The biggest ’90s pop culture references in That ’90s Show explained

That ‘90s Show. (L to R) Mace Coronel as Jay Kelso, Sam Morelos as Nikki, Maxwell Acee Donovan as Nate in episode 101 of That ‘90s Show. Cr. Patrick Wymore/Netflix © 2022
That ‘90s Show. (L to R) Mace Coronel as Jay Kelso, Sam Morelos as Nikki, Maxwell Acee Donovan as Nate in episode 101 of That ‘90s Show. Cr. Patrick Wymore/Netflix © 2022 /

Back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, That ’70s Show brought back a taste of 1970s pop culture to a younger generation. Now, Netflix’s sequel series That ’90s Show brings the 1990s back in the forefront for today’s teenagers who are checking out the new teen comedy.

In the follow-up to the original favorite, Eric and Donna’s teenage daughter Leia (Callie Haverda) stays in Point Place, Wisconsin with her grandparents, Red and Kitty Forman, for the summer of 1995. She becomes friends will fellow teenagers, including a Kelso!

While watching the first season of the highly anticipated spinoff, a few throwback pop culture references will have younger fans scratching their heads and older viewers heading to Google for a trip down memory lane. Remember Free Willy, Zima, and a particularly huge true crime case?

That ’90s Show pop culture references explained

Here are some of the biggest and most prominent pop culture references featured in That ’90s Show that some viewers might need explained or, at the very least, a little refresher on, beginning below with the generation-defining teen series 90210.

Where to watch Beverly Hills, 90210

Created by Emily in Paris mastermind Darren Star and produced by TV heavyweight Aaron Spelling, Beverly Hills, 90210 premiered on Fox in 1990 and lasted for 293 episodes across 10 seasons. The series completed its run in 2000 and launched the careers of its core cast members Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Luke Perry, Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Ian Ziering, Gabrielle Carteris, and Brian Austin Green.

Of course, Brian Austin Green makes a cameo appearance in That ’90s Show as his 90210 character David Silver during Leia’s extended daydream sequence about stepping into the shoes of both Brenda and Kelly. Leia also has a 90210 marathon while wallowing about her breakup.

If you’re looking to follow Leia’s lead, all 10 seasons of Beverly Hills, 90210 can be watched on Paramount+ and two seasons are available on Hulu.

Who is Raquel Welch?

In an episode of the series, Red was looking at pictures of Raquel Welch on the Forman family’s new computer. For those unfamiliar, Raquel Welch is a famous actress and sex symbol who came to prominence in the 1960s. She’s known for titles like Fantastic Voyage, One Million Years B.C., and The Three Muskateers among others. As of 2023, she’s 82 years old.

Is Free Willy on Netflix?

While planning a movie night with her new friends, Leia attempts to pick the perfect movie to make herself look “cool,” when in reality, her favorite movie is the 1993 family drama Free Willy. The film is about a young boy who befriends an orca whale. Free Willy is currently available for rent and purchase and isn’t streaming on Netflix.

What is Zima? Can you still buy Zima?

If you’re hoping to get your hands on a Zima like Eric in That ’90s Show, you’re out of luck. Back in the ’90s, there was a popular clear, carbonated alcoholic beverage known as Zima. The drink was introduced in 1993 and later discontinued in the United States in 2008. A limited re-release of the drink hit shelves in the summers of 2017 and 2018. While Zima remained available in Japan, it was ultimately discontinued in 2021.

Where to watch Clerks starring Kevin Smith

In order to impress her new friends with her movie taste, Leia pretends to be a fan of the 1994 black-and-white buddy comedy film Clerks. She doesn’t know anything about the movie or its star Kevin Smith, who she claims to have a crush on. Leia might not be a fan of Clerks, but if you are and would like to watch the movie, it’s available on Paramount+ and Pluto TV.

Who are the Menendez Brothers?

You might have caught a reference to the Menendez Brothers while watching That ’90s Show. In 1989, Joseph Lyle and Erik Menendez shot and killed their parents, José and Mary Louise “Kitty” Menendez. The trial began airing on television in 1993, and in 1996, the brothers were convicted with a life sentence. They remain in prison today.

Watch That ’90s Show only on Netflix.

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