There are only two TV shows so far I’ve run into, and became an immediate fan, that have reminded me of my childhood, even though the ages of the characters were older than I was in those corresponding eras. The first show was The Wonder Years (1988-1993) and it takes places, according to Wikipedia, between the years of “1968 and 1973, covering the ages of 12 through 17.” I had to look that up since I haven’t see in a very long time. That 70s Show (1998-2006) is the second series and it takes place between 1976 and 1979, with the characters already in high school. I was born in 1969 so you can see where I was in relation to those shows, but it doesn’t matter, each of them have elements that remind me of those first two decades of my life.
Budding relationships are first and foremost the main element I related to the most. The Wonder Years’ had Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) and Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar), That 70s Show had Eric Foreman (Topher Grace) and Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon) and I had this chick named, Lisa, who I met in like second or third grade and from that first moment had this weird feeling she was going to be important to me in some way. I didn’t really start crushing on her until sixth grade when all the girls started to get curves and long hair. In seventh and eighth grade every time there was a school dance I asked her to go with me. We were never formally a couple for she told me once her mother wouldn’t allow her to date until she was sixteen, so all I could do was crush on her and hang around her as much as possible and flirt. In that regard I relate more to the on-again-and-off again romance of Kevin and Winnie.
This was grade school and this was me trying to deal with feelings of infatuation for another. I also remember she and I having moments of us “falling out.” Times when I didn’t want to like her but couldn’t help it, times when an unintended slight from her was a sign of disinterest and the end of the world and time to find a new crush. You know I’m not really sure how much my infatuation was reciprocated, but I don’t feel like delving too deeply into that in a DVD review.
Both Kevin and Eric knew their crushes since childhood, in both cases they lived as neighbors. Winnie from The Wonder Years reminds me more of Lisa, but Donna from That 70s Show has a certain vibe too that at times reminds me of her.
When it comes to Eric Foreman’s friends, counting Donna he’s got five of them: Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson), Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) and Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis). Technically Jackie isn’t a friend, but she hangs around with the gang enough and over the years actually does become somewhat friendly with him, but in the first ep Jackie feels like she’s a new addition to the group, an unwanted addition thanks to Kelso. She’s his girlfriend. Minus Jackie, all of Eric’s friends he’s known since grade school. Kelso kind of reminds me of this goofy kid, Paul, I knew in high school, and apparently like Kelso used to have a lot of sex in high school too, though I never knew this until just a few years ago. Hyde reminds me of this friend I used to have in grade school named, Rob, and Fez reminds me of nobody I ever knew in grade or high school. That goes the same for Jackie. She’s an annoying character, enduring eventually, but mostly annoying and if I had known a chick like that I would have steered clear of her.
Eric’s parents are Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and unfortunately his father has a very familiar vibe too, except mine was worse on some levels and not as bad on others.
Eric himself is kind of nerdy character, which I can relate to a little bit, but Eric comes off more “progressive” than I was at that age. He likes to get high and drink. I’ve never gotten high and have only gotten drunk once in my life, but he and I shared the same skinny build. Eric also managed to form a full fledge relationship from his crush where as I couldn’t. Lisa broke my heart the day after our grade school graduation and then once again when “we met” a year later when I transferred out of this vocational school and into this other school most of my classmates had gone to. Details of which I shall spare you since this is a DVD review not therapy.
Eric has a sister, which I didn’t, I had a brother. Laurie was her name, she was older, manipulative and a slut, she’s in college when the series starts and she was played by two actresses, Lisa Robin Kelly for a few seasons and then by Christina Moore towards the end.
Other major characters are Donna’s parents, Bob (Don Stark) and Midge (Tanya Roberts, yes, the Tanya Roberts, the same Tanya Roberts of Sheena, Tourist Trap and Charlie’s Angels) who live right next door to the Foremans. I can’t forget about Tommy Chong (Cheech & Chong) who plays the brain addled hippie, Leo, and boss of Hyde at the Fotohut. Leo is pretty much just an old version of his Chong character.
If That 70s Show has a downside, it’s the final season, which for me was utter shit. Topher Grace had left the show the previous season and Ashton Kutcher had left the show in the final season and was only in it briefly. Grace, however, came back for the finale. But when a perfectly constructed ensemble breaks up, the show needs to come to an end immediately, and that should have happened in season 7. Since it didn’t and since their lead character (Grace) was gone a temp was brought in. Enter Randy Pearson (Josh Charles). He’s a nice enough character but when he and Donna became an item, it ruined everything for me.
When I first heard of this series I had no intention whatsoever of watching. A bunch of kids in the 70s? Maybe, if was a kid, but I’m not so how the hell is that going to appeal to me? But I checked out that first episode and I was hooked the moment I saw the characters, mostly Eric and Donna, and how likable they all were, which is rare for an ensemble. Rare as in me liking all of them, I mean. And how much it all reminded me of growing up. The Wonder Years and That 70s Show went the distance and are those rare sitcom gems that don’t come along that often. And speaking of rare sitcom gems I bumped into Friends (1994-2004) last spring and that might be the one other show that’s starting to look like nostalgia to me now, and unlike Wonder Years and That 70s Show, it’s the only show where my age was equal to the characters. A show directly about Generation-X in the 90s. But that’s talk for another time.
That 70s Show was officially being released through 20th Century Fox, all seasons separately, then a Complete Series set in 2008. At some point Mill Creek Entertainment got the rights and started to re-release the season sets, but what us fans really wanted was a blu-ray release. They finally did blues in 2012, but only of Seasons One and Two, no more after that. Then, finally, this year. from out of the blu (pun intended) comes a Complete Series blu-ray set that’s scheduled for a groovy release this coming Tuesday (November 3rd)!!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—No subs
I can’t compare the blu transfer to any of the previously released DVD sets because I don’t own any of them, but I can compare the widescreen transfer to the full frame broadcast shows and you can tell the cinematography no longer looks cramped. Color and clarity was very good too.
I’m a bit conflicted about the packaging. You can see it way above, and on the right, it’s great looking, comes with a slipcase (I like slipcases), but each season (2 discs each) comes in glorified sleeves, with episode listings and plot, which is a plus, but you really have to fight to slide them babies out, which means on occasion the play side is going to get a fingerprint or two smudged on it. I suspect in a few years Mill Creek will re-release it in more standard packaging. I would recommend keeping the slipcase too, I know there are those collectors who don’t like them, but in this case it keeps the top firmly on.
Extra Features (Disc #17):
- Hello Wisconsin! (18:06)
- Webisodes: Kelso’s Serenade (7:14), Jackie Moves On (7:23), Holy Crap! (5:32), Red Fired Up (6:49), Cat Fight Club(6:56), and Moon Over Point Place (7:18).
- Making Company: David Trainer on Directing That ’70s Show (7:46)
- Beyond the Polyester: Writing That ’70s Show (7:58)
- That ’70s Show Set Tour with Director David Trainer (11:35)
- That ’70s Blooper Special (10:06)
- That ’70s Show Through the Years: A Retrospective: Eric (3:04), Jackie (2:57), Kelso (2:56), Hyde (3:00), Donna (3:01), Fez (3:01), Kittie & Red (3:02), and Bob(3:00).
Season Overview Featurettes:
- Season One: A Look Back (4:58)
- Season Two: A Talk with Director David Trainer (12:58)
- Season Three: A Look Back (23:16)
- Season Four in 4 Minutes (4:30)
- Season Five in 5 Minutes (5:01)
- 6 Minutes of Season Six (6:00)
- That Seventh ’70s Season (12:36)
- Season Eight in 8 Minutes (8:01)
- A ’70s Show Flashback: Laura Prepon (6:20), Mila Kunis (6:02), Wilmer Valderrama (8:36), Danny Masterson (6:52), Debra Jo Rupp(6:39), Kurtwood Smith (6:23), Don Stark (7:28), Tommy Chong (4:57), and Josh Meyers (4:35).
Extra Features (Disc #18) :
- Trivia Game
- Groovy Green Screen (3:20)
- Foto Hut (18:13)
- Promo Spots:
There are commentaries scattered throughout the various episodes as well.
I also can’t tell if all the extra features were ported over from the previous DVDs or not, but as you can see there’s a hell of a lot of them in this set. One odd thing I did see was if you’re a newbie and have never seen this show before and have decided to check out the extras disc first, you’ll be surprised when you do watch the show and see Eric has a sister. I didn’t see any mention of Lisa Robin Kelly, which was rather telling. She had a drug and/or alcohol problem and was fired from the show, or quit, I don’t know which, but she did come back in later seasons briefly before being replaced by another actress. I couldn’t find any interviews with her or anyone even mentioning her, or the other actress. Incidentally, Kelly was the funnier and hotter one. She died from an ‘accidental multiple drug intoxication’ in August 2013.
God, I hate to end this review on such a downer but the finale is bittersweet and sometimes so is the end of childhood so maybe that’s the way this should be.