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That 70s Show Cast

13 Times That ’70s Show Tackled History

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

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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…