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Friday, May 19, 2006

 

That '70s Show no more

I watched the debut episode of That '70s Show in a crowded dorm room way back in 1998. It came on after The Simpsons and, by the first commercial break, the room cleared out. Landmark pot jokes aside, who needed another tired sitcom or an updated version of Happy Days?

I sat through the first few episodes but found myself coming back to it over the years, usually while killing time somewhere. I saw the Star Wars episode on a Thanksgiving in the Seattle Warwick and episode where Eric starts flinging panties everywhere on some random weeknight. The show is syndicated here locally on Portland's WB affiliate and it's hard to avoid when you've got nothing better to do.

Nothing on That '70s Show ever seemed to change. Despite their advancing ages, all the characters continued to hang around their friend's basement, even after he himself departed for college. I never watched the show enough to figure out what they all did for a living or, during the early seasons, if any of them actually attended high school. That 70s Show seemed like it was trapped in limbo. Any given episode had the same repetitious sex and drugs gags and Red's ubiquitous "foot in your ass" catchphrase. I'll probably never figure out how the writers worked around Tommy Chong's recent incarceration.

Still, when I heard That '70s Show was going off the air I decided to catch the final episodes, if only to find out of if they would ever finally reveal Fez's country of origin (they didn't). With Topher Grace and Asthon Kutcher having moved on to bigger and better things, the show had completely run out of steam. A recent installment where two members of the Brady Bunch cast played gay housemates was tired and, with one-dimensional Fez now moved to top billing, it was even boring.

Still, I'm somehow sad to see it go. Last night's series finale brought back Grace and Kutcher for a New Years episode (spoilers ahead). The cast completed one last "round" scene, Eric and Donna predictably got back together at the last second and the parents decided to stick around Wisconsin rather than relocate to Florida. The cast ascended the stairs one last time as everyone in the living room counted down to 1980. At the stroke of midnight, the show abruptly cut to a shot of the production company's logo.

All in all, a perfect ending to a mediocre but always reliable sitcom. I imagine that a future reunion show set in the year 1991 will find the cast all well into their thirties and still smoking pot in Eric's basement with Red upstairs, now senile, muttering endlessly about WW2 and sticking his foot in his grandkid's derrieres.

That '70s Show may be among the last of a dying breed. The traditional, laugh-track sitcom seems to be going the way of the dodo. I don't watch much network TV so I'm at a complete loss as to whether or not there's still any popular sitcoms on the air. The Office doesn't count and Will and Grace is also in its final season. Are they still out there?

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