That's right, peeps. I've recently finished watching all 200 episodes of That 70's Show, sequentially, from one to two hundred. This project began as a dream, the dream of a lazy drunk who didn't have anything better to do, and I'm proud to say I saw it through the bitter, bitter 8th season. I was going to do a blog post for all 8 seasons, but then a wave of despair blew through me and I decided to just give a crow's eye view of my thoughts instead.
Oh, how fresh faced everyone is. Fez hasn't bulked out yet, Jackie looks like she's fifteen, Eric and Donna's romantic relationship is just beginning to develop, keeping us all on pins and needles. We will never be so young again! Best Episode: #7, That Disco Episode. O, Fernando!
Lots of good stuff this season. The guys go hunting, Jackie and Laurie fight over Kelso, Eric runs over Donna's cat, Eric loves cake, the guys gets drunk with Red after he loses his job, Kitty and Eric go see Annie Hall on a "date". This is the heyday of Kelso juggling two ladies and Eric and Donna's 1st Love Wave. Best Epsiode: Burning Down the House", featuring a cameo from Amy Adams as Kat Peterson.
This season is a little more wobbly. Hyde dates Jackie, a premise that sounds all right but is still kind of strange. There's not a lot of flow between episodes, but it all leads up to the watershed "The Promise Ring" finale, where our great lovers Eric and Donna break up over a little old ring. Best Episode: "Eric's Panties"-Tater nuts! Tater nuts!
Some absolutely top-notch episodes this season, which is perhaps the best all-time. The first third of this season is dominated by the fallout from Eric and Donna's breakup, with some sad and poignant moments that actually transcend what this show has set out to be. These episodes are followed by some of the funniest as well, including "Prank Day", "Tornado Prom", and the classic "Eric's Hot Cousin". My personal favorite? "Donna's Story", of course, when Donna and then Eric rip shit up in the school newspaper, fiction-style. "And then he never saw that horrible bitch again!"
After a weird trip to California for Kelso and Donna, Eric drives out from Wisconsin, professes his undying love, and thus begins the 2nd Love Wave. This season Fez finally loses his virginity and Eric and Donna get engaged. Jackie moves in with Donna, further pushing the "how few sets can we use in this show" envelope. The gang finally graduates high school, having dragged out more seasons out of it than school years (and I think they were juniors when the show started, with Jackie as a sophomore: "I'm surprised you didn't know that about me."-you could spend a good while trying to figure out the show's real-time timeline. Best Episode: No real clear winner here, but if I had to pick, I'll go with "You Shook me", where Fez has a sex dream about Kelso and Kitty gets drunk at a nurse convention and starts putting little umbrellas in everybody's hair. I like those umbrellas.
The gang has graduated and so begins the last three seasons of ennui and drifting as they all try to figure out their lives. Kelso becomes a cop, which actually kind of makes sense if you knew the guys in my school who became cops. Donna and Eric's wedding looms, but Eric ditches her at the wedding rehearsal (because that's cheaper than getting extras and a church for the actual wedding). Eric returns after a brief self-imposed exile and thus begins the Third Love Wave of Eric and Donna (which is by far the most anemic and directionless). Best Episode: "Sparks" in which Eric destroys Donna's wedding dress by accident and the boys get a canoe.
Holy shit, Donna's blond now! Whoo! Actually, I liked her red just fine, but whatever. Hyde's 2nd dad (not including Leo and Red, who act as father figures for the lad as well) is introduced to the show, and this dad is black and owns a record store chain. Adrift now that he's lingered too long in Point Place, Eric lazes about catching butterflies and sells the engagement ring for a year doing nothing, which is a secret dream of all young men. At the end of this season Topher Grace decided not to return for Season 8 and the writers sort of manhandle Eric off the show by sending him to Africa to teach, hastily jettisoning him during the last few episodes while introducing a new goody-two-shoes kid named Charlie, grasping at straws like a man desperate for...straws. Best Epsiode: Till the Next Goodbye (I like how they help push the Vista Cruiser out of the driveway, sending Eric on his way...).
Season EightWhere's Eric?
The 70's ship is going down, but not until we've hit 200 episodes and made enough money. The guy who played Charlie changed his mind about doing this season (and is written off in a rare stab at morbidity-apparently you can die by falling off a water tower), Ashton Kutcher was also desperate to leave (and thus Kelso is only in a handful of early episodes and the series finale) and Eric himself is only a vague, sentimental concept, referred to occasionally for the sake of a joke or to make Donna seem sad. Worst of all, the opening credit montage is no longer everybody rocking out in the Vista Cruiser but instead is a crappy attempt at rocking out in the Circle. I'd forgotten about this sacrilege and had to close my eyes during what had been, for me, a happy time. This season bears witness to Jackie and Fez moving in together (what?) and Jackie finally falling for him (congrats, Jackie! You've now slept with 75% of your male friends!). Also, Donna enters a relationship with Seth Meyer's younger brother, who you kind of want to smack with each slick, joky utterance he offers fourth. Also lost in the carnage of this season is three or four episodes with Mary Tyler Moore as Jackie's boss on a local crappy morning news show. Yet, all this said (why are the worst seasons the most fun to write about and analyze?) I did enjoy "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Misfire", and keep "Yourself Alive". Best Episode: The Series Finale #200, when Eric finally returns from Africa and partially, partially, makes up for Season 8. I suppose the few decent episodes of Season 8 that I enjoyed were worth the ones I endured...
The writers did the character of Laurie, played by Lisa Robin Kelley (and then a horrible replacement actress) a disservice by turning her into a one-trick pony, the town whore everyone can score an easy joke off (again and again and again and again....). Had they allowed her to evolve after the first season, she could have carried as much narrative water as any other character on the show. Her absence during the later seasons is like a strange wind always blowing in the background. Kitty even makes a joke about it at one point...
The show had some great guest parts, most notably Jim Gaffigan as the creepy hotel kitchen manager and Tommy Chong as Leo.
I still wonder if Donna and Eric ended up together and happy forever and ever. Did the combined weight of living next door to each other throughout their childhood, followed by the three Love Waves, ultimately doom them? Do they know each other too well by the finale? Are they as bored with each other as the show's writers? Is such a grand and lifelong love really possible, or is it more like a lifelong friendship with benefits? And does such a distinction ultimately matter?
And what of Kitty and Red, backing out of moving to Florida at the last moment and staying in Point Place as the winter of old age creeps upon them? Will they find that Bargain Bob, somehow, has been the lynchpin to their marriage all these years? And will Bob, living alone in a new place, end up drinking and whoring himself to death (Yes!)? And why, Jackie, why? And Fez? What the hell, Fez? You used to be such a nice, simple foreign boy. The writers should have never thrown you together at the last moment, but at least it wasn't Jackie and Kelso.
Okay. I think I've thought about this show enough for today. I suppose what has made me, and many others, such a fan of this show is the simple fact that when it comes on the TV you feel like you're at home with your friends, except they're all much nicer looking.