That 70's Show - Season 1 (Blu Ray) 1998 Jun 6, 2012 0:22:09 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Jun 6, 2012 0:22:09 GMT -5
One of the freshest, funniest, and most entertaining sitcoms to come out of the 90's was actually set in the 70's.
Combining fairly accurate period details with timeless characters and stories, That 70's Show managed to cross generations better than most sitcoms that were on at the same time were able to. Younger viewers could identify with the high school age characters that the show was built around, while middle aged viewers could relate to being a teenager during that era, but now could also identify with the adult characters on the show. Everything fell into place and the show ran for eight years.
Season one starts at the beginning of the school year in the late summer/early fall of 1976. A group of teenagers hangs out in the basement of somewhat nerdy (but not overly so) Eric Forman in Point Place, Wisconsin. Hmmmm.... Somewhat nerdy main teenage character... Wisconsin... Where have we seen this before? Clearly, the producers and writers looked to Happy Days, the biggest teenage character driven sitcom of the 70's, for inspiration. Eric (Topher Grace) is the updated Ritchie Cunningham. Steven Hyde (just called Hyde by his friends - and played by Danny Masterson) is the less superhuman but hipper version of The Fonz. Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) is Potsie Webber (a better looking, much more vain Potsie Webber). The wildcard here is Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). The foreigh exchange student whose real name we never learn. Neither do we learn what country he comes from (and this becomes a running gag throughout the series). He's not exactly Ralph Malph, but he is funny - he is the silly but sensitive one.
The parallels are interesting. There are a lot of similarities between Happy Days and That 70's Show. The characters even reference Happy Days several times (sometimes making fun of it).
But That 70's Show isn't a clone of Happy Days. The show stands on it's own, and adds a lot of new wrinkles.
One of which are the adult characters on the show, and those adulte characters are given a chance to shine on a weekly basis. Unlike the likeable (if occasionally cranky) Howard Cunningham, Red Forman (Kurtwood Smith) is angry, occasionally mean, and always a hard ass. But behind his hard exterior he geniunely loves his kids (Eric and his sister, Laurie). His wife, Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) is the opposite - she is very free with her feelings, and she is usually very supportive of the kids. She's a little kooky at times, but she can also be fairly smart.
But regardless of how well thought out the characters are your series isn't going to go anywhere if you don't have good stories to put them in, and That 70s Show was loaded with good stories. Some story threads were carried out over several seasons, some stories came and went with the one episode, but almost all of them are very, very good - and extremely funny. The writing for That 70s Show was outstanding. The situations were obvious exaggerations on real life, but because they were firmly rooted in reality that made them even funnier, and occasionally more touching.
Most of the stories could have been set in any time from the television era (1950s forward), but the details of the 70s setting are just absolutely nailed. I grew up in the 70s, and this is the 70s I remember. For a really messed up era (Watergate, Viet Nam, gas crisis, economic recessions), it was actually a fun time in a lot of ways - and that is vividly captured in this show (as are the fashions and garish colors that you could find almost everywhere).
Season 1 is not the strongest season for the series, but it is close. It's one of the 2 or 3 best seasons the series had to offer. The first half of the season is hit or miss (either really great or just good - there were no clunkers), but the writers, producers, and actors start to find their groove as the season goes on (not uncommon for a new series). Things that are hinted at here find payoffs years later, so this is a season not to be missed.
As for the Blu Ray release Mill Creek and Carsey/Werner have gone a magnificent job of remastering the show. Full 1080p hi-def picture (loo-king goooood), excellent sound (as good as this show can sound), and it's now in WIDESCREEN. Not, "Chop the top and bottom off of the frame to fake a widescreen image," but legitimate widescreen. It was originally filmed in Panavision (someone at Carsey/Werner was thinking ahead for sure) so this set looks fantastic! The new picture composition gives each scene a slightly different feel than the original version, which was cramped and a little too tightly composed. Like movies from the 50's that were released both in 1.37:1 and widescreen, this one has a tiny amount of image at the bottom of the picture cut off, but a lot more image is seen on the sides. The framing looks right. The show breathes more now. It's a small thing, but it just looks and feels right this way.
And there is a nice set of extras available on disc 4 as well, making this set a must buy for fans of the show.
If you're not sure about re-purchasing the set, or if you've been on the fence all along and haven't bought it yet, this is the time to do it. This blu ray release is outstanding - and priced right, too!