Long before Ashton met Demi or Topher got lost in Traffic
, the makers of Third Rock from the Sun
stepped into the Wayback Machine and emerged with That '70s Show
. It would go on to become the Fox Network's most successful sitcom since Married... with Children
. Set in the Wisconsin suburbs of 1976, the action centers around 17-year-old Eric Forman (Topher Grace), his friends, and his family. He's an ordinary teenager, much like the slackers of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused
, with an interest in girls, cars, beer, and rock & roll (but not necessarily in that order).
Eric's friends include hipster Hyde (Danny Masterson), exchange student Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), and dim-bulb Kelso (Ashton Kutcher). Donna (Lora Prepon), Eric's neighbor, is also a friend, but she'll soon become something more, while Kelso already has a girlfriend, the bossy Jackie (Mila Kunis)--and a crush on Eric's sister Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly). Kelso and Jackie will spend a good part of the first year breaking up just to make up, while Hyde pines for Donna and Fez for Jackie. Eric's family also includes father Red (Kurtwood Smith) and mother Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp). Donna's includes mother Midge (former Bond girl Tanya Roberts) and perm-sporting father Bob (Don Stark).
The first season boasts a period-perfect bevy of guest stars, including Danny Bonaduce ("Eric's Burger Job"), Eve Plumb ("The Keg"), and Marion Ross as Erics grandmother ("Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and other episodes). That said, if That '70s Show were just a nostalgia trip, it wouldn't have lasted for over seven seasons. Alas, lightning wouldnt strike twice. When the same producers followed-up with That '80s Show a few years later, it would soon disappear without a trace. Accept no substitutes: That '70s Show is the real deal--a retro-comedy, like Happy Days, with heart. --Kathleen C. Fennessy