Groovy Facts About That 70s Show, The Star-Maker TV Series

September 18, 2019 | Miles Brucker

Groovy Facts About That 70s Show, The Star-Maker TV Series

From 1998 until its finale in 2006, That 70s Show was a flagship program for the Fox network. It followed a tight-knit group of friends as they navigated the perils of being teenagers in the 1970s. Though the show may have banked on older viewers’ nostalgia for the days of Bee Gees and bellbottoms, modern teenagers tuned in by the van-load for the show’s relatable takes on dating, parents, and small-town boredom. Having an extremely likeable and attractive cast didn’t hurt either. Starring future Hollywood stars like Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, who didn’t wish they could hang out with Eric, Donna, Jackie, Kelso, and the rest of the Point Place gang? Hello, Wisconsin. Get in the car and groove to these 42 facts about That 70’s Show.

That 70's Show Facts

1. Going With the Crowd

When creators Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, and Mark Brazil pitched the show, it was supposed to be called Teenage Wasteland, after the classic song by The Who. Unfortunately for the show-runners, the band refused to let the network use the name. Making the best of a bad situation, the studio shot the pilot under the working title Feelin’ All Right. After a test screening, Bonnie Turner heard something curious. Several audience members referred to the show not as Feelin' All Right but as “that 70’s show.” She made a good call. Turner decided to lean into the show's natural title and gave the people what they wanted. As you know, the rest is small screen history. That 70's Show stuck around for eight seasons.

That 70's Show FactsWikimedia Commons

2. Amateur Hour

Topher Grace played the show’s protagonist, nebbish Wisconsin teenager Eric Forman. But before he landed the lead role on That 70’s Show, Grace had actually never acted professionally. An agent spotted the young actor when he appeared in a school play with one of the producers’ daughters. In Hollywood, it's not what you know. It's who you know.

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3. Faculty Shortage

Danny Masterson was cast as Eric’s live-in best friend, Hyde. When shooting began, Masterson was in a bit of a pickle. He was filming the cult 90's movie The Faculty. Masterson couldn't appear in both projects at the same time and keep his main roles in both the movie and the show. He made a judgment call and decided to cut back his work on The Faculty so that he could shoot the pilot to That 70's Show. Good call, Masterson.

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4. Cult Following

Debatably not a good call, Danny Masterson joined the church of Scientology. At least four women have accused him of sexual assault. Uh, not groovy. Before these allegations were public knowledge, Masterson and Laura Prepon, who played Eric's next-door neighbor and love interest, Donna Pinciotti, bonded. What did they bond over, you ask? Well, Prepon is also a member of the controversial church. Hmm.

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5. The Girl Next Door

Originally, the show’s creators wanted Eric and Hyde to have an ongoing rivalry over Donna, but decided against it.

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6. A Model Citizen

Handsome doofus Michael Kelso could have been played be another famous actor: James Franco. Franco auditioned for the role, but obviously producers went with another choice. Instead of casting the young actor with a promising resume, they booked a charismatic model named Ashton Kutcher. Like his co-star Topher Grace, Kutcher had never acted professionally. Clearly their weird choice worked out.


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7. Technically Correct

Mila Kunis was determined to get the role of Jackie Burkhart. Determined and brassy, Kunis clearly had a few things in common with her character. She was so intent on booking the part that she hatched an ingenious plan to cover up her age. Kunis was just 14 years old when she auditioned, but she was wise enough to know that producers wouldn't want to hire a minor. When asked about her age, Kunis replied that she’d be 18 on her birthday. And she was. Four years later.

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8. Child Star

Imagine how nervous you were before your first kiss. Now imagine you had to do it in front of an audience and a film crew. Cue intense sweating. Poor Mila Kunis lived out this nightmare. Her first kiss was actually an onscreen kiss between Jackie and Kelso. But growing up on set had its perks. Wilmer Valderrama taught her how to drive and Danny Masterson took her to prom. Also, having your first kiss with Ashton Kutcher? Could be worse.

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9. Opposites Attract

Their onscreen romance notwithstanding, Kunis and Kutcher did not really like each other that much. The duo reportedly went through several “friendship break-ups” over the course of the series.

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10. Read My Lips

Wilmer Valderrama was hired to play the foreign exchange student, Fez. Fez was an abbreviation (sort of) of Foreign Exchange Student. True to the one-dimensional nature of the character's nickname, Fez's real name and country of origin are actually never disclosed. In one scene, Fez tells the gang his name, but the words are drowned out by other noises. Behind the scenes, Valderrama just stated the names of all the other actors on the show.

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11. Chuck Norris Fact

Producers originally wanted Chuck Norris to play Red Forman, Eric’s no-nonsense dad. Unfortunately, Norris was busy with his own series, Walker, Texas Ranger, so the role went to veteran actor Kurtwood Smith. You might recognize him for his role in Robocop.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500. Chuck Norris speaking with the media.Getty Images

12. A Fitting Tribute

Incidentally, Smith was the only actor who actually came from Wisconsin. He was born in New Lisbon. But when he agreed to take the role, Smith turned a personal tragedy into a heartrending opportunity. The gruff actor's stepfather died just before Smith filmed the pilot. Smith used his character to pay homage to his recently deceased relative--and created an iconic TV character at the same time.

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13. That’s So Sweet

Debra Jo Rupp played Eric’s sweet homemaker mother, Kitty, who spends a good deal of her time scolding Eric and baking. But few people know that the baking implements and treats weren’t props. Rupp actually made cookies and brownies while filming her scenes. She distributed them to the cast and crew during breaks.

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14. The Two Lauries

Eric’s troublemaker sister, Laurie, played by Lisa Robin Kelly, was a regular character. Or at least she was until she disappeared halfway through the third season. When Laurie returned in the fifth season, audiences felt confused. Laura looked pretty different. It turns out that the show had to cast a new actress, Christina Moore, to play the role. Tragically, Kelly struggled with alcoholism and drug use. Sadly, she passed away from multiple drug intoxication in 2013.

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 15. Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

Donna had sisters, as well, but they were both written out of the show. Her younger sister, Tina, appears just once onscreen, in the fifth episode of season one. She is never heard from again.

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16. Hanging Out

That 70’s Show’s theme song “In the Street” was performed by Todd Griffin in the first season. After the first season ended, the show switched to a version by classic rock band Cheap Trick. Every time an episode airs, the songwriters, Big Star’s Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, receive a very appropriate check. Can you guess the amount? Yup, $70.

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17. That 70$ Show

The license plate tags shown in the opening credits change as the series progresses. They indicate how time is passing in the series as the episodes go by. For example, one tag specifies June 1977. In the series' final episode, the tags are from 1980.

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18. One Hit Wonders

That 70’s Show was an instant success. For veteran actors who needed another break and the young cast who felt they'd finally made it, this was amazing news. But the executives at Fox were actually the happiest ones in the room--or should we say, the most relieved? Out of the network’s nine new shows, all but That 70’s Show were cancelled. Ouch.

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19. Double Album

To cash in on the show’s quick success, two “soundtrack” albums were released in 1999. The first, That 70’s Album (Jammin’) consisted of the decade’s best disco hits, while That 70’s Album (Rockin’) featured songs by popular rock bands of the era. Honestly, a lot of tie-in merchandise is pretty bleak but these actually sound okay.

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20. The Circle Game

“The circle,” in which the characters all assemble to discuss the problems of the episode was devised for a peculiar reason. While the plumes of smoke that hang over the circle strongly imply drug use, the camera's focus always shifts from one character to another. You might notice that no characters are ever shown actually using the drugs. This camera technique was the show's brilliant way of getting around censors.

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21. Berry Nice

The fake smoke that hangs over the circle was actually strawberry scented.

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22. Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

Masterson, Kutcher, and Prepon were all cigarette smokers, and would take advantage of the circle scenes to indulge in their habit. They kept their cigarettes hidden under the table.

Lucille Ball factsShutterstock

23. Positively Hair Raising

Both Topher Grace and Debra Jo Rupp had to wear wigs throughout most of the series. The intense styling of the 70s (hot rollers, hair spray, voluminous curls, oh my) proved too damaging to their natural hair. Thank God. I don't think Topher Grace would have a career without his majestic mane of completely average brown hair.

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24. Have They No Pride?

Few people remember that Joseph Gordon Levitt dropped in to play a character named Buddy Morgan in season one. Only Buddy had a secret: he was gay. The kiss he planted on Eric during that episode was the first onscreen kiss between two men on American prime time television. Even in the late 90s, that was considered too controversial for Fox. Though the producers planned to bring Levitt back for a recurring role, the network demanded that he only make the one appearance.

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25. Kiss and Tell

Both Levitt and Laura Prepon stated that Topher Grace is a bad kisser—at least on screen.

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26. Rock On

Today, he’s among the highest paid actors in Hollywood, but back then he was just The Rock, a professional wrestler looking to break into the acting game. Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson made his acting debut playing his real-life father, professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, in season one’s “That Wrestling Show.” Who knew That 70's Show was so meta?

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27. Who’s That?

Despite his band’s refusal to let the show use “Teenage Wasteland,” The Who's legendary frontman Roger Daltrey made it up to the producers. He showed up to play Fez’s choir director in a good-natured season four episode.

Joan Jett FactsGetty Images

28. Greatest Hits

From season five onward, all episode titles were taken from the names of songs by a particular 70’s band. Season five’s episode titles, for example, were all songs by Led Zeppelin. The show's sixth season used titles by the Who. Its seventh opted for tracks by the Rolling Stones, and season eight’s episode titles were all songs by Queen.

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29. Life Imitating Art

Loyal viewers might have noticed that Tommy Chong, who played perma-stoned photoshop owner Leo, missed most of seasons five, six, and seven. True to character, Chong was away for some dicey reasons. The comedian was busy serving time for selling drug paraphernalia. Chong later said he was surprised to find that his arrest was written into the show. I mean, it did perfectly explain Leo's absence.

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30. Leo Meets Leo

While in prison, Chong’s cellmate was a former stockbroker who regaled Chong with stories of hedonism and lavish spending. Chong, greatly amused by the stories, encouraged his cellmate to write a book. His cellmate took his advice. The result was The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort. It was later made into a movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio.

The Wolf of Wall Street FactsShutterstock

31. Blonde Ambition

In later seasons, the typically red-headed Donna becomes a blonde. While the saying goes that blondes have more fun, Laura Prepon, a natural redhead, had to dye her hair for a pretty dark reason. She agreed to play Canadian serial killer Karla Homolka in the controversial TV movie Karla. So yeah, I guess in this case blondes just have more homicide.


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32. The Loner

The young cast of That 70’s Show became a tight-knit group of friends. Everyone, that is, except Topher Grace. Although he and Laura Prepon were close on set, Grace distanced himself from the group and didn’t hang out after filming wrapped up. Most of the many cast has appeared together in one project or another, but Grace has never joined them.

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33. Won’t Get Fooled Again

Topher Grace left the show at the end of season seven. With their protagonist out of the picture, comedian Josh Meyers was brought in. Originally, the plan was to have Meyer’s play Eric, but show-runners concluded that fans would not stand for the replacement. (Also, that would mean both Foreman kids were replaced by new actors--yikes). Instead, the producers created a new character, Randy, to fill the “Eric Forman” role. The show explained Eric’s absence by a break up with Donna and a move to Africa.

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34. A Fittingly Awkward End For Foreman

Grace did return for the final episode, reconciling with Donna on New Year’s Eve, 1979. It was a sweet ending but also a bit awkward which, for Foreman, was pretty fitting. The lead actor left the show thinking that he could make it big in Hollywood. For a time, it looked like he was right. Grace nabbed leading man roles in movies like In Good Company and Win A Date With Tad Hamilton! 

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35. The Fall

But after Grace's notoriously disappointing turn as Venom in Spiderman 3 (to be fair, Grace was not the only thing wrong with this unpopular sequel), his career never quite recovered its once-unstoppable momentum. On the bright side, things are looking up for the actor in the past few years. Grace has booked prominent roles in Black Mirror and BlacKkKlansman.

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36. Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

That 70’s Show finally came to end in 2006, after eight successful years on the air. Everyone was sad to see it go, not least of all the cast. Filming the final episode took much longer than usual. Laura Prepon, who plays tough as nails Donna, couldn't stop crying during her scenes.

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37. Vintage Clothing

Debra Jo Rupp had her own way of saying goodbye to the show. In her very last scene, she wore the same outfit as she wore in her first. Aww.

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38. Driving off into the Sunset

When the series ended, Wilmer Valderrama bought the Forman’s car, the Vista Cruiser the cast drives in the opening credits. He paid $500.

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39. British Steal

American TV constantly remakes British shows (The Office, anyone?). Well, this trend reversed with The 70's Show when the American show’s success prompted a British remake. Days Like These used almost exactly the same scripts, with only minor changes. However, the show, which starred Max Wrottesley as Eric, was not as successful as its American counterpart, and got cancelled after just 10 episodes. To be fair, in England that's, like, two seasons, so on the whole, not bad.

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40. The Shortest Decade

Fox hoped to keep up with the nostalgia cycle by creating a spin-off set in the 1980s. That 80’s Show starred Glenn Howerton (pre- his It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia breakthrough). Though the show had the same basic premise and shared many of the same writers as That 70’s Show, the characters never crossed paths. Lightning failed to strike twice, however, and the network cancelled That 80’s Show after just 13 episodes.

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41. The Kids Are Alright

That 70’s Show received generally favorable reviews from critics. But despite being nominated for 16 Emmy Awards, it only won one: an award for Outstanding Costume Design for the season one episode “That Disco Episode.” The show fared much better at the Teen Choice Awards, where Ashton Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama won three awards apiece for Choice Actor and Choice Sidekick, respectively.

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42. Where Are They Now?

Since the show’s finale, all the major cast have gone on to have successful careers. Ashton Kutcher starred in several movies and appeared alongside Danny Masterson in the Netflix comedy The Ranch. Wilmer Valderrama currently stars as Nick Torres on the CBS drama NCIS. Mila Kunis was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in Black Swan and continued to hone her comedy chops in Bad Moms. Topher Grace has appeared in a number of movies, including a turn as white supremacist David Duke in the critically acclaimed BlacKkKlansman. Laura Prepon is a two-time Emmy award winner as a cast member on Orange is the New Black. However, it should be noted: Netflix demanded that Masterson didn't return to the latest season of The Ranch. After all the allegations against him, his character was written off of the show. Looks like Hyde won't be working with Kelso anymore, guys.

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43. Happily Ever After

In happier news, in 2015, Mila Kunis married Ashton Kutcher, the model-turned-actor with whom she shared her very first kiss. “Jackie” and “Kelso” now have two children. I'm not crying. You're crying.

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Sources:  1234567, 89101112131415161718,19

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