What happened to That ’80s Show? Axed spinoff explained

A still from That '80s ShowFox

With That ’90s Show, a revival and sequel to That ’70s Show, hitting Netflix this week, fans may be wondering: what happened to That ’80s Show?

Sitcom spinoffs are a risky endeavor. Sometimes they pay off, like with Perfect Strangers, Frasier, and Happy Days – but there’s also a chance of ending up like Joey, The Tortellis, and The Ropers.

That ’70s Show ran for eight seasons on Fox between 1998 and 2006. The beloved sitcom, which followed the lives of a group of teenagers in Point Place, kicked off the careers of Topher Grace, Mila Kunis, and Ashton Kutcher.

It’s taken more than 15 years to get a proper follow-up, with That ’90s Show finally premiering on Netflix this week – so, what happened to That ’80s Show?

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Is there a That ’80s Show?

Yes, That ’80s Show was a real spinoff of That ’70s Show, but it was canceled after just one season in the early 2000s.

The short-lived series was developed by many of the same creatives involved in the original show, but the spinoff didn’t feature any past characters, nor did their storylines ever converge.

It starred Glenn Howerton, now renowned for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, alongside Tinsley Grimes, Chyler Leigh, Eddie Shin, Brittany Daniel, Margaret Smith, and Geoff Pierson.

The series was set in 1984, and unlike That ’70s Show’s fictional home of Point Place, it revolved around a group of friends in their 20s living in San Diego.

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So, what happened to That ’80s Show?

Freaks and Geeks aired on NBC during That ’70s Show’s run, with some critics and fans dubbing it “That ’80s Show” for being somewhat of a spiritual successor, as it followed teenagers in high school in 1981.

Two years later, Fox began development on an official That ’80s Show. Executive producer Linda Wallem earlier told The Daily Advertiser: “This show really came out of conversations we had while working on That ’70s Show.

“We were talking about what we had been doing in the ’80s and found that we had all been in pretty much the same situation, supporting ourselves with jobs we hated but really burning to be in show business.

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“But, of course, for most people, the ’80s were all about going out and getting your share of the money pie, so our characters are people who constantly are being pulled between their artistic dreams and commercial reality.”

Glenn Howerton in That '80s ShowFox

Substantial effort was invested in the series, with thorough research on all of 80s pop culture and fashion to capitalize on the nostalgia and make it feel authentic for viewers.

Alas, when it premiered in January 2002, the reviews were pretty conclusive: It wasn’t good.

“Instead of telling us something fresh about the Me decade, That ’80s Show trots out the usual stereotypes, Miami Vice clothes and Boy George lookalikes to disguise bland characters, a below-average script and predictable jokes about coke-snorting, sexual preferences, and the Carpenters,” Peggy Curran wrote in the Montreal Gazette.

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Eric Kohanik of The Calgary Herald also wrote: “That ’80s Show is a case of bad timing – and an example of Hollywood taking a clever concept just a little too far… [it] displays some of the styles and superficial trappings of the era, but there’s not much that is actually laugh-out-loud funny.”

Low ratings and poor reviews secured its fate: just shy of two weeks before its last episode, Fox canceled the series.

Can you stream That ’80s Show?

If you’re really curious, the entirety of That ’80s Show is available to stream on YouTube here. We’ve also embedded the first episode below, if you’d like to jump straight in.

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Otherwise, it’s not available on any streaming platform, nor can you buy or rent it on VOD. For the physical media devotees, you can buy it on DVD.

That ’90s Show is available to stream on Netflix now. If you want to know if it’ll get a Season 2, click here.