That '70s Show-Season 2: Part 2 (1999)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Kelso's Serenade
Web Links-Season One: A Look Back (Part 1)
Audio Commentary-David Trainer (Director) - 'Cat Fight Club'
Featurette-Season Two: A Talk With Director David Trainer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-'Jackie Moves On', 'Holy Crap', 'Red Fired Up'
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-'Cat Fight Club', 'Moon Over Point Place'
|Year Of Production||1999|
|Running Time||255:51 (Case: 276)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Twentieth Century Fox
Debra Jo Rupp
Lisa Robin Kelly
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
|Smoking||Yes, Flashbcks for comic effect.|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There obviously is continuing passion for the US sitcom That '70s Show, a series from the same team that produced Third Rock from the Sun. Fox have recently reissued all eight seasons in separate four-disc Slimline Sets, as well as a thirty-two disc box set of the complete series. Season Two was originally released in Australia as two separate two disc sets, Season 2 Part 1 and Season 2 Part 2. It is those earlier discs that I am reviewing, although the content is identical to that in the newly available four disc set of the complete season. As a consequence some of the content of this review will repeat what is in my review of Season 2 Part 1.
After the success of Season 1 - see my earlier review - fans eagerly awaited the second season and were not disappointed. Originally aired between September 1999 and May 2000, the same cast returned and each of the twenty-six weekly episodes was so crammed with incident, good humour and the charm, not to mention considerable talent, of the cast, of both generations, that the frequent misfires were soon forgotten as each fast-moving episode galloped along from scene to scene. The episodes included on these two discs are :
Disc 3 : Burning Down the House
The First Time
Kitty and Eric's Night Out
Parents Find Out
Kiss of Death
Disc 4 : Jackie Moves On
Red Fired Up
Cat Fight Club
Moon Over Point Place
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 (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton) and thought it was some kind of teenage Disneyland, a mixture of sketches and Laugh-In style inserts, and promptly switched channels. To my surprise I found 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 was still the basic sitcom formula of known characters in known locations faced with a new issue each week. Season 2 however is more character driven than the first, with episodes taking a more serious turn mid-season, then returning to a lighter tone for the season wind-up.
Set in the 70s - duh! - each episode is set in Point Place, a small town in the state of Wisconsin. Most of the scenes revolve around and 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-to-college-moving-back-home 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 Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Steven Hyde ( 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). Every member of this large ensemble cast is excellent, with Valderrama continuing to be a standout in almost every episode as the unrelentingly sweet, cute and almost unintelligible, Fez. He has standout moments in Jackie Moves On doing a wonderful Jackie Chan, complete with poorly dubbed English, and then in a futuristic dinner scene in Cat Fight Club playing Woody Allen's robot butler from Sleeper.
Disc Three of Season 2 begins with a delightful episode, Burning Down the House, which features a flash-forward to what married life could be like for Jackie and Kelso. There are a couple of stand-out musical moments, one from Ashton Kutcher at the piano with Close to You, and one from Topher Grace on the piano with Oh Donna. Second up is The First Time in which Donna's parents renew their vows, and Donna and Eric finally "do it". This episode beautifully demonstrates the greatest strengths of the series. There is real truth in Donna's doubt as to whether her parents are capable of love, and the moment at the service when she is moved by her parents words and then makes eye contact with Eric is most poignant. The basis of the best comedy is always truth, and that is certainly what this show has. Afterglow continues with the Piciotti's celebration and then in Kitty and Eric's Night Out mother and son go together to see Annie Hall - another opportunity for one of those great send-ups. The next two episodes follow the relationship between Eric and Donna as their Parents Find Out - with a marvellous scene which has Debra Jo Rupp spoon feeding Tapioca to a baby Topher Grace - and Eric runs over Donna's cat in Kiss of Death, which also gives the three principal femmes the opportunity to execute a spot-on Charlie's Angels parody. In the next episode, Kelso's Serenade, chronicling that amiable idiot's heartbreak at losing Jackie, there is a marvellous parody of All in the Family. Of the remaining five episodes, only one, Holy Crap! falls short. This single script departs from the character driven model of the other episodes and concentrates on a "situation" - Kitty attempting to get the family into church - that does not lie at the heart of the series concerns. So long as the emphasis is on the characters of the members of the group, each episode is a sheer joy. Incidentally, in the penultimate episode of the season, Cat Fight Club, Jackie is finally admitted into the 360 "smoke" circle, and then in the final episode she declares her newfound love for Hyde.
I can only reiterate what a totally accomplished series this is. Highly imaginative combining energy and sensitivity, with a superlative cast, generally very good scripts, and dynamic direction from David Trainer. Production values are extremely high and the disc transfers are excellent.
The video transfer of each episode is very good, marginally better than that of the already very pleasing Season 1.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer.
The transfer quality throughout all episodes is extremely sharp, clear and clean, 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 black and white flashbacks to the past.
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.
The English for the Hearing Impaired titles were generously sampled and found to be accurate.
Both discs are dual layer with layer changes between episodes.
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 are two audio streams, both in English Dolby Digital 2.0, Surround Encoded at 192 Kbps. The second stream contains the director's commentary.
The non-stop rapid fire dialogue is very clear and perfectly easy to understand - even Fez. All of these actors are trained professionals.
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|
These brief "visits" to the Friday night tapings, originally "webisodes", are very repetitive - using more than once the same footage of crew members and cast. Their chief interest lies in the glimpses of actual production, audience/crew shots and the chance to see the stars interact with their public.
Episodes "visited" are : Jackie Moves On (7:22)
Holy Crap! (5:31)
Red Fired Up (6:49)
Cat Fight Club (6:56)
Moon Over Point Place (7:19)
All are presented 1.33:1, in 4x3 transfers, with Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 Kbps. The quality is well below that of the actual episodes with a distinctive video look.
|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)|