That 70s Show Cast

That '70s Meets History

13 Times That ’70s Show Tackled History

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

Posted by on

Punk rock, dope, Disco Duck. The ’70s were a crazy time to be alive. That ’70s Show often covered real events, social trends, and cultural icons of the era, all through the lens of the Forman family and the gang of basement-dwelling misfits. Here are a few occasions on That ’70s Show when the real world showed through the smoky haze.

1. The Gas Crisis

Carsey-Werner Productions

Carsey-Werner Productions

During the early 1970s, an oil embargo made gasoline prices skyrocket to over 50 cents per gallon. Americans realized they were at the mercy of foreign oil producers, a situation referred to today as “That’s How It’s Always Been, Right?” In the pilot episode of That ’70s Show, Eric ends up getting the iconic 1969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser as a result of what Kitty calls “The Gas Crisis.” Red has been forced to buy a Toyota to save fuel, but Eric is glad to get the old gas-guzzling Cruiser, even if it is a “pump- sucker.” Happily, that phrase did not survive the ’70s.

2. Streaking

That 70s Show Streaking Eric

Carsey-Werner Productions

Running around naked—the norm for 90 percent of human prehistory—experienced a sudden resurgence as a fad in the 1970s. In 1974 there was even a streaker at the Academy Awards, where host David Niven joked about the man showing his “shortcomings.” On That ’70s Show, a visit from President Gerald Ford prompts the gang to give streaking a try. The show used a digitized Smiley Face to hide Topher Grace’s, uh, shortcomings, although for the record, it was a rather large Smiley Face.

3. Feminism

Carsey Werner Productions

Carsey Werner Productions

The 1970s were a time of often shocking transformations and radically changing gender roles—and that’s just David Bowie. In 1973, 55 year-old male tennis star Bobby Riggs lost a “Battle of the Sexes” match to Billie Jean King. That ’70s Show tackled the growing feminist movement in the “Battle of the Sexists” episode. Donna consistently beat Eric in sports and games, leading Eric and his friends to question his masculinity. This was long before society realized that it’s not who wins the game, it’s who gets paid 30 percent more to play it.

4. Disco

Disco fever swept the country in the 1970s, creating a huge boom for suppliers of mirror balls, polyester suits, and tiny glass vials. By 1976, when the first season of That ’70s Show is set, the craze had even infiltrated heartland towns like Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the gang ventured to shake their groove things. By Season Eight — and by 1979 in real life — an anti-disco backlash had led to public burnings of disco records, lending the phrase “Disco Inferno” a literal meaning.

5. Gay Rights

In 1970s Wisconsin, leisure suits weren’t the only things that were kept in the closet. The modern Gay Pride movement took off during the ’70s, when the first Pride Day was celebrated in 1970 in the wake of the Stonewall Riots of the previous year. That first year, marches were held in New York, LA, Chicago, and San Francisco. It took a while longer for Gay Pride to reach Point Place, Wisconsin. When Eric’s new lab partner, Buddy (played by a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt) turns out to have a crush on him, Eric has to deal with something the actor’s fans would be totally fine with now.

6. The Pill

In the ’60s and ’70s, oral contraceptives — or simply “The Pill” — revolutionized sex. Amazingly, contraceptive pills were not available to unmarried women in all states until a 1972 Supreme Court decision. But after that and before the AIDS crisis hit in the ’80s, there existed a golden age of easy and worry-free sex. Of course, on sitcoms, nothing is ever easy or worry-free, especially sex. The episode “The Pill” is an exciting “whodunit,”  at least in one sense of the term. The show spoofed parental fears of their daughters’ newfound sexual liberation with an old-timey instructional film with the double entendre title “Open for Business.”

7. Pong

That 70s Show Pong

Carsey-Werner Productions

In the world of video games, before anyone hit on the blatantly obvious idea of having two Italian plumbers as the protagonists, there was only Pong, where two upright lines did battle with a moving dot. Oh, it also went “boop.” This concept was too simpleminded even for Kelso, who takes it upon himself to improve Red’s Pong game and turns out to be something of a Pong savant. On the upside, nobody ever accused Pong video games of making kids violent, unless they lashed out from sheer boredom.

8. The Recession

The 1970s were a time of economic stagnation, hardship, and high unemployment… just like now, except in those days you sent a typed resume to the HR department (who were known as Personnel department) and two weeks later you received a typed rejection letter. In Season Two of That ’70s Show, Red loses the job at the plant where he had worked for years. Set adrift, Red joined a whole generation of guys who thought they would work a factory job all their lives, only to end up living in a Bruce Springsteen song.

9. CB Radio

That 70s show van

Carsey-Werner Productions

In Season Two, Kelso put a CB radio in his van to meet hot chicks. In the ’70s, CB radio amazed people by allowing them to talk to each other in their vehicles. The technology was so impressive it hardly mattered that most of your conversations were with truckers on a 4-day amphetamine binge. Thanks to the hit 1975 song “Convoy,” the ’70s echoed with trucker CB slang like “Breaker, breaker,” “Bear in the air,” “10-4 Good buddy,” and other things that made modern texting abbreviations like LOL and OMG seem like Marcel Proust.

10. Cable TV

Carsey-Werner Productions

Carsey-Werner Productions

In the 1970s, deregulation of the cable TV industry lead to the rapid expansion of cable to ever-increasing numbers of subscribers. By the end of the decade cable reached over 16 million households. One of them was the household of Red Forman, who finally broke down in Season Six and got cable TV, which was promptly hijacked to the basement by Hyde. Once confined to a handful of broadcast stations, thanks to cable our nation now finally has an adequate supply of WWII documentaries, cooking shows, and airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.

11. Space Invaders

That 70s show space invaders

Carsey-Werner Productions

Most of the 1970s was the era of pinball with its silver ball, flippers, buzzers, bells, and lights a-flashing. But as the decade waned, change was in the air, and the age of video arcade games dawned with powerhouse shooting games like Space Invaders. During Season Four of That ’70s Show, Kelso was behind the curve, buying a stake in the pinball machine at The Hub. Fez turned the Bally tables on him by having the pinball machine replaced by a brand new Space Invaders game, which had just launched in 1978. And Space Invaders would continue to delight gamers for decades, at least until the release of the Adam Sandler vehicle Pixels in 2015.

12. Betamax

In the era before television shows were streamed, downloaded, or DVR’d, they were watched on a device called a television. Then in the mid-70s, manufacturers introduced the first home video cassette recorders. This enabled viewers to watch the Tony Orlando & Dawn Rainbow Hour while recording Baa Baa Black Sheep (and yes, some sadist actually scheduled those two shows against each other on Tuesdays at 8 in 1976). That ’70s Show paid homage to this era in an episode where Red buys a Betamax videotape recorder. Beta was a doomed technology, beaten out by the technically inferior but better-marketed VHS. Red’s Betamax is undoubtedly in a landfill somewhere alongside his 8-track tape and Laser Disc players.

13. Marijuana!

No, not like today’s marijuana, where you take a doctor’s note to a dispensary and vaporize a pinch of connoisseur cannabis that could incapacitate a herd of wildebeests. In the ’70s, pot was illegal, cheap, and you needed to smoke up a Dust Bowl-sized cloud to get a buzz. And back then, pot was treated just like it was treated in many states today —everybody was obviously smoking it, but it was technically taboo, so it was never mentioned. The gang sat in the famous “Circle” in a cloud of smoke every episode for eight seasons without explicitly saying what they were explicitly doing. Not until the finale of Season Seven did Red catch the kids, and even then it was never flat out stated what he caught them doing. Marijuana goes down as the biggest — and uncredited — star of That ’70s Show.

Watch More

Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

Watch More
Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

Posted by on

End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on and the IFC app.

Watch More

Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

Watch More
Powered by ZergNet