Judge Brett Cullum has been hangin' out, down the street...again.
Our reviews of That '70s Show: Season Four (published June 21st, 2006), That '70s Show: Season Five (published November 22nd, 2006), That '70s Show: Season Eight (published May 21st, 2008), That '70s Show: Season One (published December 22nd, 2004), and That '70s Show: Season Two (published May 25th, 2005) are also available.
Fes: "What's disco?"
First off, this is a simple rerelease of That '70s Show by Mill Creek which exactly mirrors what Fox released back in 2004. No upgrades here in the transfer and no new extras have been added. The only change is that now the cardboard packaging is replaced with a more traditional clamshell DVD package with the three discs in black little sleeves inside. There's not much new to say about the DVDs other than they were fine back in 2004 and they remain that way seven years later. I reviewed that first set, and I found revisiting the show just as charming. It's worth a look if you didn't get it on the initial release, especially since now the series is not as common in syndication. The show debuted back in 1998, and the first year was very strong and easily one of the best seasons.
That '70s Show revolves around the teenaged Eric Forman (Topher Grace, Spider-man 3), his friends, and his family, who all live in the mythical Point Place, Wisconsin. The cast was a great ensemble of kids and their parents, so here's the breakdown for people who may not be hip to this groovy little sitcom (in the credits order):
Mila Kunis (Black Swan) plays Jackie. She's a socialite who dates Kelso, and starts off as a snobby outsider with a quick tongue. Mila was all of fifteen when the show started in 1998. She lied about her age in the auditions, and landed the most sexually realized character on the show.
Ashton Kutcher (Two And a Half Men) took the role of Kelso, a bubble-headed pretty boy with no common sense. He easily became the breakout star of the series with his model looks, flair for physical comedy, and taste for older women.
Danny Masterson (Dracula 2000) was Hyde, a stoner with a heart of gold and a not-so-secret crush on Donna. He was the oldest of the kids in the cast, and revealed a dry humor that was laconic and brilliant.
Laura Prepon (Slackers) played Donna, the girl next door who went from tomboy to sex bomb for Eric. Laura easily gets my vote for the hottest girl on the show! She's a redhead, and has a husky voice that simmers like Kathleen Turner's. She has a down-to-earth quality that belies her "daughter of Jessica Rabbit" looks.
Wilmer Valderrama (Party Monster) appears as Fes (sometimes people spell it as Fez), the foreign exchange student who slaughters English and American customs. We don't know where he comes from, or even his real name. (Fes is shorthand for foreign exchange student!) He's hilarious; easily the funniest character on the show. He is Ricky Ricardo crossed with Gilligan.
Debra Jo Rupp (Garfield) portrays Eric's mother. She's been used on other sitcoms before, such as The Jeff Foxworthy Show, but here she proved she was easily a stand-out at both comedy and heart-felt emotion. Her laugh alone became a trademark of the show, and it's criminal she has never won an Emmy or Golden Globe.
Kurtwood Smith (Robocop) made Red, Eric's father, a lovable cranky guy. He's always criticizing his youngest charge, but it seems heartfelt and oddly warm.
Tanya Roberts (A View to a Kill) and Don Stark (Star Trek: First Contact) both lent '70s realism to their roles as Donna's parents. Roberts was a '70s sex siren on Charlie's Angels, and Stark had the typical killer '70s unisex perm. Stark plays the proud papa to a tee, and Roberts is ditzy good fun. Too bad she exited the show in 2001.
In this set you get the first twenty-five episodes of the show on three DVDs, from the pilot up to the shows where Hyde moved in with the Formans. Also included are some featurettes, but no commentaries or deleted scenes. We get the obligatory "making of" spotlight with the cast discussing the first year in vintage on set interviews and a montage of promos which look as dated as the subject material. They also include a trivia feature where the cast answers the questions two seconds after delivering them to the viewer. Transfers are clear enough although it looks retro and like what television was in 1998. The stereo sound works fine too. None of the supplements or technical presentations dazzle, but they capture the show just as it aired.
What makes That '70s Show work so well is that it is a true ensemble show with a strong cast. Sure there is plenty of nostalgia for the decade it is set in, and they revel in the late '70s references such as Star Wars, streaking, and disco. It addressed some pretty heady topics such as teen pregnancy, coming out, a parental job loss, and teen homelessness. The show was smart, funny, and really explored the characters and their world. It was nostalgia married with things that anybody can relate to. Revisiting the show is like going back to high school no matter what decade that was in, because at the core this is all about being a kid at a vulnerable time in your life. It just so happens these kids live with three channels on tv, no cell phones, and no Internet.
Guilty of being a nostalgic look at what it means to be teenager in any decade.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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