"THAT 70s SHOW - SEASON FIVE"
by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Topher Grace as ERIC
Mila Kunis as JACKIE
Ashton Kutcher as KELSO
Danny Masterson as HYDE
Laura Prepon as DONNA
Wilmer Valderram as FEZ
Debra Jo Rupp as MRS. FOREMAN
Kurtwood Smith as MR. FOREMAN
Created by: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner and Mark Brazill
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When a television series hits its fifth season, things have really come together. The fifth season of a show is by no means an indicator of its brilliance. After all, “Love, American Style” ran for five seasons. However, it does show that it has a strong fan base and that it wasn’t just a one-shot gimmick show.
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Originally, that gimmick quality is what made the show. However, a show cannot live by gimmick alone, as was evidenced by the quick sinking of the spin-off “That 80s Show.” The 70s nostalgia could only last for so long, and we could only enjoy seeing eight-track tapes and bell bottom pants for a few episodes.
What makes “That 70s Show” work is the characters, and the actors that portray them. So much of the show is superbly cast, beginning with Kurtwood Smith as the cranky Red, but also with Debra Jo Rupp as Eric’s doting mom. Sure, the kids are great in their roles, but too soon we forget the great supporting adult cast.
In this season, there are several new treats, including Fez finally getting some, Eric and Donna wrestling with some of the more adult issues of their relationship and Kelso actually meeting his intellectual and aesthetic equivalent in Jessica Simpson. We also see the sudden return of Eric’s sister Laurie, who was swept off the show so quickly before.
The season begins with Donna and Kelso running away to California, not to be with each other but rather to escape the baggage they both left in Point Place, Wisconsin. Eric Forman steps up to the plate and becomes a man as he heads off to the west coast to retrieve his true love.
After this somewhat epic (or at least epic for a weekly sit-com), we’re back to the standard life of the kids in the 70s in the midwest. While there is always the running soap opera with an ongoing story from week to week, the shows settle back to the sit-com status of being pretty much self-contained by episode.
I will say that I’m impressed with how the writers have continued the stories without bogging themselves down. With only a limited supply of characters, they have managed to draw out the relationships and affairs without resorting to each person “doing it” with everyone else.
At the top of the list of Peyton Place romances is Jackie and Hyde, the unlikely couple. Rather than being Beauty and the Beast, it’s more like Princess and the Punk. But in some strange way, they make a more interesting couple than Jackie and Kelso ever did.
Trying to keep the characters moving, we see Eric and Donna threatening marriage and running away, which brings these stories closer to “7th Heaven” rather than “Happy Days.” But the writers manage to keep the series light and refreshing even with the more serious content.
As the fifth volume of the show’s DVD set, the bonus features are pretty slim. Like previous releases, there’s a five-minute season retrospective, which isn’t all that thrilling if you’ve just watched all 25 episodes of the show. Wilmer Valderrama and Danny Masterson offer their thoughts in a “70s Flashback” retrospective, and there are also FOX promo spots for each episode.
“That 70s Show” was one of those rare series that kept its momentum and continued to deliver long after its 100-episode synidcation requirement was achieved.
Specifications: Dolby Surround Sound. Fullscreen (1.33:1). English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.