Although the series went on a little longer than it should have (it could have wrapped things up a season or two prior to when it eventually did come to a close and the decision to continue without Topher Grace or Ashton Kutcher resulted in a noticable decline), it's hard to argue that the series was consistently funny when it was in its prime.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it involves a group of teenagers living in Point Place, Wisconsin in 1976. Leading the group, seemingly by default, is Eric Foreman (Topher Grace), a shrimpy, good-hearted kid that manages to attract the attention of his attractive next-door neighbor, Donna (Laura Prepon). Joining the two are: vain idiot Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), paranoid Hyde (Danny Masterson), spoiled Jackie (Mila Kunis) and foreign exchange student Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). Also featured are Eric's parents - the nervous Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and the rage-a-holic Red (the brilliant Kurtwood Smith) and Donna's parents, Bob and Midge (Don Stark and Tanya Roberts.)
The show chronicles the lives of the kids, with the romance between Donna and Eric remaining the core of the show. Superbly played by the two actors, the romantic angle of the series became unfocused and got off track, but Grace and Prepon have always had terrific chemistry even when the question of will they or won't they be together became tedious. Kutcher's idiotic character could have become old after a few seasons, but Kelso continually reaches new and funny heights of stupidity. The actor's delivery has never really been as good as it has in this series, either. Masterson, Valderama, Kunis and others provide good supporting efforts, as well.
The show's 5th season was, in my opinion, the last great season of the show's run. While season 6 offered several highlights, the series was starting to falter. The part of Eric's sister Laurie was now played by Christina Moore, as the wonderfully acidic Lisa Robin Kelly departed the series. As the season opens, Red had recovered from the heart attack he suffered after Laurie married Fez to keep him in the country at the end of the 5th season. Midge comes back into the picture, complicating things for Bob, who had taken up with Jackie's mother (Brooke Shields.) Kelso remains an idiot, but tries as best as he possibly can to be a police officer in order to try and be a supportive father to Brooke (Shannon Elizabeth), who informs Kelso in "The Acid Queen" that she's pregnant - and he's the father.
However, Eric and Donna continued to have troubles as they decide on their futures, and the end of the season sees Eric nowhere to be found before their wedding. The relationship between the two characters was the core of the series for a few seasons, but after 5 seasons of the two seeing their relationship falling apart and coming back together, bringing up conflict once again here for two characters who clearly love each other began to get tiring.
The season clearly showed the characters trying to grow up a little bit and try to be more mature about life, but it's the lighter stretches of these episodes (Kelso and Eric in competition for a waiter gig in "We're Not Gonna Take It", for example) that still work best. This was a series that had a terrific ensemble when it came to comedy, as they played off each other superbly and some of the best episodes of the earlier seasons remain absolutely hilarious. Again, this is an entertaining season overall, but the show's best seasons are found earlier in its run.
By the time season 7 came around, "That 70's Show" was on its last legs and had started to slow its timeline down considerably (the events of the series started in the mid-70's and while the early seasons covered about a year, once the series got later in its run, the timeframe shortened quite a bit, making the characters stuck - seemingly almost "Twilight Zone"-esque - in the 70's.)
This season sees the producers trying to come up with ways to extend the events of the prior season and the results are mixed. Eric starts the season trying to figure out a direction and figures that there doesn't have to be a direction: a year off is the right way to proceed. Kelso still tries to wrap his mind around, well...anything, but also has to face the fact that he's now a father. Hyde meets his biological father, who - much to Hyde's dismay - gives him a job in his company. There's also the matter of Hyde meeting his sister, who becomes his co-worker and also - much to Hyde's even bigger dismay - starts seeing Kelso.
Late in the season, Eric finds out that his college money is gone, so he has to find out how to fund his education. The character then decides in "2000 Light Years From Home" to go teach in Africa. Keep in mind, the decision itself is not a bad one. However, the decision doesn't feel organic to the character, and it seems like it was pulled out of a hat by the writers because no one could agree how to get Grace's character out of the series. The potentially interesting season arc of Eric trying to find his way isn't developed in an compelling way throughout the season and to have it end as randomly as it does is too bad, given how enjoyable the show was in its prime. Kutcher would leave shortly after season 8 got underway.
157 Time Is On My Side 9/8/2004 701
158 Let's Spend The Night Together 9/15/2004 702
159 (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction 9/22/2004 703
160 Beast of Burden 9/29/2004 704
161 It's Only Rock and Roll 10/6/2004 705
162 Rip This Joint 11/3/2004 706
163 Mother's Little Helper 11/10/2004 710
164 Angie 11/17/2004 707
165 You Can't Always Get What You Want 11/24/2004 708
166 Surprise, Surprise 12/1/2004 709
167 Winter 12/15/2004 711
168 Don't Lie To Me 1/5/2005 712
169 Can't You Hear Me Knocking 1/12/2005 713
170 Street Fighting Man 2/9/2005 714
171 It's All Over Now 2/16/2005 715
172 On With The Show 2/23/2005 716
173 Down The Road Apiece 3/2/2005 717
174 Oh, Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin') 3/9/2005 718
175 Who's Been Sleeping Here? 3/23/2005 719
176 Gimme Shelter 3/30/2005 720
177 2120 So. Michigan Ave. 4/27/2005 721
178 2000 Light Years From Home 5/4/2005 722
179 Take It Or Leave It 5/11/2005 723
180 Short And Curlies 5/18/2005 724
181 Til The Next Goodbye 5/18/2005 725
VIDEO: "That 70's Show" is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio on this release from Fox. The picture quality does show a few minor faults, but it's often equal to broadcast quality and sometimes looks slightly better than that. Sharpness and detail are often very good, and the picture looked consistently a bit better-defined than the first season set.
Some slight traces of pixelation appeared in a few scenes, but they did not cause distraction. No edge enhancement was noticed, nor were any flaws with the source material. Colors appeared well-saturated, accurate and without any concerns. Although not quite flawless, these episodes looked very good.
SOUND: The show's 2.0 soundtrack sounds perfectly fine, with clean, clear-sounding dialogue and music.
EXTRAS: Director David Trainer offers commentary for "Time Is on My Side" and "Angie", as well as "The Next Goodbye". As with past tracks, Trainer does leave some patches of silence, but contributes a mostly informative and interesting track, discussing working with the actors and different challenges and changes to presenting the episode's story.
Also included are episode promo spots, "Behind the Polyester: Writing That 70's Show" featurette, "That Seventh 70's Season" featurette and "A 70's Show Flashback: Don Stark" featurette.
Final Thoughts: "That 70's Show"'s 7th season isn't nearly the miss that the final season was, but the series had clearly past its prime by this point, with less laughs and plotlines that just don't work very well (Kelso becoming a father.) The DVD set offers a nice selection of extras and fine audio/video quality, but this season set is only recommended for those looking to complete their collection of the series.