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Michelle Thomas

Published January 1st, 2005 | by Michelle Thomas

That 70s Show Season 4 DVD Review

Director: Various Rating: 3.5/5

For anyone who has never seen That 70’s Show, where have you been?! is NOT what I’m going to ask you, as as far as I know the show has never been given a prime time slot on terrestrial television in the UK (though I have caught episodes on Five as well as on cable when staying at friends’ houses, for I am one of those sad, low-fi, five channel households. And, yes, before you ask, I don’t own a plasma screen tv…) So anyway, That 70’s Show is set, surprisingly, in 1970’s Wisconsin, specifically in the Forman household where Eric Foreman (Grace) lives with his parents – strict disciplinarian and former soldier Red (Smith) and affectionate, optimistic Kitty (Rupp).

Eric gets by with a little help from his friends, who spend most of their time hanging out in the Forman basement and pondering their lives, their parents and their future. The gang includes Eric’s ex-girlfriend and next door neighbor, Donna (Prepon); Kelso (Kutcher), a good-looking but gullible guy, especially when it comes to dealing with his controlling on-again, off-again girlfriend Jackie (Kunis); Hyde (Masterson), a conspiracy theorist who thinks Xerox will take over the world; and Fez (Valderrama), a foreign exchange student who’s soaking up American culture like a sponge.

At the beginning of Season Four, the gang is still reeling from the news that Eric and Donna have split up. Eric sinks into a depression from which he is only roused by an angel who shows him how his life would have been if he and Donna had never been together. No sooner is Eric back on his feet than another blow falls: Kitty announces that she is planning to redecorate the basement. And when Donna’s mum Midge leaves, Kelso gets a job as an underwear model, Jackie kisses another guy and Donna dates the very sexy Casey Kelso (Luke Wilson), and the whole gang take part in a musical, life in Point Place will never be the same again.

It’s always hard reviewing comedy because good comedy looks effortless, and That 70s ensemble make it look particularly easy. The kids have a genuine chemistry which seems to stem from real friendship; according to the IMDB, Danny Masterson, (whose brother, Christopher, from Malcolm in the Middle, guests on this series and happens to date Laura Prepon) owns a restaurant in LA with Ashton Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama. Hyde is an excellent foil for the others but all the boys are hilarious, with their frankness about getting laid, and the girls are, for once, more than a match for them. Indeed poor Eric comes off worst in several encounters in this season, while the 70’s liberalism and ease about sex is a stark contrast with Red’s Korean War era values, with poor Kitty – and her laugh – playing piggy in the middle. The parents get their own storylines – Red’s new friendship with Pastor Dave (Kevin McDonald); Kitty realising that she is becoming a Corvette widow; Red and Kitty offering their support to Donna’s father, Bob (Stark) as he struggles to find love again.

The show launched the careers of several of the cast, and the calibre of the guest stars reflects its popularity in the US – as well as Luke Wilson and Christopher Masterson, guests in season 4 include seventies icons Pamela Sue Martin and Roger Daltry as well as Mo Gaffney, Brittany Daniel, Timothy Bottoms and Erika Christensen. But despite the seventies trappings, funky idents, groovy music and endless toking, the show works because it focuses on the essentials: friendship, love and loss, change, and growing up. And it’s very funny.


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