That ’90s Show season 1 episode 6 recap: The Birthday Girl

That Ô90s Show. (L to R) Kurtwood Smith as Red Forman, Don Stark as Bob Pinciotti, Debra Jo Rupp as Kitty Forman in episode 106 of That Ô90s Show. Cr. Patrick Wymore/Netflix © 2022
That Ô90s Show. (L to R) Kurtwood Smith as Red Forman, Don Stark as Bob Pinciotti, Debra Jo Rupp as Kitty Forman in episode 106 of That Ô90s Show. Cr. Patrick Wymore/Netflix © 2022 /

It’s Leia’s 15th birthday, but after her devastating breakup with Jay last episode, she can’t bring herself to be excited about it. Of course, it’s important to remember that she and Jay never actually dated, so “breakup” might not be the right way to describe what has happened.

But Leia’s never one to let semantics get in the way of a good wallow. She has spent the week hiding out in the basement and marathoning Beverly Hills 90210.

That 90s Show season 1, episode 6 recap – The 90210 plan

However, all that 90210 has given Leia a good idea (or a bad one depending on how you personally land on the idea of sitcom logic). Inspired by Kelly, she’s going to take charge and win Jay back, despite never having him in the first place.

On the plus side, the perfect time to do this is her birthday party. Leia invites Jay and his new girlfriend to her birthday party, though she instantly regrets doing so.

Still, what’s done is done, and she ends up by the door for the entire party waiting for Jay to show up. Speaking of the birthday party, Kitty has been panicking all day about getting everything ready.

Red, on the other hand, has been perfectly relaxed since his task of finding a birthday present for Leia was solved by slipping a $20 bill into a birthday card. That is until Bob, Donna’s father and thus Leia’s other grandfather, arrives.

That 90s Show season 1, episode 6 recap – A Grandfather competition

Bob, who if you’ll recall, Red hated all through the ’70s, bought Leia an expensive karaoke machine for her birthday. A karaoke machine puts Red’s $20 bill to shame, so in an effort to one up his old next-door enemy, Red sets out to buy a better present.

He lands on a cordless drill and gets yelled at by Kitty, who is in full blown panic mode by this point in the story. At the party, Jay never shows up, causing Leia to have wasted the whole party.

Bob shows off the new karaoke machine to a less than stellar response. Red asks Leia to come see her new birthday gift and to get away from Bob’s singing.

Once they escape to the backyard, Red opens up the garage to reveal Leia’s present, the Vista Cruiser that used to belong to her dad back when he was the star of his own sitcom. Leia thanks Red, who has now successfully one-upped Bob in the gift department.

Leia goes to her bedroom, only to have Jay show up at her window. He apologizes for not coming to the party, saying that it didn’t feel right.

Leia, taking the lesson from 90210 that you should go after what you want, kisses Jay. Jay is thrilled and promises to break up with his new girlfriend.

Then Leia asks Jay to take her for a drive. As Leia and Jay cruise in the Vista Cruiser, she proclaims this to be the best birthday ever, only for them to get pulled over by cops moments later as the episode comes to a close.

That 90s Show season 1, episode 6 recap – A good old fashioned sitcom

It’s episodes like this one that really serve as a reminder that this is trying to be an old fashion sitcom. Not Andy Griffith or Leave it to Beaver old fashion, but one that would still feel at home if it was being aired alongside the original series twenty years ago.

The characters and the situations are broad and exaggerated. Taboo topics are explored but always with a wink and a nudge.

The story is chopped up into three clear acts. Even though this is being made for Netflix, you still feel like you could spot where the commercial breaks would have gone, if this was playing on network television.

This isn’t meant to serve as a complaint of the series necessarily, but it still serves to tie this series to the ’70s version and continue to invite the inevitable comparisons. While there are some instances that would suggest the show is aware of changes in the sitcom format over the past two decades, (such as the slightly more narrative driven episodes and the occasional cliffhanger like ending) for the most part, the show seems mostly concerned about being faithful to the look, feel, and tone of what came before it.

But it’s starting to do that really well. There have been a lot of other shows that have tried to be deliberate throwbacks to this style of sitcom, with varying results.

More often than not, they only serve to highlight why most of television has moved beyond that format. However, in this case, while it does still feel like it is trapping the show with a ceiling as to how good it can get, it comes off as more charming than grating.

But then again, a show that takes place almost thirty years in the past, would thrive off of intentional manufactured nostalgia.

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You can watch That ’90s Show season 1 on Netflix.