That '70s Show-Season 1 (1998)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-(17:22) Hello Wisconsin! : Clips and talking heads.
TV Spots-(03:38) Promo-palooza - a collection of TV promo spots.
Quiz-(2:17) That '70s Trivia Show!
|Year Of Production||1998|
|Running Time||541:20 (Case: 575)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (4)
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||David Trainer|
Twentieth Century Fox
Debra Jo Rupp
Lisa Robin Kelly
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes, Poorly mocks extent of 70s smoking.|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Most people have their favourite shows on television and we tend to stay with the shows we know without time to sample something fresh. I find it too hard to keep up with more than two or three shows at a time, regardless of their genre. As a result many worthwhile shows are "missed" the first time around. For me two of those initial "misses" were Malcolm in the Middle and Everybody Loves Raymond, two sometimes brilliant half hour comedies, and in Malcolm's case one show that pushed the physical boundaries of the twenty-two minute "sitcom" episode. These two shows I have religiously pursued since finally discovering them. Not up to the standard of Raymond and Malcolm, but nonetheless a show with many plusses, is That '70s Show, a "half hour" genuine sitcom that follows decades old traditions and is performed with talent and zest. With all eight seasons available here on Fox DVD, we now have the opportunity to enjoy That '70s Show at our leisure.
I first sampled this show when I realised that Ashton Kutcher was in the cast. I watched a couple of minutes, spotted the talented Topher Grace and thought it was some kind of teenage Disneyland, a mixture of sketches and Laugh-In style inserts, and promptly switched channels. Watching this DVD set ,which contains The Pilot plus the next twenty-four episodes which made up Season One, I found to my surprise that it was actually a very old fashioned sitcom. The sets are more elaborate than for, say, I Love Lucy or Happy Days, but it is still the basic sitcom formula of known characters in known locations faced with a new issue each week. The only difference here is that there is miniscule character and plot development from the beginning of the season through to the end.
The show, a no-brainer that it is set in the 70s, takes place in Point Place, a small town in the state of Wisconsin. Most of each episode is set in the home of Reginald "Red" Forman (Kurtwood Smith) and his wife Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp). The Formans have two children, high school student Eric (Topher Grace) and the off-at-college Laurie ( Lisa Robin Kelly). The basement of the Forman home is the meeting place for Eric and his friends, who include next-door neighbour Donna Pinciotti (Laura Prepon), Jackie (Mila Kunis), Michael (Ashton Kutcher), Steven ( Danny Masterson) and an exchange student of indeterminate accent, possibly from "south-of-the-border", Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). The other two regulars are Donna's parents, Bob Pinciotti (Don Stark), and his glamorous dim-witted wife Midge (Tanya Roberts). The only two names that were familiar to me were those of Grace and Kutcher, but every member of this large ensemble cast is excellent, with Valderrama a joyous standout in almost every episode as the unrelentingly sweet, cute and almost unintelligible, Fez.
The focal point of the series is Eric and his relationship with his parents, his friends, and his girlfriend, Donna. While each episode is focussed on one situation - surprise! - there is some very slight plot and character development through the twenty-five episodes. "Red" is retrenched by his auto company and after a struggling period of economic hardship is offered a temporary job by the Afro-permed and leisure-suited Bob. We follow Eric and Donna from "best friends", through bra-groping in the back seat of the family car on to a motel room on prom night. The extremely dim-witted Michael is forever going to ditch Jackie, but instead "does it" with her (Stolen Car), and they have the drama of an unwanted pregnancy scare (The Pill). Steven has a crush on Donna throughout, but his friendship with Eric survives, even when his mother abandons him and he is taken in by the Formans (The Good Son). Despite the fact that a lot of this looks and sounds like Happy Days, some of the issues are a little more adult - unemployment, pregnancy and drugs amongst others. Michael - Kutcher always playing him as monumentally dumb and mocking his personal Vogue good looks - hitches a ride with a gay truckie. Michael is so ridiculously dumb and naive that the smitten - initially by romance and finally by conscience - truckie drops him and tells him :"Next time call for a cab. You're took pretty to hitch!" While Eric and Donna constantly grapple with one another and the problem of having sex, Eric is also coping with the romantic advances of Joseph Gordon Levitt (Eric's Buddy). Poor Eric! He walks in on his parents having sex (The Water Tower) even tells his bitter and nasty grandmother (Marion Ross) that "it wouldn't kill (her) to be nice" ... but it does (Grandma's Dead)!
A frequent injection of energy comes from sometimes clever "period" inserts, done in the style of a particular TV show, movie or featurette. There is one, in damaged and scratched black and white, named The Story of the Doofus and the Diligent, in the style of the 1940s Pete Smith Specialty series which is incorporated into Eric's Burger Job, with Danny Bonaduce as the manager of the burger outlet. Star Wars also is the object of the fun in A New Hope, a particularly good episode.
Undoubtedly the weakest aspect of the series, or at least Season One, is the writing. The central ideas are sound and often inspired, but the development is often weak. Many lines are not funny, and the sense of humour is at times very questionable. Simply highlighting the fact that smoking was common in the 70s is not of itself "funny". Kitty is always trying to give them up, Grandma smokes at dinner and watching a kitchen hand butt a cigarette into a pot of food is downright revolting (Career Day). Merely presenting wrestling midgets is not funny (That Wrestling Show, with The Rock) nor is war (The Good Son). The writing also falls down in satirising the period, being satisfied with just dropping a name, such as ABBA, West Side Story, or Walter Kronkite without really developing that idea in the script. One exception is the treatment of the fondue party (First Date), where the 70s ubiquitous dinner party fad is utilised with some comic success. Also inventive are the short "dream" sequences, with one actor dubbing all characters involved.
Each episode is directed with unflagging energy and precision by David Trainer, who in fact directed the entire series, the whole 201 episodes! Technically the show is slick and polished. At first the "switching point-of-view revolving camera" gimmick, used primarily in the basement pot-smoking sessions, is fun, but ultimately becomes tedious with overuse. Colour is bright and suitably psychedelic. The sets are comprehensive and the costumes and decor are fun, although not all props seem to be period accurate - bar codes, for example?
This is a bright enjoyable show, with much to enjoy in each twenty-two minute episode. The four parents are very good - especially Kurtwood Smith and the delightful Jo Ann Rupp - and the attractive younger members of the cast have talent to burn. I am interested to see how this series develops in Season Two.
The video transfer of this show is very good, up there with the best of the TV sitcom releases.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, without enhancement.
The transfer quality throughout all episodes is extremely sharp, clear, clean and very little grain resulting in an extremely bright and attractive image. Naturally this does not apply to the sequences which are designed to look like old film or TV programmes.
Shadow detail is hardly an issue with almost all scenes brightly lit, as is the norm for TV sitcoms. The occasional darker sequence, such as night scenes in the car, look very satisfactory, with dark solid blacks.
There is no low level noise.
Colour is bright and vibrant highlighting the fashions and decor of the period. There is very little variation in colour quality and skin tones are extremely good..
No MPEG artefacts were noted, and there were no film artefacts - except the intentional "damage" in the period inserts.
The English Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired were sampled and found to be accurate.
All four discs are dual layer.
The audio is very pleasing, although there is virtually no movement across the fronts, and with the surrounds used almost exclusively for the audience reactions.
There in one audio track, English Dolby Digital 2.0, Surround Encoded at 192 Kbps.
The almost constant dialogue is very clear and easy to understand, with the exception of the "Fez" character, but that is part of his humour.
There were no drop-outs and no sync problems.
The reproduction of music of the period is always bright and attractively recorded and reproduced.
|Surround Channel Use|
That '70s Trivia Show : (02:17)
A mere handful of questions based on the show asked by cast members. A fun idea, but way too brief.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|