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That ‘70’s Show: The Complete Series

    Ian Jane

  • That ‘70’s Show: The Complete Series

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    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: October 25th, 2022.
    Director: David Trainer
    Cast: Topher Grace, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon, Wilmer Walderrama
    Year: 1998
    Purchase From Amazon

    That ‘70’s Show: The Complete Series – Show Review:

    That ‘70’s Show debut on Fox in 1998 and lasted eight seasons until it finally finished up in 2006. The series remained a popular and consistently funny show, far better than your average sitcom, and despite the period setting and dress, it never came across as gimmicky or formulaic.

    For those who haven’t seen the show it’s set in a small town in Wisconsin (and in the 70s, obviously) and based around the exploits of seventeen year old Eric Forman (Topher Grace) who lives at home with his kind hearted mother, Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp), and his tough love dad, Red (Kurtwood Smith). The Forman’s live next door to the Pinciotti’s – father and mother Bob (Don Stark) and Midge (Tanya Roberts), and their pretty red haired daughter Donna (Laura Prepon), who Eric is dating. They hang out with their mutual friends – superficial airheaded Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis), her equally airheaded boyfriend Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), rebellious slacker Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson) and foreign exchange student Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). Occasionally Eric’s older sister, Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly), comes back from college to stay with her family and cause problems, as she and Eric don’t get along particularly well.

    A lot of the episodes revolve around typical teenage issues – trying to score beer, dealing with parental control, sex, love, school and just hanging out having fun. The series is smart enough to focus on character development first and foremost more so than placing those characters in wacky situations (though plenty of that happens too). By letting us get to know, and very quickly get to like, Eric and Donna and to a lesser extent the rest of the cast it’s easy to get sucked in to the show. Some of those aforementioned wacky situations, however, have to be noted. Highlights in the early run of the show include an episode where the group finds a keg of beer at the site of the road and decides to have a keg party in the empty swimming pool of a house that Jackie’s mother, a real estate agent, has listed for sale. Eric’s relationship with Donna becomes strained when a friend of his sisters spends the night and coerces her into kissing him, and in one episode where Kitty insists Red be kinder to their son, he and Bob wind up taking the group to a wrestling match (look for a very self aware cameo from Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson playing his father, wresting legend Rocky Johnson!). When Red is offered a sweet sales job by his old war buddy, he and Kitty unwittingly wind up at a swinger’s party and when Eric accompanies his mother to the hospital where she works as a nurse for career day, he learns how hard she works and how to best unwind after dealing with a corpse by singing your heart out in the car on the way home. An episode that takes the group to the next town over for a night of disco fun finds Hyde dancing with Donna, which would become a recurring issue throughout the series as he’s quite obviously in love with her, and Fez sweeping Jackie out from under Michael’s arms on the dance floor.

    The various story threads evolve from here over the next few seasons, though Eric and Donna remain a constant through most of the run and that winds up being not only a huge part of the storyline, but a huge part of the series’ charm as well. Laura Prepon and Topher Grace really are great together here, believably awkward and unsure of themselves in the way that teenagers typically are, and believable enough that we can get pulled into their drama.

    There’s a heart to a lot of the stories that make them rather sweet, such as the episode in which Red teaches Hyde how to reconcile things with his mother, however fleetingly, and then later in the episode where, after his mother has abandoned him, Kitty insists Hyde move in with the Forman’s rather than live on his own. Of course, there are plenty of sweet moments between Eric and Donna too, from the silly (like when he kisses her even though she has puke breath from drinking too much and getting sick) to more tender bits, like when they kiss at a cottage getaway (though Fez shows up shortly after, also to puke from drinking too much – but hey, drinking too much is part of being a teenager and is completely appropriate in this show!). Their relationship contrasts interestingly against the one between Michael and Jackie, who are far more interesting in how good the other one looks than in anything more substantial, at least at this point in the game. Case in point? When Michael sees her sick, without makeup on for the first time, and loses it.

    The show certainly works on a small scale, rarely leaving the small town and spending an inordinate amount of time in the Forman family’s basement, but it hits all the right notes and holds up incredibly well all these years later. The first season starts off strong and stays that way and by the time it all ends, you’re going to want to see where things go in the second season – which is pretty much the point of any show with any sort of continuity, so mission accomplished. The show remains surprisingly funny and consistent for the next few years, bringing interesting supporting characters in and out of the mix to spice things up. If it isn’t ever going to be considered the most complex show to ever air on the small screen, it’s never the less a fun watch and completely endearing in its own goofy, random way.

    As the series progresses, like a lot comedy shows, it starts to decrease in quality. At the end of the seventh season, Eric heads off to Africa to teach, leaving Randy Pearson (played by Josh Meyers) to fill his spot. Randy's the guy that Hyde hires to work at his record store and he's fine overall, but is kind of an Eric clone in a lot of ways, with a tendency to deliver quick, flippant remarks on the regular. Kelso also leaves at the end of the seventh season after having a kid with a librarian named Brooke to go become a cop, which doesn't work out. Predictably, they both return for the series' finale but the show wasn't the same without them, even if the producers did bring in Tommy Chong as Leo, the owner of the Photo Hut were Kelso works in the first few seasons, on a more regular basis as another one of Hyde's employees. The final season never gets unwatchably bad or anything, but with Eric and Kelso, two of the biggest and most important characters in the series, effectively out of the show, the chemistry just isn’t the same.

    There are some pretty fun guest stars featured throughout the series. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson shows up to play his father Rocky Johnson where he wrestles Matt and Jeff Hardy, Mitch Pileggi shows up in the first season, while in the second season we get Kevin McDonald from The Kids In The Hall in an episode as well as Melissa Joan Hart and Marion Ross. Paul Anka, Lyle Waggoner and Bob Eubanks all show up playing themselves. In the third season look out for Valerie Harper, Howard Hesseman, Charo, Alice Cooper, Curtis Armstrong, Danny Bonaduce, Ted Nugent, Monty Hall and SCTV alumni Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty as a pair of Mounties. Kevin McDonald shows up in this season again as well. Season four features guest appearances from French Stewart, Luke Wilson, Roger Daltrey, Howard Hessemen, Kevin McDonald and Tom Kenny while in season five we see Bobcat Goldthwait, Jim Gaffigan, Sam Levine, Jessica Simpson, Betty White, Seth Green, Fred Willard, and Jack Osbourne all show up. Season six has appearances from Seth Green, Estella Warren, Shannon Elizabeth, Alyson Hannigan, Luke Wilson, Morgan Fairchild, Billy Dee Williams, Brooke Shields and Dan Castellaneta while season seven has guest spots from Lindsay Lohan, Eliza Dushku and Chris Elliott. The last season features Mary Tyler Moore, Allison Munn, Sam McMurray, Bruce Willis, Don Knotts, Dick Van Patten, Gavin MacLeod, Isaac Hayes, Tom Bosley, Barry Williams, Christipher Knight and Justin Long.

    That ‘70’s Show: The Complete Series – DVD Review:

    Each and every episode in this sixteen disc set, all of which were originally shot on film, look okay by the standards of 480p DVD presentations. Noticeable compression artifacts notwithstanding (they are there and are hard to miss) Mill Creek’s 1.78.1 widescreen transfers look just fine, even if they obviously don’t look as good as the Blu-ray edition of this set that came out a few years back. The show was shown fullframe originally but you’re not going to see any obvious cropping at all, in fact, the compositions look great here. Detail is acceptable if obviously limited by the format. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, colors are reproduced really well and black levels are strong. Again, there’s no escaping that there are some compression issues here and there but overall, this is a decent enough looking set of standard definition presentations.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, with optional English closed captioning. No other language options are provided. Sound quality is solid throughout the set, if lacking the depth from the lossless tracks that the Blu-ray release contained, from the instantly recognizable opening theme song to more subdued scenes of dialogue like the moments where Eric and Donna talk on the hood of his car. Sounds effects have some nice punch to them, levels are well balanced, and the more active scenes – like the episode that takes place at the disco – have some good surround activity to show off.

    Mill Creek have also included some pretty decent extra features here too, spreading things out across the set as follows:

    Season One, Disc Two:

    The first disc starts off with an eighteen minute documentary entitled Hello Wisconsin, which is a nice look back with the core cast and crew members who all discuss their involvement in the series, their characters, the popularity of the show and what they enjoyed most about being involved with the series. We also get a few promos and a featurette called Season One: A Look Back that is essentially a five minute highlight reel showing off some of the more memorable moments from the first season.

    Season Two, Disc One:

    Season two disc one features audio commentary tracks on the Halloween and Hunting episodes. Additionally, there's a featurette here called Season Two: A Talk With Director David Trainer that runs thirteen minutes and sees the man talk about some of the season's highlights and character arcs, working with the different cast members and what it was like making the series.

    Season Two, Disc Two:

    Season two disc two contains a commentary on the Cat Fight Club episode as well as a selection of Webisodes: Kelso's Serenade, Jackie Moves On, Red Fired Up, Holy Crap, Cat Fight Club and Moon Over Point Place. These run five to seven minutes each and offer some great behind the scenes footage and interviews pertaining to each episode.

    Season Three, Disc One:

    This disc contains audio commentary tracks for the Too Old To Trick Or Treat, Too Young To Die, Eric's Panties and Dine & Dash episodes.

    Season Three, Disc Two:

    This disc contains audio commentary tracks for the Radio Daze, Eric's Drunken Tattoo and The Promise Ring episodes. Additionally, we get a featurette called Making Company: David Trainer On Directing The 70's Show which is an eight minute chat with the director about some of his work on the series as well as a Season Three: A Look Back twenty-three minute highlight reel and some promos for the third season of the show.

    Season Four, Disc One:

    The only extra on this disc is a commentary for the Eric’s Depression episode.

    Season Four, Disc Two:

    This disc contains audio commentary tracks for the Class Picture and Hyde's Birthday episodes as well as a Season Four In 4 Minutes recap/highlight reel and a selection of season four promos.

    That 70’s Show Trivia is a two minute collection of the cast asking you trivia questions which are in turn answered by a clip from the show, and the three minute Groovy Green Screen segment is a montage of clips showing how green screen effects were employed throughout the series with some before and after shots to make for some interesting comparisons. Rounding out the extras is the forty minute A Groovy Sneak Peak At Season Two, which is basically just a collection of highlights from that second season mixed in with some decent behind the scenes footage.

    Season Five, Disc One:

    No extras on this disc.

    Season Five, Disc Two:

    Beyond The Polyester: Writing The Seventies show is an eight minute piece with producers Rob Des Hotel, Mark Hudis and Dean Batali where they talk about what their specific responsibilities were, the importance of creating good characters, how much time went into creating the scripts, what goes into writing the specific characters, the importance of keeping the dialogue realistic and more.

    The disc also includes a Season Five In 5 Minutes recap and a few promos for the season.

    Season Six, Disc One:

    This disc includes a few promos for season six.

    Season Six, Disc Two:

    On this disc we get audio commentaries for the Subsitute, Sparks and My Wife episodes.

    Additionally, there's a featurette here called That '70's Show Set Tour With Director David Trainer. This runs just under twelve minutes and, as you'd expect, it shows off the different main sets that the show used over its eight season run: the basement, the driveway and the Vista Cruiser, the kitchen and porch area, the water tower and the living room.

    Lastly, there 6 Minutes Of Season Six recap, which is another highlight reel or sorts.

    Season Seven, Disc One:

    On this disc we get audio commentaries for the Time Is On My Side and Angie episodes in addition to some season seven promos.

    Season Seven, Disc Two:

    On this disc we get an audio commentary on the Til The Next Goodbye episode.

    Additionally, there's a featurette here called That Seventh '70's Season that runs thirteen minutes and it essentially a highlight reel.

    More interesting is the Groovy Green Screen featurette, which runs just over three minutes. It shows how green screen technology was used to create the bumpers in the show that transition from one scene to the next throughout the series.

    Season Eight, Disc One:

    There’s a commentary track on this disc for the Bohemian Rhapsody episode.

    In a A '70's Show Flashback section we get quick interviews with Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis, Wilder Valderrama, Danny Masterson, Debra Jo Rupp, Kurtwood Smith, Tommy Chong, Josh Meyers and Don Stark. These vary in length between five and eight minutes in length and are fairly clip heavy, but they do at least let the different cast members talk about their characters and their experiences on set.

    Season Eight, Disc Two:

    The last disc in the set provides commentary tracks for the Keep Yourself Alive, We Will Rock You and That '70's Finale episodes.

    The disc also holds That '70's Blooper Special, which runs ten minutes and is, as you'd expect, a blooper reel. It is amusing enough to give it a watch, as some of the flubs are quite amusing. If nothing else, it'll make you want to hang out with Debra Jo Rupp.

    That '70's Show Through The Years: A Retrospective is a brief three minute EPK style piece with Topher Grace, offering some thoughts on working on the show but, like most of the featurettes in this set, it too is very clip heavy.

    A Season Eight In 8 Minutes highlight reel and a few promos for the series' eighth and final season finish up the extras on the disc.

    Static menus and episode selection options are available on each of the discs and you can watch the episodes individually or by way of a ‘play all’ button.

    That ‘70’s Show: The Complete Series – The Final Word:

    The picture quality for this DVD release of That ‘70’s Show: The Complete Series does suffer from some compression issues but is otherwise watchable enough, and the audio is pretty decent. The extras are okay, with the commentary tracks and some of the more substantial featurettes giving us some insight into the show’s history and what it was like to work on. As to the series itself, the first seven seasons are great and the eighth fairly medico. By the standards of any sitcom, that’s a pretty good track record and those who won’t want to put out for the far better looking Blu-ray edition will appreciate this standard definition offering of a legitimately funny show.

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    • Darcy Parker
      Darcy Parker
      Senior Member
      Darcy Parker commented
      Editing a comment
      The widescreen composition looks so good because the show was shot protected for widescreen. Since HD was coming in, some shows with more competent technical staff, like That 70's Show, would be filmed with shot compositions set up for 16:9, but with the headroom and foot room kept presentable, so if you zoomed the image to fill a 16:9 set, you still saw everything you were supposed to see, but also to have a decent shot composition in 4:3
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