That ’70s Show: Season One
April 27, 2012
Initially disregarded as a lame Dazed and Confused (1993) knock-off, That ‘70s Show survived for more seasons than anyone thought possible and helped launch the careers of Topher Grace, Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. To the show’s credit, it doesn’t solely rely on the kitschy décor and fashion sense of the decade for cheap laughs. Although, they do sneak in some cool artifacts, like the video game Pong, and movies like The Omen (1976) and Star Wars (1977). Instead, That ‘70s Show adheres strictly to standard sitcom conventions.
Originally called Teenage Wasteland, That ‘70s Show is a sitcom about the lives of a group of teenagers living in Wisconsin during the late 1970’s. Eric Foreman (Grace) is the everyman who is unlucky with girls; Michael Kelso (Kutcher) is the not-too-bright jock/ladies man; Steven Hyde (Masterson) is the sarcastic practical joker and stoner; Donna Pinciotti (Prepon) is the sexy tomboy; Jackie Burkhart (Kunis) is the vain, rich girl; and Fez (Valderrama) is the borderline geek from another country whose full name nobody can pronounce.
The first season spans 1976 to 1977 and introduces us to these characters and the world they inhabit with the first episode establishing Eric and his tight-knit group of friends as they make their way to a Todd Rundgren concert. Right from the get-go it feels like these actors have worked together for years. They play so well off each other and have excellent comic timing, in particular Ashton Kutcher as Kelso with his dumb questions and silly pronouncements and Danny Masterson with nicely timed deadpan sarcastic quips. The first season tracks the gradually developing relationship between Eric and Donna as go from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend. A number of guest stars make appearances, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Mitch (The X-Files) Pileggi, but it is a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt that impresses the most as Buddy, Eric’s new lab partner who also happens to be gay, which leads Eric to temporary confusion as to his own sexual orientation.
One of the show’s reoccurring motifs is dream sequences demonstrating the colourful imaginations of the characters and the 360-degree scenes (also known as the Circle) that usually illustrate the teens smoking pot in Eric’s basement. As they talk about whatever comes to mind, the camera moves in a circle stopping on each character as they address the camera directly. It became a clever way to show them getting high without actually showing them lighting up with only puffs of smoke in the background as an obvious reference.
The diversity of the cast accounts for a large part of the show’s appeal with Topher Grace and Kutcher drawing the teenage demographic and established veteran actors like Kurtwood Smith appealing to an older generation who may also watch for nostalgic reasons – a trip down memory lane evokes simpler times. Smith is the show’s secret weapon as Eric’s gruff, no-nonsense father, Red. He gets some great zingers with his dry, sarcastic remarks and referring to those he dislikes as dumbasses and threatening to put his foot up the ass of anyone who crosses him, which is usually Eric.
The appeal of these characters is that they are archetypes that anyone can relate to. We’ve all known or been a jock or a geek or the popular kid. While That ‘70s Show is hardly groundbreaking television it is very entertaining and quite funny, which is all you really want from a show like this.
The episodes are presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio as opposed to their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 but none of the image is distorted or cut off. The transfers look crisp with lots of detail and the vibrant colors are fantastic and really pop.
All of the extras from the previous box set are included in this one.
“Hello Wisconsin! – Season One” is featurette that takes a look at the show that was done at the time it was being made. The creators talk about the timeless nature of the show while the cast members talks about their characters.
“That ‘70s Trivia Show” features cast members testing your knowledge of various aspects of the show.
Exclusive to Blu-Ray is “Groovy Green Screen,” which takes a look at how the actors performed in front of a green screen while also showing the final result.
Finally, there is “Promo-palooza,” a collection of ads promoting the show.