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That '70s Show

That '70s Show is an American television sitcom that centered on the lives of a group of teenagers living in the fictional town of Point Place, Wisconsin, from May 17, 1976 to December 31, 1979. It debuted on the FOX TV network on August 23, 1998 and its final episode aired May 18, 2006. That '70s Show was a launching pad for the film careers of some of its stars, who were mostly unknown at the time they were cast.

Currently, the show remains syndicated around the world, and is shown on four channels (FX, ABC Family, The N and in syndication on local channels).

Series overview

History

That '70s Show is the brainchild of 3rd Rock From the Sun creators Bonnie and Terry Turner and writer Mark Brazill. The working title for the series was Teenage Wasteland; other names considered were The Kids Are Alright, Feelin' All Right, and Reeling in the Years, all of which are lines from popular songs of the period.

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.

Characters

Set in the United States That '70s Show depicts the life of teenager Eric Forman (Topher Grace) and his five teenage friends: Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon), next-door neighbor; Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson), a rebellious drug user who eventually moved in with the Formans; Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), a dim-witted lady's man; Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis), a self-involved high school cheerleader overly preoccupied with wealth and status; and Fez (That '70s Show)Fez (an acronym that stands for Foreign Exchange Student played by Wilmer Valderrama (presumably somewhere in Latin America) that is never identified.

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."

Cast

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
Wilmer Valderrama Fez 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

  • 1. Made an uncredited appearance in the series finale.
  • 2. Was present in a recurring role in the eighth season.
  • 3. Was present in a recurring role in the sixth and seventh seasons.
  • 4. Was present in a recurring role in the first and fifth seasons.
  • 5. Was present in a recurring role in the second, third and seventh season.
  • 6. Didn't appear in the first episode of season eight, guest starred in the second episode and joined the main cast as well as the opening credits in the third.

Elements of the show

The Seventies

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.

Dream sequences

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.

The Circle

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".

Timeline

Due to the show's long run, the timeline was noticeably slowed. The show was set in May 1976 upon its August 23, 1998 premiere. After twelve episodes of the first season (as well as episode 23, "Grandma's Dead", due to it being aired out of production order), the series transitioned to 1977, where it remained until late in the third season, then the time setting was 1978 until early in the sixth season. The remaining episodes took place in 1979. Hyde had an 18th birthday in 1978, despite dialogue suggesting that he is older than Eric, who turned 17 in episode 2, "Eric's Birthday" (set in 1976). Eric then turned 18 in episode 131, "Magic Bus" in 1978, two years after turning 17. Furthermore, all of the teenage characters are juniors in high school at the beginning of the series (except for Jackie, who is a year younger) and they don't become seniors until Season 5, which they also graduate in the season finale. This, combined with the fact that there were holiday-themed episodes almost every season, indicated a sense of time on That '70s Show that was loose at best.

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.

British remake

In 1999, the show was remade by the British ITV network as Days Like These using almost verbatim scripts with minor changes to cultural references. The show failed to attract an audience and was removed from the schedules after 10 of the 13 episodes were broadcast. The remaining three episodes were shown in later reruns.

International broadcasts of US version

Country Channel Notes Foreign Title
VRAK.TV In French 70
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.
Trouble
Paramount Comedy
Virgin 1
MTV One
Bravo 2
VH1
Channel 5
RTÉ Two
Channel 6
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
Comedy Central
TV2 Zulu Dengang i 70'erne
TV2
Naţional TV www.rebelii.70
Seven Network
FOX8
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
Rede Bandeirantes
Sitel
ETV Kuumad seitsmekümnendad
Nelonen 70's Show
TV 2 Now airing on rival station TV3 (see below)
TV3
2BE
France 2
Comédie
NRJ12
Kabel 1 Last two seasons didn't air until August 2008. Die wilden Siebziger (Those Wild '70s)
TV4 That 70's Show
B92 Vesele sedamdesete
Kanal A
Markíza Aired first four seasons dubbed in Slovak. Tie roky 70
Atlas TV
Nova TV Lude sedamdesete (Crazy 70s)
GTV
TV8,ComedySmart
Canal Capital
Hot 3, Star World, HOT VOD Shnot HaShivim (The Seventies)
SIC 70's
OBN Lude 70
Televen El show de los '70
Star World That '70s Show
Comedy Central Netherlands That '70s Show

Theme song

The show usually opens with the theme song, "In the Street," by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell of the band Big Star. It was initially sung by Todd Griffin, but beginning with the second season, the song was performed by the band Cheap Trick, whose version is referred to as "That '70s Song (In the Street)." In a Rolling Stone magazine article in 2000, Chilton thought it was ironic that he is paid $70 in royalties each time the show is aired.

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.

Soundtracks

Several prominent songs from the decade can be heard on the series, and two soundtracks were released in 1999. The first is a collection of funk, soul and disco. The second is a collection of AOR songs.

U.S. ratings

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)

DVD releases

Production team

See also

References

External links

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