Matt Buckler: Netflix to give 'That '70s Show' an update

May 3—It's difficult to believe now, but when "That '70s Show" debuted on Fox in 1998, there were a few molecules of controversy surrounding it.

Critics feared that there would be scenes of the featured characters getting high and smoking marijuana, causing parental groups to circle their wagons around the show.

It was a false alarm. All the controversy was just smoke that blew away as soon as the first episode aired. It was a feel-good comedy that lasted for 200 episodes.

As the show gets ready to evolve into a comeback, becoming "That '90s Show," there still is no controversy. Most of the actors who starred in the original are back in the new version in their identical roles. That means that viewers should be just as comfortable watching the new version as they are watching the repeats of the original.

Among those scheduled to make guest appearances in the Netflix sequel are Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Wilmer Valderrama.

The stars of the revamp are Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp, playing Red and Kitty Forman, just like they did in the original.

There's only one no-show — Danny Masterson, who played Hyde, who is getting ready to stand trial for sexual assault allegations.

Why reinvent "That '70s Show"? It's a simple, innocent funny comedy which has developed several noteworthy characters over the years. You don't need anyone to explain the jokes to you. Netflix knows what it's doing — "That '90s Show" never will grab an Emmy nomination, but the show's fans won't miss an episode.

TV pioneer dies

Actress Joanna Barnes, who died this weekend at the age of 89, were known by most media watchers for her two appearances on the Disney movie, "The Parent Trap." She was in the original with Haley Mills and in the sequel with Lindsay Lohan.

While most of her work was in movies and TV series guest appearances, she did become a TV pioneer for a brief period of time.

She was the host of "Dateline Hollywood," a daytime information show about what was happening in Hollywood.

It was the first time a show containing show business news was put on the air, pre-dating "Entertainment Tonight" by 14 years.

ABC was a third-place network at that time and the most desperate network. It didn't have any daytime hits so it would experiment.

Instead of going with just game shows and soap operas, it tried an entertainment talk show fronted by Barnes. I was always amazed how much she knew about show business.

"Dateline Hollywood" wasn't ABC's only experiment. It also aired a daily beauty pageant show, "Dream Girl '67," and a show featuring inspiring women, "The Girl of My Life."

None of those shows lasted for very long so thinking outside the box never worked. But it did turn Joanna Barnes into a TV pioneer.

Peacock pass

For many TV viewers, who depend on streaming services to be able to watch their favorite shows at their convenience, this is a big deal.

Fans of "Real Housewives of Atlanta," Top Chef," and "Below Deck" can now stream their shows on Peacock one day after they air on Bravo.

The move takes place this week as Peacock replaces Hulu as the next day streaming destination for all the Bravo shows.

Streaming for many viewers is important. And knowing where to steam is just as important.

Follow Matt Buckler for more television, radio, and sports coverage on the JI's Twitter @journalinquirer, and see his articles on the Journal Inquirer Facebook page.