they eventually will. And “will they/won’t they” was so 1990’s.
We also need an outsider. A character indicative of an outsider portion of society at the time. The Fonz was a greaser. Hyde was a sort of burnout slacker. A reaction to the hippie movement. Obviously, if the show is starting in 1992, then somebody is going to be really into grunge. Deck them out in flannels and Nirvana t-shirts. Done and done. Then, you add another couple. They’ll be the “dumb” ones. And, then you need the nerd character. I want somebody who is really good with computers. Too easy, I know. It will really pay off once Y2K fear rolls around. Oh, that will be great. Dramatic irony!
The main character needs a younger sibling. Preferably a female to balance out our male lead. By the way, it goes without saying that the main character is a dude because I mean a female lead in a sitcom? Ludicrous! Also, Ludacris should be on this show because he is a black guy. We need racial diversity here, and not just broad Italian stereotypes and Pat Morita. However, how about an only occasionally seen older sibling for our main teenager? So, the show can tackle some other topics early on, like drugs and stuff. Probably ecstasy. That was popular in the 90s, right? There was a lot of marijuana in the That 70s Show. Maybe we’ll move on to ecstasy in this show?
The parents are important, as well. Maybe we’ll flip the script and the mother will be the disciplinarian and the father will be the nice one. While I can’t really cast the kids right now, I have some ideas on the parents. I see Wayne Knight in the father role. He has the right vibe for the role, because he’s in many ways this generation’s Tom Bosley. Plus, it’s meta-textual, because he’s Newman, you know? That will provide laughs for a few episodes. Not so sure about the mom. I feel like, if I were to follow a similar tack to casting Knight, that it would have to be one of the women from Friends, but obviously it can’t be Jennifer Aniston of Courtney Cox, and I’m not sure Lisa Kudrow would be quite right either. You think Leah Remini would be up for being another TV wife? Yeah, I think so, too.
OK, so we’ve got a vague sense of the cast now, and a time frame. There are some things to hit storyline wise. Of course, Generation X type stuff has to be covered. These kids have to go through a Gen X phase right? I mean, once the boys see Reality Bites and want to have sex with Winona Ryder there going to be all about Gen X. Plus, maybe the girls will have a thing for Ethan Hawke. My point is, Reality Bites will be prominently involved at some point. Almost forgot – we’ve got to throw some silly pop culture stuff in there. Yes, that means the Macarena! My God, the Macarena!
That’s about it. We can’t do everything for Hollywood. You got the gist. So, in a couple of years when this show happens, you’ll be prepared. Seriously, this show is going to happen. High fives all around – we’re prepared! All I know for sure is: I have written three pilots, and I put as much effort into creating the world for this show as I have for any of my pilots. Yes, it reflects poorly on me.
Chris Morgan is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Twitter at @CMorganExaminer.