While That ‘70s Show gave sitcom icon Betty White a role that subverted her screen persona, That ‘90s Show retconned this surprising twist. That ‘70s Show was never the most surprising sitcom on television. The series had its fair share of twists but, unlike a lot of some offbeat later sitcoms, That ‘70s Show wasn’t overly invested in deconstructing what viewers expected to see from the genre. Instead, That ‘70s Show was mostly a cozy hang-out show that relied on its cast’s chemistry to garner laughs from well-worn plots.
In much the same way, That ‘90s Show remixes classic sitcom cliches without much concern over their familiarity. Ozzie might be LGBTQ+ but, as the nerdy member of the group, he still had an unseen love interest in Canada which his friends refuse to believe is real. However, That ‘90s Show took its reliance on the familiar sitcom formula a step further when the spinoff undid a surprisingly subversive twist seen in That ‘70s Show. While That ‘70s Show cast a famous sitcom star against type as Kitty’s mean mother, That ‘90s Show softened up their relationship.
That ’90s Show Changed Betty White’s Bea Character
The iconic Betty White played Kitty’s mother Bea in That ‘70s Show and, in a major break from her usual roles, played the character as a mean-spirited and callous figure. Weirdly, That ‘90s Show somewhat retconned this twist in a sweet moment that proved That ‘70s Show stars Kitty and Red were central to the spin-off’s success. That ‘90s Show retconned Kitty’s struggles with her mother when Kitty told Red that she recently had a graveside conversation with her late mother about how nice it is to have the house full of life again. This sweet moment suggests an offscreen reconciliation, given their history.
The last time viewers saw Kitty’s mom was in That ‘70s Show. Her husband had just died and, despite this tragedy, she was still treating Kitty so badly that her daughter was hiding from her tirades. Kitty and her mother did briefly have a heart-to-heart about losing their shared loved one, but Bea was still tough on Kitty and hard to please. As Bea, Betty White was nothing like her screen daughter or the characters she usually plays. Rude and loud, she was often thoughtless toward her daughter and Red (and her own husband, before his death). That ‘70s Show’s spinoff That ’90s Show implies this must have changed with an offscreen reunion.
Why Betty White’s That ’70s Show Role Was So Unusual
Admittedly, White’s character Rose could sometimes unintentionally be a savage in The Golden Girls. However, Rose was best known for being the sweet, innocent member of her tight-knit group and That ‘70s Show played against this image. This was the image that White generally leaned into throughout her career, with even her more foul-mouthed characters having a heart of gold.
This was not so in That ‘70s Show. As such, it doubly surprised audiences when White played Bea nothing like her other roles or like her sweet screen daughter Kitty. However, since White’s real-life passing meant she could not appear on That ‘90s Show, it was a fitting tribute when the That 70s Show spinoff made her character a little sweeter than viewers ever knew Bea as.