First episode date 23 August 1998
Theme song In the Street
Genre Period sitcom
Final episode date 18 May 2006
|Created by Bonnie Turner
Directed by David Trainer Terry Hughes (pilot)
Starring Topher Grace Mila Kunis Ashton Kutcher Danny Masterson Laura Prepon Wilmer Valderrama Debra Jo Rupp Kurtwood Smith Tanya Roberts Don Stark Lisa Robin Kelly Tommy Chong Josh Meyers
Theme music composer Alex Chilton Chris Bell
Opening theme "In The Street" by Big Star as performed by; Todd Griffin (season 1) Cheap Trick (seasons 2–8)
Cast Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Valderrama, Topher Grace
That '70s Show is an American television period sitcom that originally aired on Fox from August 23, 1998, to May 18, 2006. The series focused on the lives of a group of teenage friends living in the fictional suburban town of Point Place, Wisconsin, from May 17, 1976, to December 31, 1979.
- Theme song
- Opening credits
- The 1970s
- Split screens
- Dream sequences
- The circle
- The stupid helmet
- The water tower
- Scene transitions
- The Vista Cruiser
- Running gags
- Eighth season and series finale
- American ratings
- Home media
- British remake
The main teenage cast members were Topher Grace, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Laura Prepon and Wilmer Valderrama. The main adult cast members were Debra Jo Rupp, Kurtwood Smith, Don Stark, Tommy Chong and Tanya Roberts.
The show usually opens with the theme song, "In the Street", written by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell of the band Big Star. The original version of the song appeared on Big Star's 1972 debut album #1 Record. In 2000, Chilton confirmed that he was paid $70 in royalties each time the show aired, an amount he thought ironic, given the show's title.
Big Star's original version of the song was not used on the show. Instead, a cover version sung by Todd Griffin was used as the theme song for the show's first season. Beginning in the second season, the theme song was performed by the band Cheap Trick. Unlike previous versions of the song, Cheap Trick ended the song with the repeated phrase "We're all alright!" quoting the ending of their 1978 hit song "Surrender".
Both versions of the song used on the show end with somebody yelling "Hello, Wisconsin!" In Griffin's version, Masterson is the one yelling "Hello, Wisconsin!" while it is unknown who yells it in Cheap Trick's version during the opening. On the soundtrack, That '70s Album (Rockin'), Cheap Trick's lead singer Robin Zander yells "Hello, Wisconsin!" Alternate holiday versions of the theme song were arranged for Halloween and Christmas specials, using organ music and bells, respectively.
Opening credits for seasons 1–7 showed members of the cast driving in Eric's car singing the theme song together. At the conclusion of the opening, a shot of a 1970s-style Wisconsin license plate (black letters/numbers on a yellow background) is seen, showing the year in which the episode was taking place in the bottom right corner. During the first season's opening, a single shot of the group is used; beginning with season 2, numerous alternating shots were used of the cast in various groupings (including the adult cast members, who had not appeared in the first season's opening). After Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher left the series, the opening credits were reworked for season 8 to feature close-up shots of each of the actors singing (or mimicking) a line of the theme song in the Circle (for example, Mila Kunis "Hanging Out...;" Danny Masterson "Down the Street"). The only actors to not say or do anything in the new opening credits were Kurtwood Smith and Tommy Chong, with the exception of the first episode of season 8, when Chong sings the last "We're all alright". Smith looks at the camera frowning and rolls his eyes. Chong looks around the room, confused as he hears "Hello, Wisconsin!" The final episode omits most of the opening sequence and instead only shows the license plate shot.
The show addressed social issues of the 1970s such as sexism, sexual attitudes, generational conflict, the economic hardships of the 1970s recession, mistrust of the American government by blue-collar workers and teenage drug use, including underage drinking. The series also highlighted developments in the entertainment industry, including the television remote ("the clicker"), the video game Pong, MAD magazine, and Eric's obsession with Star Wars. The show has been compared to Happy Days, which was similarly set 20 years before the time in which it aired.
Beginning with the second season, the show focused less on the sociopolitical aspects of the story. For example, the dynamic of the relationship between Eric and Donna was altered in later seasons to more closely resemble the relationships of other "power couples" on teen dramas. Likewise, the first season of the show featured a recurring, more dramatic storyline in which the Formans were in danger of losing their home due to Red's hours being cut back at the auto parts plant where he worked. Storylines in later seasons were generally presented more comically and less dramatically.
The show also featured guest-starring actors from 1970s TV shows, such as Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper and Betty White (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Tom Poston and Jack Riley (The Bob Newhart Show), Pamela Sue Martin (The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries), Tim Reid and Howard Hesseman (WKRP in Cincinnati), Eve Plumb, Barry Williams and Christopher Knight (The Brady Bunch), Tom Bosley and Marion Ross (Happy Days), Monty Hall (Let's Make A Deal), Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat and The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Don Knotts, Richard Kline and Jenilee Harrison (Three's Company), and Danny Bonaduce and Shirley Jones (The Partridge Family). Series cast member Tanya Roberts also starred in a popular show in the 1970s (Charlie's Angels).
Beginning with season 5, each episode in the season is named after a song by a rock band that was famous in the 1970s: Led Zeppelin (season 5), The Who (Season 6), The Rolling Stones (season 7), and Queen (season 8).
One device in the show is to present a split screen in which two pairs of characters speak. One character is usually seeking advice on a problem with a character in the second pairing and the other character advises them. Although the conversations appear to mirror each other, notable differences often occur. It is most often used by the couples of the show, with each member of the couple being advised on the relationship. For example, in the episode "Who Wants It More?", Donna and Eric tell Jackie and Hyde that they have been holding out on each other sexually for three days and that maybe they should cave. Both Jackie and Hyde tell Donna and Eric not to cave or the "caver" will be owned by the other.
The show includes character daydream sequences, some of which refer to or parody fads and films of the time, such as Star Wars, Rocky, and Grease.
The character picturing the dream sometimes also narrates it, but regardless, the other characters present see the same dream. In the episode "Stone Cold Crazy", Jackie mentioned she liked the song playing in Fez's dream sequence. The sequences are usually introduced by a wobbling screen transition. Sometimes, the transition is absent when the characters who imagine the scene believe they 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.
In the circle, a group of characters, usually the teenagers, sit in a circle (generally in Eric's basement, though occasionally elsewhere), as the camera pans, stopping at each character as he or she speaks. It was usually apparent that the characters are under the influence of marijuana. Thick clouds of smoke, frequent coughing and an extreme wide-angle lens added to the "drug-induced" feel, although the audience never saw anyone actually smoking the drug. Also, no visible drug-related paraphernalia were seen, such as bongs or joint papers. Characters never spoke the word "marijuana" while in the circle (except in one episode "Reefer Madness"), often referring to it as "stuff" or a "stash". In the episode "Bye-Bye Basement", Theo (Leo's cousin) refers to "weed"; in "The Relapse", Kelso tells Fez that the concrete wall behind the gym is used mostly for "smoking weed and beating up freshmen;" in "Ski Trip" Kitty asks Eric why he is taking so much oregano to Jackie's ski lodge; in "Eric's Burger Job", Kelso blames his "roach clip" when the water bed pops on which he is sitting at a party; in two episodes ("That Wrestling Show" and "Hyde Moves In") Eric and Hyde can be seen wearing shirts with the words "Cannabis Sativa" written on a Campbell's soup can; and in "The Pill" Red, referring to Kelso, exclaims, "That kid's on dope!" A gimmick related to the circle and the marijuana smoking was Eric watching the kitchen wall moving erratically, although this technique was also used to show that Eric was drunk.
As the series progressed, the circle became one of the series' recurring features. The only four episodes where the whole gang is in the circle are "Class Picture", "I'm A Boy", "Substitute", and in the series finale. During the eighth and final season, the circle replaced the Vista Cruiser as the setting of the opening credits.
The stupid helmet
The stupid helmet refers to a replica of a Green Bay Packers helmet that a character is forced to wear after having done or said something deemed stupid by the rest of the gang. Eric had to wear it when he said he wanted to propose to Donna and Fez wore it when he started banging his head on the table after trying to help Kelso keep Jackie. The helmet can be seen in the Forman basement on a shelf behind the cast. When the series concluded in 2006,the last one up the staircase had to call Red a "dumbass", something he always called the kids. Since Kelso was the last one up, he grabbed the helmet.
The water tower
In many episodes, the teenaged characters often hang out on a local water tower. At the end of several water tower segments, at least one character falls off (usually Kelso). When Charlie Richardson (played by Bret Harrison) fell off and died in season 8, the water tower was renamed in his honor.
After Charlie's death, Kelso fell off again, but survived, leading him to believe he was "invincible". In the "Water Tower episode", the gang painted a marijuana leaf on the tower, but it looked more like a green hand giving the finger. In the episode "The Immigrant Song (a.k.a. Fez Gets Busted)" Kelso paints Jackie and his names on the tower to annoy Hyde just before falling and ending up in the hospital. During this episode, Fez paints his manhood on the tower but only gets as far as drawing a circle when the police arrive to arrest him. Kelso was known to fall off the water tower once in every grade since middle school. Jackie and Fez share their first official kiss on the tower in the show's finale.
In the first season, scene transitions (also known as bumpers) consisted of animated smiley buttons or still images of faces from the 1970s with only the mouth moving using Syncro-Vox, usually yelling, in a rock form, "Yeahhh!" or something similar (ex. Farrah Fawcett saying "Yeah!" or Richard Nixon saying "Are you ready to rock and roll?") The smiley buttons were removed for re-runs and home video, replaced with flowers likewise exploding, replicating, deflating or bouncing around. Sometimes they would be visuals of lava lamps with the show's logo plummeting to the bottom of the screen in front of it.
Beginning in season 2, transitions featured the characters doing something in front of a colorful, psychedelic, lava lamp-like background. These transitions featured the most prominent characters of the episode usually dancing, falling or making facial expressions. The music accompanying these colorful sequences would match the tone of the episode and characters.
By the show's final season, new transitions were created to accommodate cast changes (e.g. Donna's hair color, Leo continuing as a series regular and the insertion of Randy).
"Nobody's Fault But Mine (2)" is the only episode where Laurie Forman is featured in a transition. Tanya Roberts is the only regular actor not to be featured in a transition.
The Vista Cruiser
Many of the show's episodes featured Eric and the rest of the kids in or around Eric's "Aztec Gold" 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, handed down to Eric by Red. For the first seven seasons of the show, the show's introduction showed the cast inside the Vista Cruiser.
The show's pronunciation of "Vista Cruiser", with emphasis on "Cruiser" conflicted with the pronunciation of author George Plimpton in the Oldsmobile television advertisement for the 1969 Vista Cruiser, where he pronounced the two words with the emphasis on "Vista".
That particular station wagon was bought by Wilmer Valderrama at the show's conclusion from Carsey-Warner for US$500.
In August 2009, the show's Vista Cruiser was named third-greatest television car ever by MSN Autos.
In one of the show's major running gags, Red often threatens to punish Eric with many variations of "kicking your ass". For example, in "Kitty and Eric's Night Out", Red mistakenly thinks Eric offended Kitty, so Red says, "I swear I'll kick his ass!" In "Eric's Hot Cousin", Eric tries to get out of something by claiming he's sleepwalking and Red says, "And I'm about to be sleep-kicking your ass", and, in "Prank Day", when Red gets covered in oatmeal, Eric tries to explain that it was just a prank that had gone "horribly, horribly wrong" Red says, "Well, I have a prank, too. One where my foot doesn't plow through your ass. Let's hope it doesn't go horribly, horribly wrong!"
Some other notable running gags are:
The creators had wanted the show to have a 1970s "feel" from the beginning, so opted to set the series later in the decade, when trends and political ideologies had become firmly established and disseminated. The idea that the duration of the series would carry sociopolitical undertones also necessitated a chain of social events which could influence the characters. Thus, 1976 was chosen, which allowed episodes set within a short time frame to address streaking, the sexual revolution, the Equal Rights Amendment, the 1973 oil crisis, and the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, all of which were culturally influential events that occurred in the earlier years of the 1970s. The shift to 1977 during the last half of the first season also allowed the inclusion of a Star Wars episode (entitled "A New Hope"), as its March 1999 premiere airing roughly coincided with the May 1999 box-office debut of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
Throughout the first two seasons, episodes opened with title cards showing the season/month and year (example: Late Spring, 1977 or June 1977). These, however, were largely abandoned after season 2, with few subsequent episodes using them. However, they were used again in the final episode, showing "December 31, 1979 10:45 a.m." From the premiere onward, the episode's year could be determined by the registration tags on Eric's Vista Cruiser at the end of the opening and closing credits. The final episode's closing credits showed an "80" year tag.
The show was set in May 1976 in the August 23, 1998 premiere. After 12 episodes, the series transitioned to 1977. The 23rd episode, "Grandma's Dead", was also set in 1976, because it was supposed to be the season finale of season 1. The show remained in 1977 for the next two seasons. Near the end of the third season, the series transitioned to 1978 until early in the sixth season. The remaining episodes took place in 1979, and the series finale abruptly ends during a New Year's Eve party as the characters reach "one" during a countdown to January 1, 1980.
The show's unexpected longevity (it was the only series to debut on Fox in 1998 to survive cancellation) combined with the first season jump to 1977 necessitated a slow-down of the series' timeline. Over time, this proved problematic from a narrative standpoint, as nearly every year featured a Thanksgiving and/or Christmas episode, and the teen-aged actors playing high-school student characters all aged into their mid-20s by the time their characters graduated from high school after five seasons (except Mila Kunis, who was not quite 20). As the series timeline sped up and slowed down with more rapidity near the series' climax, the timeline necessitated that several major events depicted as having occurred months apart would have in fact happened within weeks or even days of one another.
The timeline issues experienced on the show were not unprecedented, as other period-specific TV series have had similar issues. Most notably, M*A*S*H aired for 11 seasons despite the Korean War only lasting three years. Additionally, many TV series over the years that take place in the present time have characters age faster than normal while other characters age naturally.
Eighth season and series finale
The character of Eric Forman was written out of the series at the end of the seventh season, as Topher Grace wanted to move on with his career. Ashton Kutcher switched to a recurring guest role when he also chose to depart following the seventh season. However, Kelso had not been written out yet, so to give better closure to the character, Kutcher appeared in the first four episodes of the eighth season (credited as a special guest star) and later returned for the finale. Tommy Chong (who began reappearing by late season 7 after a long absence) became a regular again to help fill Kelso's role as group idiot. Eric was originally supposed to be replaced by his new friend Charlie, played by Bret Harrison, as an "innocent character", who proved fairly popular with audiences, but the character was killed off after Harrison was offered a lead role in the series The Loop. Another new character named Randy Pearson, played by Josh Meyers, was introduced to take the place of both Eric and, to a lesser extent, Charlie. Another new character, Samantha, a stripper played by Judy Tylor, was added as Hyde's wife for nine episodes. The location of the show's introductory theme song was changed from the Vista Cruiser to the circle. Both Eric and Kelso returned for the series' final episode, though Grace's role was uncredited.
The eighth season was announced as the final season of the show on January 17, 2006, and "That '70s Finale" was filmed a month later on February 17, 2006, first airing on May 18, 2006.
Over the course of its run, the series was nominated for a substantial number of awards, including 16 Primetime Emmy Awards. The only win for the series at this event came in 1999, when Melina Root was awarded the Emmy for Outstanding Costume Design for a Series for "That Disco Episode". Additionally, the show was nominated for a large number of Teen Choice Awards, with both Ashton Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama winning on three occasions.
Over the course of its run, the series was a consistent performer for Fox, becoming one of their flagship shows. Its eight seasons, consisting of 200 episodes, made it Fox's second-longest-running live-action sitcom ever behind Married... with Children, though That '70s Show did not have the same ratings success.
That '70s Show was released on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4 by Fox Home Entertainment at an increment of two seasons per year between 2004 and 2008 and a complete series release on October 14, 2008. Mill Creek Entertainment released all eight seasons between 2011 and '13 and released a complete series set on May 14, 2013. On March 6, 2012, Mill Creek released the first season on Blu-ray and season two on October 16, 2012. On November 3, 2015, Mill Creek Entertainment released That '70s Show The Complete Series on Blu-ray 1080p with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio.
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, called That '70s Album (Jammin'). The second is a collection of album-oriented rock songs, called That '70s Album (Rockin'). AllMusic gave both albums 3 out of 5 stars in their reviews.
In 1999, the show was remade by the ITV network in the United Kingdom as Days Like These using almost verbatim scripts with minor changes to cultural references.