That '70s Show
Season Four

Starring: Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: 29.99
Certificate: 12
Available 21 August 2006

Eric Forman has the unpleasant experience of growing up in seventies (believe me I know from personal experience) Wisconsin. It is a time of bad music, bad hairstyles and bad clothes. It was the decade that style and taste took a holiday. Living with his parents Red and Kitty and a collection of stereotypical friends, Kelso an idiot, Fez a foreign exchange student and his off/on girlfriend Donna, can Eric survive his parents and his friends to make it to the eighties...?

That 70's Show was very successful, just don't ask me why. It ran for eight seasons and this box set represents all the season four episodes. 70's was written by Bonnie and Terry Turner, who had previously written and created Third Rock from the Sun and written Wayne's World, Coneheads and Saturday Night Live. The creative triumvirate is completed with the inclusion of Mark Brazill, who had also worked on Third Rock from the Sun. Given the shows writing pedigree, it's little wonder that That 70's Show not only feels a lot like Third Rock but borrows many of the character types.

If you haven't seen the show, which is possible as it is invariably buried in the insomniac time slots, it consist of a number of short sketches held together by an over arcing narrative. The show invariably starts in Eric's basement or kitchen with the gang putting the world to rights and setting up the tenuous plot for that weeks story. The acerbic Father is usually on hand as is the mawkish Mother to add the odd one liner which generates a level of canned laughter whose annoying intensity is second only to that of a dentists drill.

Humour is very much down to the individual, so I have to hold my hand up and say that I like either really stupid stuff like Airplane or the Naked Gun movies or something which drips great writing like Frasier and Fawlty Towers. This I just did not get. Apart from the appalling canned laughter, which detracts from almost every scene, the characters were far from original. Even before I knew who had written the show I found myself slobbed out on the couch thinking that this is just like Third Rock and that I'd seen it all before. Still, it ran for eight seasons so there must have been a great market for it.

The show was nominated many times for awards. In 2002 it won the American Choreography award for the 100th episode (That Seventies Musical) which is included here, must have been a very slim year as the Choreography was nothing special. In 1999 the show won an Emmy.

For those of you that have been following the show this season kicks off with Eric still smarting from his recent break-up and an excuse to rip off It's a Wonderful Life. The season then commences to spend an inordinate amount of its time going over and over Eric and Donna's break-up. I can, at points, see why the show was so popular. If you liked Third Rock then you're most probably going to think that this is the funniest thing you have ever seen. I have to admit that the more of the show I watched the more it grew on me, well except for the canned laughter.

Extras on the discs are sparse. On disc one you get an audio commentary from director David Trainer on the second episode Eric's Depression. Disc three has an audio commentary for Class Picture. Disc four picks up the pace with another audio commentary on Hyde's Birthday, a short piece by Trainer on directing the show, two 70's flashbacks which are six minute montages with Laura Prepon and Mila Kunis talking about the show and a bit which condenses season four into four minutes. Audio is stereo and the print is very clear. The disc come with a language selection, however the only language you can select is English making this a little redundant, though you can choose to watch with subtitles.

It was a difficult one to mark; the show ran very successfully for eight seasons and garnered large audiences, so what if it wasn't my cup of tea you might find it hilarious.

Charles Packer

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