The series was commissioned by the Fox Network, and the first season premiered on August 23, 1998, with an initial order of 22 episodes (extended to 25 on January 12, 1999). The series did well, rating highly among several target demographics, including adults aged 18-49, as well as teenage viewers. In February 1999, Fox ordered a second season, and as ratings rose the following September, the network opted to renew the series for two more seasons, bringing the total to four. Continuing success saw changing time slots (Sundays to Mondays to Tuesdays to Wednesdays to Thursdays), as well as four additional seasons.
The eighth season was announced to be the final season of the show on January 17, 2006, and the final episode was filmed a month later, on February 17, 2006. "That '70s Finale" originally aired on May 18, 2006.
Relationships among the teens are explored, the primary focus being between Eric and Donna, who are the responsible ones, as evidenced in episodes such as "Dine and Dash." Their relationship sharply contrasts with the on-again, off-again relationship between Kelso and Jackie, who were usually portrayed as mutually obsessed despite their arguments and denials of love to spite one another. In both relationships, the couples have harsh disagreements, but come to terms with their differences. Jackie subsequently moved on to Hyde and later Fez as the series progressed.
Other main characters include Eric's overbearing Korean war veteran father, Red (Kurtwood Smith), his nice, yet overbearing mother Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp), who is struggling to be a caring mom and housewife while working as a nurse in a local hospital, and his older sister Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly, 1998-2003 and Christina Moore, 2003-2004), whose promiscuity is the butt of many jokes by the teenagers but does not deter Kelso from making moves on her. The show also depicts the relationship of Midge and Bob Pinciotti (Tanya Roberts and Don Stark), Donna's dim-witted parents, both of whom are easily influenced by the 1970s movements and fads, which places occasional stress on their marriage. Tommy Chong appeared as a frequently recurring character, Leo, the aging hippie owner of the Fotohut.
Eric Forman and Michael Kelso were written out of the series after the seventh season, as actors Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher were to star in movies to be filmed during the eighth season. (Grace in Spider-Man 3 and Kutcher in The Guardian). Kelso appears in the first four episodes of the eighth season (with Kutcher credited as a special guest star) before moving to Chicago. Longtime character Leo returned with a more prominent role to help fill the gap. Eric Forman was originally supposed to be replaced by his new friend Charlie, played by Bret Harrison, but the character was killed off after the actor was offered a lead role for the show Reaper. A new character named Randy Pearson, played by Josh Meyers, was introduced to take Eric Forman's place. Another new character, Samantha, played by Judy Tylor, was added to the cast as Hyde's wife for nine episodes, but both she and Meyers had their roles minimalized following a negative response from the fans over the season's new characters. Both Eric and Kelso returned for the series' final episode. The location of the show's introduction was also changed from Eric's 1969 to the "Circle."
|Actor/Actress||Character name||Years credited as regular cast|
|Topher Grace||Eric Forman||1998–20051|
|Laura Prepon||Donna Pinciotti||1998–2006|
|Danny Masterson||Steven Hyde||1998–2006|
|Ashton Kutcher||Michael Kelso||1998–20052|
|Mila Kunis||Jackie Burkhart||1998–2006|
|Kurtwood Smith||Red Forman||1998–2006|
|Debra Jo Rupp||Kitty Forman||1998–2006|
|Don Stark||Bob Pinciotti||1998–2006|
|Tanya Roberts||Midge Pinciotti||1998–20013|
|Lisa Robin Kelly||Laurie Forman||1999–20014|
|Tommy Chong||Leo Chingkwake||2001–2002, 2005–20065|
|Josh Meyers||Randy Pearson||2005–20066|
The show gained recognition for providing a bold retrospective of a decade full of political events and technological milestones that have dramatically shaped today's world. The show tackled significant social issues of the times, such as feminism, progressive sexual attitudes (although in some episodes more traditional values would carry the day, such as when Red ended his friendship with a fellow veteran who invited Kitty and him to a key party and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, co-starring as Eric Forman's possible gay love interest, was rebuffed), the economic hardships of recession, mistrust in the American government among blue-collar workers, political figures such as Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter (though both presidents are very rarely referenced throughout the series), teenage drug use, and developments in entertainment technology, from the television remote ("the clicker") to the video game Pong. The first season of the show focused extensively on current events and cultural trends, with each successive season focusing less and less on the socio-political aspects of the story, to the point that the decade simply became a backdrop against which the storylines unfolded. Likewise, the first season of the show also featured a recurring, non-comedic storyline in which the Forman family was in constant danger of losing their home due to Red's hours being cut back at the auto parts plant where he worked. Recurring storylines in later seasons, even when they carried dramatic elements, were always presented as primarily comedic.
The series is something of a homage to the hit 1970s series Happy Days, which itself looked back twenty years to the Wisconsin of the 1950s. In fact, in one episode, Tom Bosley appeared as character that's hinted to be Howard C. Cunningham.
Signature elements of That '70s Show include surreal, sometimes elaborate, dream sequences to depict various characters' vivid imaginations or dreams, some of which include references to or parodies of fads and films of the time, such as Star Wars, Rocky, and Grease.
In early dream sequences, the characters who were dreamt of were talking with voices of those who were imagining the scene. In That '70s Pilot, for instance, as the boys imagine the party scene, the partying adults speak with their voices. This was soon phased out.
Sometimes, those who imagine scenes are heard narrating them, but even if they don't, the other characters perceive them (which means those who imagine tell them what they are dreaming about while we get to see the scene). In the episode "Stone Cold Crazy", Jackie even mentioned she liked the song which was playing in Fez's dream sequence. Such scenes are usually introduced by the wabbling screen transition. Sometimes, the transition is absent when the characters imagining the scene believe those scenes are real (for example, Eric's dream about Donna in "Eric's Birthday" or Jackie's dream about Hyde proposing in "It's All Over Now").
In the 100th episode "That '70s Musical", all singing scenes were Fez's dream sequences.
Another signature element is frequent use of the 360-degree scenes, also known as "The Circle". It is presented as some characters (usually three or four, sometimes five, in the season 7 episode "Take It Or Leave It" there was a circle with only two characters, and in the season 6 episode "5:15" there is a unique circle with only one person sitting against a TV) sitting in a circle, usually around a table, with the camera panning from one character to another as he or she is speaking. Sometimes, for comic effect, the last sitting person in the circle is someone unexpected or absurd, like the gym teacher, Jackie's stuffed unicorn, Kitty's dog, Fez's music teacher or a ceramic clown.
The "circle" is essentially used to illustrate the teens' marijuana use, typically occurring in Eric's basement and later in Hyde's record store (It should be noted that there is no specific mention of what they use, but how they act, the smoke, and the incense that are frequently lighted are all signs of marijuana use. "Marijuana" and its slang are rarely mentioned throughout the show, and are almost never mentioned in the Circle, it's mostly known as "This stuff" or "the stash"). All of these segments combine nonsensical dialog with deadpan humor. No actual cannabis smoking is depicted in these scenes, but smoke is visible only in the background and foreground. The circle is sometimes used for other purposes. Early episodes often used the "circle" during dinners at Formans' when Laurie came home. Sometimes, the "circle" takes place at the Formans' dining room when characters eat dessert or drink cocktails. In the last season, the "circle" is used in a sauna with Hyde, Red and Red's old friends. In one episode the "circle" was used during the ending credits at the local radio station by Donna's (future) boss, the DJ "Johny Thunder," and Alice Cooper playing Dungeons and Dragons.
As shown in flashbacks, Eric, Kelso, and Hyde were the original basement "circle" members, and Fez joined them prior to the pilot. Donna first joined them in the episode "Hyde Moves In" and Jackie joined them in the episode "Cat Fight Club".
Season seven uses Hyde's record store for in-jokes aimed at the timeline. In the episode "You Can't Always Get What You Want" the record store opens on Thanksgiving. One of the Led Zeppelin posters on its wall has a famous photograph taken to promote the band's August 1979 concerts at Knebworth. This means that this Thanksgiving has to be in 1979 and so most of the subsequent episodes must take place in 1980. In "It's All Over Now" the record store has a signing for Tom Jones. The fans have copies of the album Close-up, which was released in 1972. In the season finale, Hyde has some records in his hand. The top one is Blondie's Warchild: this was released in 1982.
The year is determined in the last scene of the opening credits, which reveals a close-up of a Wisconsin license plate that reads the names of the creators and the sticker with the two-digit year — in this case, either "76," "77," "78,"or "79," and, in the final episode, "80." The year stickers for Wisconsin plates are issued for the upcoming twelve months (e.g., a sticker for "80" would be issued in 1979). The plate also appears at the end as the production logo for Carsey-Werner, also showing the year.
|Global TV and CH||Seasons 1-7 aired on Global. Season 8 aired on Global owned CH. It also aired on latenight on Global in markets where CH isn't available.|
|Paramount Comedy, Antena.neox and Localia||Aquellos Maravillosos 70 (Those Wonderful Seventies)|
|Asia||Star World||First started airing in 2000, every Monday nights from 8:00-8:30pm for a few months, then are replaced by other shows in the same block in while later seasons are acquired.|
|Jack TV||Although ABC 5 aired Season 1 in 2002 (not in order), Jack TV took the lead and started airing all seasons in 2006.|
|Polsat||Różowe lata siedemdziesiąte|
|TV2 Zulu||Dengang i 70'erne|
|Middle East||MBC4,dubai channel ONE , SHOWtime comedy channel||subtitled to arabic, aired sevrel times in the region|
|Latin America||Sony Entertainment Television|
|Rede 21||Until 2006|
|TV 2||Now airing on rival station TV3 (see below)|
|Kabel 1||Last two seasons didn't air until August 2008.||Die wilden Siebziger (Those Wild '70s)|
|TV4||That 70's Show|
|Markíza||Aired first four seasons dubbed in Slovak.||Tie roky 70|
|Nova TV||Lude sedamdesete (Crazy 70s)|
|Hot 3, Star World, HOT VOD||Shnot HaShivim (The Seventies)|
|Televen||El show de los '70|
|Star World||That '70s Show|
|Comedy Central Netherlands||That '70s Show|
According to the official That '70s Show website, Danny Masterson (Steven Hyde) yells "Hello Wisconsin!" during the first season, although many fans of the show believe the voice to be Ashton Kutcher (Michael Kelso), and Rick Nielsen (lead guitarist/songwriter for Cheap Trick) in all other seasons although both appear to sound the same. The lyrics were also slightly different during the first season, with instead of "We're all alright!" being shouted twice (a reference to Cheap Trick's 1978 single "Surrender"), "Whooa yeah!" is heard. The first season's theme was also in the key of G, whereas in subsequent seasons it was lowered to the key of D. The exception to this is the episode "Class Picture" from series IV, during which the arrangement in G is used over a yearbook page viewing sequence.
Alternate holiday versions of the theme song were arranged for Halloween, Christmas and musical specials, using organ music and bells, respectively.
|Season||Episodes||Premiere||Season finale||U.S. ratings|
|1||1998-1999||25||August 23, 1998||July 26, 1999||11.7 million (49th place)|
|2||1999-2000||26||September 28, 1999||May 22, 2000||9.06 million (66th place)|
|3||2000-2001||25||October 3, 2000||May 22, 2001||—(65th place)|
|4||2001-2002||27||September 25, 2001||May 21, 2002||9.1 million (67th place)|
|5||2002-2003||25||August 30, 2002||May 14, 2003||10.06 million (54th place)|
|6||2003-2004||25||October 29, 2003||May 19, 2004||10.04 million (49th place)|
|7||2004-2005||25||September 8, 2004||May 18, 2005||7.0 million (85th place)|
|8||2005-2006||22||November 2, 2005||May 18, 2006||5.8 million (103rd place)|