Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger just rediscovered the Catholic School Girl fantasy.
Our reviews of That '70s Show: Season One (published October 19th, 2011), That '70s Show: Season Four (published June 21st, 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.
"I did it!"—Fez
No matter how often its humor sneaks up on me, I never give That '70s Show enough respect. Yeah it's funny, and the cast has a knack for nailing offbeat characterizations from out of left field. But is it a great comedy series that will stand the test of time? Can't answer that question right now, man, because tears are streaming down my face. Season Five started jamming fondue forks into my funny bone from the opening moments. I literally have not laughed this hard in years.
Something cool has happened. The cast, which has always been a mainstay of the show, has recommitted themselves. (Or in Kitty's case, been committed.) Everyone is having a blast. At the same time, the writing has loosened up, taking risks with the storylines. The resulting season is fresh, surprising, and hilarious without abandoning the vibe that powered That '70s Show into its fifth season.
The show opens in California with a very special guest appearance by Jessica Simpson. (She even reprised the role in a later episode.) Simpson is perfect in her part, even singing in a gentle self parody. Love her or loathe her, her presence is a sign of how hot the show has become.
While Donna and Kelso are sunning themselves on the Cali shore, shocking twists take place in dairy land. It's a spoiler, so let's just say that a surprising new couple presents a rich vein of comedy that is mined throughout the season. The new subplot grows wearying in some episodes, it's true. But when somebody tells somebody else to shut her piehole, I thought my esophagus was going to land on the carpet. The surprises don't end there. From Fez's impending deportation to Donna's new Catholic School outfit, Season Five has some firepower in reserve in these Zeppelin-inspired episodes:
• "Going To California"
For example, "The Battle of Evermore" has a surly Red and sulking Eric compete against Seth Green and Fred Willard in a Father-Son Pilgrim contest. Red and Eric chop firewood, milk cows, and shoot arrows at cowbells while Donna and Kitty bond over a keg of hard cider. Meanwhile, Seth's character reveals that his dad hides buttless chaps in his bowling bag. It is hard to convey how oddly effective such setups are this season.
That episode is the swan song for Leo. But Season Five returns old friends to us, such as Eric's sister Laurie. Given that the season concerns their senior year, you'd expect it to be about closure. Yet by the time "Celebration Day" rolls around, Season Five gives the impression that That '70s Show has a lot of gas left in the tank.
The DVD treatment is roughly the same as Season Four's set. The video transfer is frequently soft and has noticeable grain. Many scenes suffer from muddy black levels. Yet the eye-popping palette of bright colors and warm sound mix make up for it. As in Season Four, the navigational menus do not function properly in an HTPC, which might also be a problem in conventional DVD players.
David Trainer's commentaries are gone, which isn't a huge loss. The "Season Five in Five Minutes" extra feels padded in comparison to the tighter four-minute version. Wilmer Valderrama is lucid and entertaining in his reflections, while Danny Masterson tows the party line (albeit with a wicked sparkle in his eye). The promo spots remain the same.
With the trademark cracks in the acting facade, the silly-yet-compelling plots, the gut-busting writing, and the parade of hot guests stars, That '70s Show cements itself as one of television's funniest shows. I'm slow to the party, but I'll never disrespect That '70s Show again. I don't want Red kicking my ass.
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