FOX gets plenty of criticism for their hair-trigger tendencies to cancel programs before they get the proper chance to grow, but they also take chances on tons of unconventional sitcoms and provide a home for comedies that wouldn’t be given an opportunity anywhere else. No network is perfect, but FOX has prided themselves on innovation for some time and it’s part of the reason why a sitcom like That ‘70s Show would be given a chance in the first place. The comedy started as a simple sitcom that used the backdrop of the ‘70s as a fun playground and engine for humor, but over time it transformed into one of the network’s most popular and long-running live-action comedies.
That ‘70s Show was a major hit for FOX that nearly ran for a decade on the network, but it also served as a launching pad for tons of emerging talent, with most of the names from the cast now being major celebrities. In spite of the success and long life that That ‘70s Show saw, like any long-running series, it was susceptible to its share of ups and downs in the story department. Accordingly, Here Are 14 Storylines From That ‘70s Show That Hurt The Show (And 16 That Saved It)!
29 Saved: The Musical Episode
That ‘70s Show was always very musical in nature. The characters within the show loved music, the decade was important for the medium, and even the show’s interludes and bumps between scenes were typically musical in nature. The show had experimented with musical fantasy sequences in the past, but That ‘70s Show decided to push this concept to the limit in a musical episode.
This kind of endeavor can be awkward for some shows, but this series always had a bit of a variety show aesthetic, which this completely plays into and makes work.
28 Hurt: Hyde Learns His Dad Isn’t Actually His Dad…
Hyde is often portrayed as the runt and even though his broken home can sometimes be a source of humor for the series, That ‘70s Show also turns up the melodrama every now and then. A major element of Hyde’s character is his relationship with his parents—or lack thereof. Hyde’s broken bond with his dad is a big hurdle for him to get over, but then the show decides to ostensibly repeat this storyline and do it all again.
Hyde eventually learns that his less-than-great dad wasn’t his real dad and he then gets a chance to meet his actual father. It’s touchy material that doesn’t really progress the character’s growth much.
27 Saved: The Star Wars Tribute Episode
One of the biggest cultural events for nerds in the late 70s was the release of George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope. That 70s Show knew that a geeky high schooler like Eric would be a colossal fan, so they decide to mark the film’s release with a massive event episode that basically turns Eric into his own Luke Skywalker.
There’s such love and passion present in this send-up to Star Wars and it came at a time where the show’s presence wasn’t always in overdrive. It’s a fun way to honor a film that would have been important to these characters.
26 Hurt: Leo's History And Fall From Grace
It can be a difficult line to tow when a broad joke is on the fence of being worth doing or not. In the case of a particularly ridiculous gag used to explain Leo’s current “slacker” lifestyle, it’s clear what the show was going for here, but it just doesn’t land. That 70s Show reveals that in Leo’s past he actually had a successful life as a businessman and acclaimed war veteran. However, one day Leo decides to try a certain substance once and it completely derails his life.
This is all supposed to play into Tommy Chong's Cheech and Chong history, but it just doesn't really make sense and misrepresents substance issues.
25 Saved: Kelso Ending Up With Eric’s Sister, Laurie
During the first few seasons of That ‘70s Show where the comedy was still finding its feet, there were clear growing pains in sight. One of these areas was Kelso’s secret relationship with Laurie Forman. Kelso was in a relationship with Jackie at the time, but in many ways, he was torn between these two women.
This certainly depicts a more immature side of Kelso, but it causes him to learn some things about relationships in the process. It’s also a constant source of grief for Eric, which is always fun.
24 Hurt: “Donna’s Story” Relationship Venting
During the period in the series when Donna and Eric are broken up, That ‘70s Show dips its toe in a few storylines that are fairly vengeful and off-key for what’s typically a carefree comedy. Donna chooses to use the school paper to basically air out all of her dirty laundry with Eric through a short story. This turns Eric into a pariah at the school and he gets chastised when he attempts to defend himself.
Furthermore, Donna shows no sympathy for Eric during these attacks and then when he chooses to do the same thing with his writing, she absolutely dislikes him for it. It’s misguided across the board.
23 Saved: Eric Works With Red At PriceMart
That ‘70s Show wanted Eric Forman to be the typical American teenager in many respects. He’s not some spoiled child and accordingly he has to find his way and take on a number of demeaning jobs before he gets his life together. Some of these odd jobs are more miserable than others, but the series finds a sweet spot with Eric’s employment woes when he starts up at PriceMart and works alongside his father.
Eric’s reluctant time at PriceMart allows him and Red to bond in a whole new kind of way and it legitimately causes them to appreciate each other more. It’s a job that doesn’t last, but it’s still important.
22 Hurt: Kelso Becomes A Cop
Character development is typically a good thing in a sitcom, since they do tend to be vehicles of stasis where not much is allowed to change over the years. Kelso goes through a similar growth of character that leads to him taking up a real job, it just happens to be a police officer.
Kelso’s growth into a cop is certainly funny and he moves in this direction for altruistic purposes, but it really doesn’t make much sense how he gets the job. Furthermore, Kelso repeatedly breaks the law after he becomes a cop, due to his negligence, and there are never real consequences for any of it.
21 Saved: Introduction Of Casey Kelso
It was a bold move when the series introduced Michael Kelso’s brother, Casey, as Donna’s new love interest, but it was a decision that became a whole lot more palatable thanks to the addition of Luke Wilson in the role.
Casey Kelso is essentially the anti-Kelso and Luke Wilson really excels in this multi-episode guest arc. It’s such a smart move to make Michael’s brother a charming individual rather than just an echo of himself. Casey’s stay on the show not only fleshes out Michael’s family more and highlights that there are competent members in his family, but it’s also crucial for Donna.
20 Hurt: Eric And Donna Break Up
Stories thrive on conflict and television shows have a tendency to focus on “will they/won’t they” relationships to fuel a lot of that drama. After Eric and Donna get together, a lot of that tension is understandably gone. The series decides to stir things up by throwing a wrench in their grand romantic plan and the two break up after Eric tries to move things up another level.
This kind of path is typical for a sitcom, but considering that Eric and Donna get back together, it ultimately feels like an unnecessary step. The characters learn plenty through this, but there’s no reason why they also couldn’t have done so while together.
19 Saved: Hyde’s Half-Sister, Angie
Towards the end of That ‘70s Show, Hyde goes through a bit of a familial crisis that sees him shaking the branches of his family tree and desperate for answers. Hyde learns that another man is actually his dad and, with this news, comes to the larger revelation that he also has a half-sister named Angie.
It’s so endearing to watch Hyde get to act like a protective brother to his sister and to see him get a taste of that healthy family lifestyle. It’s a great dynamic on the show and there’s fun chemistry between them, but unfortunately, Angie doesn’t permanently stick around.
18 Hurt: The Constant Vandalizing Of The Water Tower
One of the more iconic locations from That ‘70s Show was Point Place’s water tower, where the gang would often congregate to think about life’s larger questions. As far as antiestablishment teen hangout spots go, the water tower was perfect, but it also establishes a fairly unrealistic, dangerous environment within the show. The water tower is only a place of trouble.
To begin with, the gang has vandalized the water tower countless times. It can lead to grand gestures, but it’s also illegal at the end of the day. Furthermore, several characters have fallen off the water tower, which should lead to serious injuries, if not demise. The show plays it for laughs.
17 Saved: Kelso Leaves
It’s always difficult when characters exit television shows, especially when they’re one of the more popular ones in the cast. The loss of Michael Kelso was certainly a major loss for That ‘70s Show, but it allowed the character to properly complete his arc and experience some real closure. Kelso is debatably the show’s most irresponsible character, but in the series’ final seasons, he really grows up after he ends up fathering a child.
Kelso steps up to the plate, gets a proper job, and his exit marks the evolution of this man-child into someone who’s somewhat competent. The loss of Kelso also stings a whole lot less because nobody replaces him.
16 Hurt: The Gang’s Treatment And Fez’ Relationship With “Big Rhonda”
People were understandably a little less careful with their words back in the 1970s, but the way in which That ‘70s Show handles the character of “Big Rhonda” still feels regrettable on about every level. “Big Rhonda” is an unpopular girl that goes to the same high school as everyone else. It seems like the only reason that she’s unpopular is because of her larger size, but the show turns her into an outcast.
All of this feels like a drastic overreaction that wouldn’t fly today, especially since they call her “Big Rhonda” right to her face! Fez carries his relationship with her in shame, but this is a character that doesn’t deserve vilification.
15 Saved: Jackie’s Family Goes Poor
Jackie enters That ‘70s Show as a spoiled socialite that's used to a higher level of wealth and sophistication. This kind of character trope isn’t unusual in a sitcom, but Jackie goes through a worthwhile metamorphosis when her family loses all of their money and she becomes poor.
This transition for Jackie is not only entertaining in a comedic sense, but it also causes her to empathize with Donna and those around her that have less. This marks a real difficult period of change for the character, but Jackie becomes a better, more rounded person when all is said and done.
14 Hurt: The Existence And Failure Of That ‘80s Show
It’s not unusual for television shows to attempt to cash in during the height of their popularity in the form of a spin-off series that can piggyback on the established show’s success. That ‘70s Show chose to go that route with the aptly designed, That ‘80s Show. The spin-off series was set a decade later and followed Eric Forman’s cousin, Corey (Always Sunny’s Glenn Howerton!).
That ‘80s Show looked at twenty-somethings in San Diego and, in spite of the flashy time period, the series failed to find an audience and was canceled after 13 episodes. The quick failure of this show diluted That ‘70s Show brand in some ways and humbled the series.
13 Saved: Jackie And Hyde’s Relationship
Sitcoms can sometimes continually gravitate back to the initial relationships that kicked off a series. Returning to roots in this sense can sometimes work, but on other occasions, there’s even more potential in a crazy pairing that was unexpected. Jackie and Kelso had a very popular dynamic in the series, so Jackie’s pivot to Hyde marked a major change.
What at first seems strange grows into something very earnest and sweet and both Jackie and Hyde become better individuals in the process. These two just click in an odd way and it blossoms into one of the show’s best romances.
12 Hurt: Fez’ Relationship With Nina
Granted, That ‘70s Show takes place in a time where people were a lot less progressive, but this is still supposed to be a comedy at the end of the day. Whenever the series leans into the more embarrassing, bigoted notions of the ‘70s, it’s typically an occasion to wince.
What goes down with Nina is really bad. Not only is she Fez’ boss at the DMV, but it turns out that her parents are close-minded and the only reason that she dates Fez is to infuriate them. It’s a heavy plot that just sinks.
11 Saved: Kelso And Brooke’s Child
Pregnancies and marriages can often be the mark of desperation for a series, but That ‘70s Show pulled off something special with the news that Kelso had irresponsibly become a father. This storyline begins in typical Kelso fashion, but as time goes on it acts as the catalyst that helps the character truly open his eyes.
Kelso at first turns his back on being a father, but in doing so he realizes that it’s exactly what he wants and begins to settle down. It’s an outcome that may seem impossible when the show begins, but it’s handled so delicately.
10 Hurt: Hyde's "Marriage" To Sam
Green card marriages are one kind of contrivance, but another bad way to bring marriage into a story is through some drinking and a night that the character can’t even remember. Hyde has always been a fairly reckless character, but at one particularly low point, he goes on a drinking spree in Vegas that results in his supposed marriage to a dancer named Sam.
This marriage is silly enough on its own, but Sam follows Hyde back home and makes his mission to mend his relationship with Jackie highly problematic. It's a lot of contrived drama, Sam sticks around for far too long, and in the end, it turns out they weren't even really married!
9 Saved: How The Series Ends
It’s no secret that there’s some definitely wonky timeline work at play in That ‘70s Show. Some years appear to span several seasons in a way that just doesn’t make sense. While this timeline has never been too crucial to the series, once the show wraps up its eighth season it begins to be clear why the show continually dragged its feet with the year.
It might seem beyond obvious in retrospect, but the series ends with the conclusion of the ‘70s as things roll into January 1st, 1980, and it’s absolutely perfect. There’s really no more fitting way to go out, so a stretched out timeline is an easily forgivable offense here.
8 Hurt: Eric Leaves, Randy Joins
Arguably one of the biggest grievances that That ‘70s Show fans have is when Eric Forman, the show’s central character, departs at the end of the seventh season. Topher Grace’s exit from the show would seem like a perfectly reasonable time to end the series (especially when it came doubled with the departure of Ashton Kutcher), yet the program boldly decided to deliver one more season.
Randy’s shoehorned addition rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, especially since he just sets up shop in the Forman basement. Additionally, the fact that Eric leaves to teach children in Africa, something that he’s never shown an interest in before, feels like a sarcastic reason to leave.
7 Saved: Hyde Living With The Formans
One of the most enjoyable dynamics throughout That ‘70s Show’s run was the relationship that Hyde formed with the Forman family. Obviously, Eric and Hyde were close, but the Formans take him under their wing when life gets too intense and raise him as a de facto son. The ways in which the family brings Hyde into their life are beautiful, but the moments where Red vouches for the kid are especially touching.
At first, it seemed like Hyde was just sticking with the Formans out of convenience, but it soon became a touchstone relationship in the series.
6 Hurt: Jackie And Fez Form A Relationship
It’s understandable for a show to get fairly strange with its relationships when it goes on for so long. It’s only a matter of time for some programs to desperately reach for their “Joey and Rachel” moment. Unfortunately, in That ‘70s Show’s case, Jackie is typically the female in this equation. Jackie and Fez’s relationship wouldn’t be so awkward if she hadn’t already been together with Kelso and Hyde. There’s a certain point where restraint goes further than drama and by the time Jackie and Fez get together, it just feels weird. Psychologically, it also seems like Jackie must be going through a lot at this point.
5 Saved: Eric and Donna’s Relationship
It may have not been too surprising when Eric and Donna finally got together, but that didn’t make it any less satisfying. This sweet, naïve, honest relationship got to grow along with the characters and the series as a whole. Eric and Donna weren’t always together, but it’s a dynamic that the films were always hungry for and determined to see return in the series.
There are plenty of other strong romances in the series, but this one is the backbone of them all. There’s such weight in that scene in the finale where Eric returns to Donna.
4 Saved: Red And Kitty At A Swingers Party
Even though it was usually the younger generation in That ‘70s Show that was the conduit for unusual 70s experiences, there were still occasions where the parents were involved, typically with embarrassing results. Red and Kitty Forman are such perfect, extreme personalities so the idea of them getting caught up in a swingers key party is just too rich of a story opportunity.
Of course, Red and Kitty enter this situation unwittingly and have no idea what lies ahead for them, which is another layer that makes this weird 70s custom work so well in sitcom form.
3 Hurt: Donna's Sisters
Sometimes fleshing out a character by giving them siblings can be an inspired way to get a different look at the characters. Eric’s sister, for instance, is a curious foil for him through the first few seasons of the show. Originally a similar approach was taken with Donna, but in her case, siblings turned out to be more of a roadblock for the character.
Donna’s sister Tina appears early on in the series and another sister named Valerie also gets mentioned, but then these sisters just disappear. It’d be one thing if these siblings just weren’t brought up anymore, but Donna later is referred to as an only child. This could have been easily fixed.
2 Saved: The Gang Goes To A Roller Disco
The 70s was a huge, influential era for music and That ‘70s Show was wise to make music a very important part of its DNA. Furthermore, if there’s any kind of music that’s emblematic of the 70s, it’s disco, so it’s satisfying to see that this comedy goes all in on the topic and embraces disco as much as a seventies-set sitcom should.
Eric and friends go out for a night of dancing, which turns into a zany disco adventure. To make matters considerably more 70s, it’s a roller disco, at that. Everyone is in strong form here (particularly Fez) and the episode is a great celebration of something that’s now often mocked.
1 Hurt: Donna’s Relationship With Randy
If Randy’s replacement of Eric is egregious on one level, it’s an even greater injustice when Donna decides to hook up with him! It’s a decision that makes absolutely no sense. Just because he’s Eric’s replacement doesn’t mean that Donna needs to be with him. While the whole thing feels like a big disservice to Eric’s memory, it also paints Donna in a deeply unflattering light that’s not fair to the character. The best thing to say about this ill-advised romance is that at least it doesn’t last for that long.
There are all of the major That ‘70s Show storylines that affected the show for both the better and the worse as far as we’re concerned, but where do you fall on all of this? Sound off your opinions in the comments below!