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That '70s Show is an American television sitcom that centered on the lives of a group of teenagers living in the fictional suburban town of Point Place, Wisconsinmarker, from May 1976 to 12:00 a.m., January 1, 1980. It debuted on the FOX television network on August 23, 1998 and ran for eight consecutive seasons, concluding with the 200th episode airing on 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.

The show's main cast was Topher Grace, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Laura Prepon, and Wilmer Valderrama. During the eighth and final season, Josh Meyers was added to the main cast after Topher Grace's departure from the series.

As of August 2009, the series is syndicated worldwide.


That '70s Show was created by the writing-producing team of Bonnie and Terry Turner and writer Mark Brazill. The primary working title for the series was Teenage Wasteland, inspired by the lyrics of the 1971 The Who song "Baba O'Riley"; other names considered were "The Kids Are Alright" (also by the Who), "Feelin' All Right" (by Traffic), and "Reeling in the Years" (by Steely Dan), 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.

Currently many reruns play on various networks.


Set in Point Place, Wisconsin, That '70s Show depicts the lives of six teenagers: Eric Forman (Topher Grace), the show's main protagonist, a skinny teenager who loves Star Wars and G.I. Joe; Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon), his tomboy girlfriend and next-door neighbor; Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson), Eric's best friend and a rebellious recreational drug user who eventually moved in with the Formans after his father, and later his mother abandoned him; Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), a dim-witted ladies' man, commonly called by his last name; Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis), a self-involved high school cheerleader overly preoccupied with wealth and social status; and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), a foreign exchange student from a country that is never identified (Actually, in Eric's Burger Job, he is refered to the foreign friend, suggesting the fictional country from The Princess Bride). During the show's final season, Randy Pearson (Josh Meyers) becomes Donna's new love interest after Eric goes off to Africa.

Relationships among the teens are explored, the primary focus being between Eric and Donna. Eric and Donna are usually in a relationship and Eric often jokes about having sex with Donna. 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 after a heated summer fling turned into a more long term one, lasting on and off from seasons 5 to 7. At the end of the series, Jackie and Fez end up together.

Other main characters include Eric's aggressive, overbearing yet humorous and well-intentioned father, Red (Kurtwood Smith), a World War II and Korean War veteran, his kind-hearted, considerate yet pushy 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 flaky parents, both of whom are easily influenced by the 1970s movements and fads, which places occasional stress on their marriage. Beginning with Season 2, Tommy Chong appeared as Leo Chingkwake, the clueless aging hippie owner of the Fotohut who frequently gives marijuana to the kids. Originally, Leo was just a recurring character but in Season 4 he was promoted to a main role. However, he was written out of the series, when Tommy Chong had to serve a jail sentence but he returned at the end of Season 7 and remained on the series until the show's end.


Actor/Actress Character Years credited as regular cast Notes
Topher Grace Eric Forman 1998–2005 ; 2006 (one guest appearance) Uncredited cameo appearance in series finale
Mila Kunis Jackie Burkhart 1998–2006
Danny Masterson Steven Hyde 1998–2006
Ashton Kutcher Michael Kelso 1998–2005 ; 2006 (guest appearances) Recurring role, season eight (five episodes)
Laura Prepon Donna Pinciotti 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 1998–2001 ; 2004 1 appearance in season six, Recurring Role in season 7
Lisa Robin Kelly Laurie Forman 1998–2003 Recurring seasons one and five. Main cast seasons 2–3.
Christina Moore Laurie Forman 2003–2004 Recurring role (six episodes), season six
Tommy Chong 2000–2002 ; 2005–2006 Recurring role seasons 2, 3 and 7; Main role in seasons 4 and 8
Josh Meyers 2005–2006 Main role in Season 8

Elements of the show

The Seventies

The show tackled significant social issues of the times, such as feminism and progressive sexual attitudes and the reaction of the Greatest Generation to their burgeoning influence; the economic hardships of recession; mistrust in the American government among blue-collar workers; teenage drug use; and developments in entertainment technology, from the television remote ("the clicker") to the video game Pong, and probably the most frequently noted Star Wars (the latter neatly tying in to a new round of Star Wars mania in 1999). Red also shows his dislike (or hate) of Communism, and those that prefer it. (Cold War).

Beginning with the second season of the show, the series' theme changed dramatically, and 1970s current events no longer had a significant bearing on the plot of the series. Successive seasons focused 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. The dynamic of the relationship between Eric Forman and Donna Pinciotti, which was the focal point of the series through most of its run, was dramatically altered in later seasons to more closely resemble the relationships of other "power couples" on teen dramas, removing the emphasis on their awkward attempts to reconcile their conservative upbringings with their desire to have a "progressive" relationship founded on 1970s values. Likewise, the first season of the show 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 comedic.

The show also notably featured actors from '70s TV shows, such as Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Tanya Roberts (Charlie's Angels), Tim Reid and Howard Hesseman (WKRP in Cincinnati), Marion Ross (Happy Days) and Tommy Chong (Cheech and Chong). Many episodes are named after famous and popular rock music hits from Led Zeppelin (season 5), The Who (Season 6), The Rolling Stones (season 7), and Queen (season 8).

Split screens

One common scene in the show is to depict a split screen in which two groups of two characters speak. One character is usually seeking advice on some sort of problem with someone in the second pairing, and the other character advises them. The humor in such scenes stems from the conversations usually mirroring each other, but coming to entirely different conclusions. It is most often used for the couples of the show, which each member of the couple being advised on their relationship in a different fashion. For example in one such scene, Donna and Eric consult Jackie and Kelso for advice on attending a drive-in; as the scene closes, Kelso offers to accompany them and is rejected by Eric, while Donna asks Jackie to accompany them and she agrees.

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.

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 the audience gets to see the scene). In the episode "Stone Cold Crazy", as a parody Jackie mentioned she liked the song which was playing in Fez's dream sequence. Such scenes are usually introduced by the wobbling screen transition. Sometimes, the transition is absent when the characters who imagine 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 The Circle scene, in which a group of characters sitting in a circle engage in a conversation (usually in Eric's basement room, though occasionally elsewhere), as the camera slowly spun around in a circular direction, stopping at each successive individual as he or she speaks. It was primarily used as a means for conveying to the audience that characters were under the influence of cannabis. Thick clouds of theatrical smoke and an extreme wide-angle lens added to the "drug-induced" feel of these sequences.

To prevent any issues with standards and practices, the producers avoided any visual appearance of cannabis, matches, water pipes, or any similar substances. Characters never spoke the word "marijuana" or any slang term for it unless it carried negative connotations. However, in the episode "Bye-Bye Basement", Theo (Leo's cousin) refers to it as "weed". In another episode, Red explains "That kid's on dope!" about Eric while learning about the side effects of it. Positive references to marijuana always used vague, broad terms such as "stuff" or "stash".

One of their occasionally-used gimmicks was Eric watching the kitchen wall moving around erratically, performed as a mechanical special effect live on the set, this also would sometimes show that he was drunk. As the series progressed, the circle became one of the series' defining features, and it was quickly adopted by the shows' writers as a narrative technique to streamline the flow of dialog even in non-drug influenced scenes.

The only four episodes where the whole gang is in the circle together are "Class Picture", "I'm A Boy", "Substitute", and "That '70s Finale".

The Stupid Helmet

Another common feature of the show is the "stupid helmet". The stupid helmet is an old Green Bay Packer helmet that a character is forced to wear when he or she does something that is deemed stupid by the rest of the gang. Eric had to wear it when he told the gang he wanted to propose to Donna, and Fez wore it when he started banging his head on the table after he helped Kelso keep Jackie. The helmet can be seen in the basement on a shelf behind the main cast. When the series concluded in 2006, Kelso took the helmet with him. This is due to the fact that the last one up the staircase had to call Red a "dumbass", something he always calls the kids. Since Kelso was the last one he grabbed the helmet as protection.

The Water Tower

In many episodes the main characters are often hanging out on the water tower; at the end of several water tower segments at least one of the main characters falls off (usually Kelso). When Charlie fell off in season 8, he died. The water tower was renamed in his honor. After Charlie died, Kelso fell off it again and survived, leading him to believe that he is "invincible". In the episode, "Water Tower" the gang painted a marijuana leaf on the tower, but it looked more like a green hand giving the finger.

Scene changes

The scene changes were used for almost every scene transition. They featured the main characters doing something in front of a colorful, psychedelic, lava lamp-like background. These sometimes included the mirror image of the character doing the exact same thing. Transitions included:

  • The gang dancing
  • A shot from below of Red suspiciously looking at the camera (sometimes with Kitty or Eric on screen)
  • A shot from below of Donna walking/dancing
  • A shot from above of Eric jumping
  • A shot from above of Donna jumping
  • Various characters jumping as if on a trampoline
  • Red yelling "Don't you ever do that again!" at the camera while Kitty dances.
  • Kelso looking confused with people around him
  • Eric falling to the ground (usually when in trouble)
  • Hyde, Fez, and Kelso on swings
  • Jackie dancing and blowing kisses while Kelso rubs his chin
  • A shot from below of Red suspiciously looking at the camera while Eric is seemingly doing push-ups
  • A shot from below of Eric Power Sliding across the screen

Scene changes in the first season were typically still images of faces from the '70s with only the mouth moving (à la Conan O'Brien's "Fake Celebrity Interviews") using Syncro-Vox, usually yelling in a rock form, "Yeahhh!" or similar (ex. Farrah Fawcett saying, "Yeah!" or Richard Nixon saying, "Are you ready to rock and roll?").

Often, in early seasons, the scene changes included no people whatsoever. They were usually black backgrounds with something colorful (such as a ball, balloon, flowers and things like that) doing strange things, like exploding, replicating, deflating or bouncing around and so on. Sometimes they would be visuals of lava or lava lamps with the That 70s Show logo plummeting to the bottom of the screen in front of it. Another typical early season scene transition would consist of a picture of a random animal, person (sometimes a popular person of the decade, like Farrah Fawcett), or object singing "ohh baby baby baby ohhh", in a Robert Plant-style voice.

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 $500 USD.

In August 2009, the show's Vista Cruiser was named third-greatest television car ever by MSN Autos.


The creators had wanted the show to have a 1970s "feel" from the beginning, and 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 socio-political 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 Equal Rights Amendment, the 1973 Oil Crisis, 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 (20), as its premier airing roughly coincided with the box office debut of The Phantom Menace.

Throughout the first two seasons, episodes opened with title cards stating the season/month and year (example: Late Spring, 1977 or June, 1977). These, however, were eventually abandoned after seasons 1 and 2, with few subsequent episodes using them. From the premiere onward, the year in which the episode took place 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 twelve 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' time line. 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-twenties by the time their characters graduated high school after five seasons (except Mila Kunis who was not quite 20). As the series time line sped up and slowed down with more rapidity near the series' climax, the time line necessitated that several major events depicted as having occurred months apart would have in fact happened within weeks or even days of one another.

8th Season and series finale

Eric Forman was written out of the series at the end of the seventh season, as Topher Grace desired to move on with his career. Ashton Kutcher also chose to depart following the seventh season, however Michael Kelso hadn't 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) before moving to Chicagomarker. Longtime character Leo returned with a more prominent role to help fill the gap. Jackie and Hyde became the show's new central characters focusing on their relationships and jobs (Jackie with Fez and Hyde with Samantha). Eric 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's place. Another new character, Samantha, played by Judy Tylor, was added to the cast as Hyde's wife for nine episodes. Both Eric and Kelso returned for the series' final episode, though Grace's role was uncredited. The location of the show's introduction was also changed from Eric's 1969 Vista Cruiser to the "Circle".

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.


The show is broadcast worldwide as well as many local stations including CW,TeenNick, ABC Family, FX, and soon to be broadcast on TV Land.


British remake

In 1999, the show was remade by the Britishmarker 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.

Chilean remake

In early 2009, the channel Chilevision broadcast a remake of the show by Ross Film named Mis Años Grosos (My Great Years). The show initially did not receive high ratings and before filming of the second season, the main actor died in an accident, and there has been no subsequent news about the continuation of the show.

International broadcasts of US version

Country Channel Notes Foreign title
7Two Weeknights at 7 p.m.
111 Hits 7:30 Weeknights, 12:30–2:00 p.m. Weekend afternoons, 7:30–8:30 p.m. Sunday nights.
Asia Star World First started airing in 2000, Monday nights from 8:00–8:30 p.m. Occasionally replaced by other series. That '70s Show
OBN Lude 70 (Crazy '70s)
Rede Bandeirantes, Sony Dubbed in Brazilian Portuguese in Band and subtitled in Sony De Volta aos Anos 70 (Back to 70s) in Band, and original name in Sony
GTV Premiered in 2008. Seasons 1–7 dubbed in Bulgarian. Шеметни години (Dizzy Years)
VRAK.TV Dubbed in French 70
Fox, Global TV, CH As the US television station FOX is available in Canada, Canadians were able to watch the series for its entire run on that network. In addition, seasons 1–7 aired on Global TV, while season 8 aired on Global-owned CH. It also aired on latenight on Global in markets where CH isn't available.
Canal Capital
Nova TV Lude sedamdesete (Crazy 70s)
TV2 Zulu Dengang i 70'erne (Back then in the '70s)
Super Comedy
ETV Kuumad seitsmekümnendad (The Hot '70s)
Nelonen, TV Viisi 70s Show
France 2
NRJ12 Dubbed in French
Kabel 1, RTL Die wilden Siebziger (The Wild '70s)
Star World That '70s Show
RTÉ Two, Channel 6, Comedy Central, MTV
HOT3, STAR World, Bip, VOD מופע שנות ה-70 (The '70s Show)
Latin America Sony Entertainment Television Including Brazil That '70s Show
Sitel Ludi 70ti (Crazy '70s)
Sony Entertainment Television, Canal 5 El show de los '70
The N That '70s show
Middle East MBC4, dubaimarker channel ONE , SHOWtime comedy channel Subtitled to Arabic, aired several times in the region
Atlas TV
Comedy Central Show is running since April 30 2007, reruns until present. That '70s show
TV 2 Now airing on rival station TV3 & the BOX (see below)
TV3 First Run. Now occasionally rerun.
the BOX Re-runs
NRK2, TV2 The first three seasons was broadcasted by NRK2 under its Norwegian title, re-runs and additional seasons later aired on TV2 with the original English title Et 70-tallsshow (A '70s show)
Star World That '70s Show
Associated Broadcasting Company, Jack TV ABC 5 (now TV5) aired Season 1 in 2002 (not in order), Jack TV began airing all eight seasons in 2006.
Polsat Różowe lata siedemdziesiąte (Pink '70s years)
TVI Que loucura de família (What a crazy family)
Naţional TV www.rebelii.70
B92 Vesele sedamdesete
Markíza Aired first four seasons dubbed in Slovak. Tie roky 70
Kanal A All seasons aired. Oh, ta sedemdeseta (Oh, that 70s)
M-net That '70s Show
Paramount Comedy, Antena.neox and Localia Aquellos Maravillosos 70 (Those Wonderful 70s)
TV4 That '70s Show
True Series
Star World
That '70s Show
TV8, ComedySmart
Trouble, Paramount Comedy, Virgin 1, MTV One, Bravo 2, VH1, Channel 5

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, during the first season, at the end of the opening song, Danny Masterson (Steven Hyde) yells "Hello Wisconsin!". Robin Zander (lead singer for Cheap Trick) takes over this job in the Cheap Trick version of the song although Masterson's voice is still used in the show's intro. The lyrics were also slightly different during the first season, with instead of "We're all alright!" being shouted twice, "Whooa yeah!" is heard.

Alternate holiday versions of the theme song were arranged for Halloween, Christmas and musical specials, using organ music and bells, respectively.

Opening credits

Opening credits for Seasons 1–7 showed some of the cast driving in Eric's car singing the theme song together. At the end is a shot of the license plate showing the current year the episode was taking place in in the bottom right corner. After Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher left the series, the opening credits for Season 8 showed a close up shot of the actors singing a line of the theme song in The Circle. (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". Notably, new cast member Josh Meyers is not in those credits probably due to the fact that Randy Pearson wasn't introduced yet. Smith looks at the camera frowning and rolls his eyes. Chong looks around the room, confused (probably in response to hearing "Hello, Wisconsin!") starting with the second episode of the season.


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 Album-oriented rock songs.

U.S. ratings

Season Episodes Premiere Season finale U.S. ratings
1 1998–1999 25 August 23, 1998 July 26, 1999 14.7 million (29th place)
2 1999–2000 26 September 28, 1999 May 22, 2000 11.06 million (55th place)
3 2000–2001 25 October 3, 2000 May 22, 2001
4 2001–2002 27 September 25, 2001 May 21, 2002 11.1 million (58th 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 11.04 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


  1. 1969 Vista Cruiser commercial on YouTube
  2. MSN Autos list of "Ten Greatest Cars On Television - Ever!"
  3. " 1998–1999 TV Ratings Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  4. " 1999–2000 TV Ratings Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  5. " How did your favorite show rate? Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  6. " Nielsen's TOP 156 Shows for 2002–2003 Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  7. " 2003–2004 TV Ratings Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  8. " 2004–2005 TV Ratings Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  9. " 2005–2006 TV Ratings Retrieved July 29, 2008.

External links

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