April 10, 2008

I Said Good Day! --- That '70s Show Takes One Last Hit

What a long, strange trip it’s been…in Forman’s basement. Indeed, over the duration of That ‘70s Show, the gang from Point Place, Wisconsin evolved from a bunch of offbeat and mischievous kids to, uh, a bunch of offbeat and mischievous young adults. The eighth and final season is now available on DVD, bringing the television series to a bittersweet – yet mostly disappointing – conclusion.

Perhaps the show should have wrapped up with the seventh season finale. Much to the dismay of his mother – and of his girlfriend, Donna (Laura Prepon) – Eric Forman (Topher Grace) departed for a teaching apprenticeship in Africa. Hyde (Danny Masterson) realized his love for Jackie (Mila Kunis), only to discover her in a compromising situation with Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), inciting the last throes of their rocky relationship. For the most part, the storyline had run its course and suggested a sense of symmetry as well as finality.

As a result, the eighth season offers little in the way of character or plot development, even as it draws its last laughs. The addition of Randy (Josh Meyers) to the gang seems a vain attempt to compensate for the unequivocal void of Eric’s absence. And once Kelso moves to Chicago (early in the season), the prime catalyst for their hijinks goes away as well.

The most incongruous scenario of the final season occurs with the burgeoning and ultimate courtship of Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) and Jackie, an outcome so contradictory to the entire series’ narrative arc, it comes across as a contrived and blatant rendering of a happy ending.

The legitimate and most-anticipated conclusion, of course, comes when Eric unexpectedly returns to Donna in the final moments of the series. Their relationship, from childhood friends to high school sweethearts, had long served as the centerpiece of the show. And so in a moment reminiscent of their first kiss – on the hood of the Vista Cruiser after a Todd Rundgren concert – Eric and Donna reunite as “Hello It’s Me” plays out the scene and, at last, the series. If only for this poignant culmination, fans of
That ‘70s Show will find rewarding closure to what, for most of its run, has offered a clever and comical diversion from reality.