That '70s Show

That '70s Show Information

That '70s Show is an American television period sitcom that centers 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. It debuted on the Fox television network, first airing on August 23, 1998, running for eight consecutive seasons, and concluding with the 200th episode on May 18, 2006.

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 and, during the first three seasons, Tanya Roberts.



Topher Grace as Eric Forman (seasons 1"7; guest star, season 8): Eric is a nice guy, generally geeky, physically slight, and somewhat clumsy. He is a smart-aleck with a fast wit and a deadpan sense of humor. He convinces his parents to let his best friend Steven Hyde move in with them, making Hyde like a brother. His father, Red, is always hard on him. Eric is in a relationship with his longtime love and neighbor Donna Pinciotti. He decides to become a teacher after high school, and he leaves the series at the end of the seventh season to teach in Africa. Although mentioned in every episode, he does not appear during the final season until the end of the series finale.

Mila Kunis as Jackie Burkhart: The youngest member of the group, Jackie starts the series as the pretty, rich, spoiled, selfish, conceited, and annoying immature girl. She likes to give thoughtless and superficial advice, which occasionally turns out to be correct. As the series progresses, she moves away from her self-centered ways and becomes sweeter. Partly as a result of these changes, she and Donna become better friends. By the end of the series, Jackie has dated three of the five males of the group: Kelso, Hyde, and Fez. The exceptions being Eric and Randy.

Ashton Kutcher as Michael Kelso (seasons 1"7; recurring, season 8): The dim-witted pretty boy of the group who wants to coast through life on his good looks. He spends the first half of the series in a relationship with the equally vapid Jackie. His best friend is Fez. He fathers a baby girl named Betsy during the seventh season. He becomes a police officer but gets kicked off the force because he does just about everything wrong. He gets a job as a security guard at a Playboy Club in Chicago, and leaves the series during the eighth and final season. He only appears in five episodes during season eight, including the series finale.

Danny Masterson as Steven Hyde: Eric's best friend and the anti-establishment member of the group. By the end of season one, the Formans allow Hyde to move in after he was abandoned by his mother, making him a foster brother to Eric. Hyde has a witty, blunt, and sarcastic sense of humor. Although rebellious, he is also smart, and the other group members often ask for his advice. Although Hyde dates Jackie for three seasons, in the final season he marries an exotic dancer named Samantha. Hyde later discovers Samantha was still married when she married him. As Donna points out in "My Fairy King", that means Hyde and Samantha are not legally married. In the seventh season, Hyde meets his biological father (William Barnett, played by Tim Reid), a wealthy African-American businessman (making Hyde, who was presumed Caucasian, biracial). Barnett, who owns a chain of record stores, makes Hyde first the manager, and later the owner, of the Point Place store.

Laura Prepon as Donna Pinciotti: Eric's longtime girlfriend (and briefly fiancée). Donna is intelligent, good-looking, and a feminist. Although she doesn't agree with what Jackie represents in the beginning of the series, they become friends. Donna is in a relationship with Eric for seven seasons (despite their break-up during season 4). She has brief romances with Casey, Michael's brother, and with Randy during the final season and quickly ends it. She rekindles her relationship with Eric at the end of the show's finale.

Wilmer Valderrama as Fez: The foreign exchange student of the group whose hormones seem to be out of control. His secret country of origin is one of the longest-running gags on the show. He is sweet, friendly, perverted, gullible, and rather odd. He enjoys eating candy, drinking beer, and looking at pornography. His best friend is Kelso, and he shares a "younger brother" type relationship with Hyde and Eric. He constantly flirts with Jackie and Donna and often makes romantic advances toward them. Initially, he has a lot of trouble getting attention from girls, but during the eighth season he becomes a ladies' man. He is in love with Jackie throughout the series, but his love is not reciprocated until the eighth season when they become a couple.

Lisa Robin Kelly as Laurie Forman (seasons 2"3; recurring, seasons 1 and 5): Eric's beautiful but evil older sister. Laurie enjoys tormenting Eric and manipulating her parents. She is promiscuous, often seen with various men, mainly Eric's friend Kelso, who cheats on his girlfriend, Jackie. Eric, Hyde, and Donna often mock her promiscuity. She also has a strained relationship with her mother, who thinks of her as a freeloader. She leaves the series during the third season but returns in a recurring role during the fifth. In season five, she and Fez marry to prevent him from getting deported. In season six, she is portrayed by a different actress, Christina Moore.

Josh Meyers as Randy Pearson (season 8): The newest member of the group, who is introduced in the final season. Randy appears laid back, gentle, polite, and a ladies' man, although later many of his flaws surface. He forms a friendship with Red after showing Red how good he is at fixing things. While Hyde, Jackie, Donna, and Kelso accept him as a new member of their group, Fez does not. Randy dates Donna for the majority of season eight, but she eventually breaks up with him.


Debra Jo Rupp as Kitty Forman: Red's wife, Eric's and Laurie's mother, and Hyde's adopted mother. Kitty is a cheerful, doting mother, but can also be assertive when pushed. Despite being a nurse, she is a smoker and drinks a lot. Her major mood swings are usually attributed to menopause. She is also a good mother figure to Eric's friends.

Kurtwood Smith as Red Forman: Kitty's husband, Eric's and Laurie's father, and Hyde's adopted father. Red is a Navy combat veteran, having served in World War II and the Korean War. Despite his mean exterior, Red occasionally displays a soft side. His hobbies include working with his power tools, drinking beer, watching television, reading the newspaper, hunting, and fishing.

Tanya Roberts as Midge Pinciotti (seasons 1"3; guest star, seasons 6"7): Bob's wife, Donna's mother, and Kitty's best friend. Midge was the sexy neighborhood mom Eric and his male friends fantasized about when coming of age. Although often dim-witted, she is also a kind-hearted woman who develops feminist ideals. She and Bob divorce when she is written out of the series after the third season. She returns during the sixth and seventh seasons in a recurring role where she and Bob almost reunite.

Don Stark as Bob Pinciotti: Midge's husband, Donna's father. Bob often brags about his service in the National Guard, which invariably irritates Red. Bob is also known for walking around his house with his robe wide open and no underwear. He eats constantly, even in bed. Bob is almost always in a good mood and is a ladies' man. His best friend is Red, even though Red sees him as a nuisance. He usually takes the brunt of Red's abuse in a jolly manner.

Tommy Chong as Leo Chingkwake (seasons 4, 8; recurring, seasons 2"3, 7): A hippie, and the owner of a Foto Hut at which Hyde once worked. Leo often puts play before work and maintains an easy-going attitude in most things, business included. He disappears from the series after season four but is later referenced in season five's "The Battle of Evermore" when the gang goes on a mission to find him, but with no luck. He returns in season seven and remains on the series until the show's end. In season 8, he gets a new job working for Hyde at Grooves.

Elements of the show

The 1970s

The show addressed social issues of the 1970s such as feminism, sexual attitudes, generational conflict, the economic hardships of the 1970s recession, mistrust of the American government by blue-collar workers, and teenage drug use. 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.

Beginning with the second season, the show focused less on the socio-political 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 Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore (The Mary Tyler Moore Show); Valerie Harper (Rhoda and The Mary Tyler Moore Show); Tom Poston (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).

Beginning with season 5, each episode in the season is named after a song by a rock band that was famous in the '70s: Led Zeppelin (season 5), The Who (Season 6), The Rolling Stones (season 7), and Queen (season 8).

Split screens

One device in the show is to depict 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, there are often notable differences. 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 they will be owned by the other. The split screens were almost never used in seasons 2"7 of the series, and appear only in a few episodes in seasons 1 and 8.

Dream sequences

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.

The Circle

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 slowly 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, there were no visible drug-related paraphernalia like bongs or joint papers. Characters never spoke the word "marijuana" (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 that he's sitting on 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.

The Stupid Helmet

The Stupid Helmet refers to an old Green Bay Packers helmet that a character is forced to wear after having done 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 helping Kelso keep Jackie. The helmet can be seen in the Forman basement on a shelf behind the cast. When the series concluded in 2006, Kelso took the helmet with him. 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 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 episode "Water Tower", 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 his and Jackie's 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.

Scene changes

Scene changes or scene transitions featured the characters doing something in front of a colorful, psychedelic, lava lamp-like background. They sometimes included the mirror image of the character doing the same thing. These transitions always featured the characters about to appear in the next scene.

In the first season, scene changes were typically 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?").

In early seasons, the scene changes often showed no people, just black backgrounds with a colorful object (such as a ball, balloon, or flowers) 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. Another typical early season scene transition would show a picture of an 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 US$500.

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

Running gags

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 sleepkicking your ass." Sometimes Red uses it for someone other than Eric. For example, in "Street Fighting Man", someone sees a fellow (who turns out to be Eric) wearing a Bears jersey at a Packer game, and Red says, "Let's all get together and kick his ass!"

Another running gag is Fez's country of origin, which is never revealed. Sometimes, Fez is about to disclose where he's from, or at least hint at it, but something happens to prevent him from doing so, like someone entering the room in "Stolen Car", or Fez rambling in "Love of My Life".

Another gag is the use of the word "burn", a term used by a character after something bad or offensive happens at another character's expense. According to Kelso in "Dine and Dash", a good burn consists of two elements: "You didn't see it coming, parts of it really hurt."

Another running gag is Kelso yelling "Ow my eye!" when Hyde rough houses with him. For example in the episode "Class Picture" there is a series of flashbacks featuring Hyde beating up Kelso and while the two are out of the immediate sight of the audience Kelso yells "Ow my eye!" and it cuts to the next flashback. This gag is repeated several times throughout the series, although the only time Kelso appears with an injured eye is in "Jackie's Cheese Squeeze", after he was punched by Todd, Jackie's manager. In that occasion, Kelso did not yell "Ow my eye!".

Another running gag is Fez's use of the phrase "Good day." It is followed by another cast member saying, "But Fez..." and Fez immediately interrupting with an exclamatory, "I said good day!" There are some instances where the words vary, but the interaction is the same.


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 sexual revolution, 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 premiere airing roughly coincided with the box office debut of Star Wars.

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 eventually 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' 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-20s by the time their characters graduated from 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

The character of 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 switched to a recurring guest role when he also chose to depart following the seventh season. However, 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) 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 job as group idiot. 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, who proved fairly popular with audiences, but the character was killed off after Harrison was offered a lead role in the series The Loop. A new character named Randy Pearson, played by Josh Meyers, was introduced to take Eric's place. Another new character, Samantha, a stripper played by Judy Tylor, was added 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 the Vista Cruiser to The Circle.

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.

According to the DVD commentary of episode 25 of season 7 by director Trainer, Harrison's character Charlie was considered as a possible replacement for Foreman, an "innocent character". A pilot including him as a main character for season 8 was filmed at the end of 2005 but was never aired because Harrison wanted to leave the show for other projects. His character was then written out of the series in episode 1 of season 8, and Pearson was added as a new character.

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.

International broadcasts of U.S. version

Country/Region Channel(s) Aired Foreign title Notes Sources
7mate present
The Comedy Channel present
Puls 4 present Die wilden 70er (The Wild '70s) Dubbed in German.
Band 'De Volta aos Anos 70' Dubbed in Portuguese
Sony Spin present Subtitled in Portuguese
Fox 1998"2006 (original run)
TVtropolis present
VRAK.TV present 70 Dubbed in French.
Kabel 1 Die wilden Siebziger (The Wild '70s) Dubbed in German.
Comedy Central present
3e present
Comedy Central
Comedy Central present Subtitled in Dutch.
FOUR present
Comedy Central present Ró?owe lata siedemdziesi"?te
Comedy Central present
Comedy Central

Theme song

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 all right!", quoting the ending of their 1978 hit song "Surrender".

Both versions of the song used on the show end with somebody yelling "Hello, Wisconsin!". 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 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 current 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 in "Hanging Out..."; Danny Masterson in "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.


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.

  • That '70s Album (Jammin')
  • That '70s Album (Rockin')

American ratings

Season Episodes Premiere Season finale Rank Viewers
(in millions)
1 1998"1999 25 August 23, 1998 July 26, 1999 #49 11.7
2 1999"2000 26 September 28, 1999 May 22, 2000 #66 9.1
3 2000"2001 25 October 3, 2000 May 22, 2001 #67 9.1
4 2001"2002 27 September 25, 2001 May 21, 2002 #58 11.1
5 2002"2003 25 August 30, 2002 May 14, 2003 #54 10.1
6 2003"2004 25 October 29, 2003 May 19, 2004 #49 11.0
7 2004"2005 25 September 8, 2004 May 18, 2005 #85 7.0
8 2005"2006 22 November 2, 2005 May 18, 2006 #103 5.8

DVD/Blu-ray releases

Main article: That '70s Show DVDs

See also

  • List of awards and nominations received by That '70s Show
  • List of recurring That '70s Show characters

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