That 70's Show: Season Eight

That 70's Show: Season Eight
When it first aired, That ’70s Show seemed poised to become the Happy Days of its generation, a savvy remembrance not mired by an excess of nostalgia. It stayed ahead of the game by not talking down to its audience, showing teenagers in a haze of pot smoke and poking fun at sitcom conventions. Unfortunately, as is the case with many Fox TV programs, the network milked the show’s success virtually dry (i.e., The Simpsons). In its eighth, and final, season, the show’s continued production came at the cost of two of its stars: Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher. Although Kutcher makes several guest appearances at the beginning of the season, Grace’s Eric Forman randomly moves to Africa and isn’t seen at all until (briefly) in the final episode. It’s the same logic Fox employed in writing David Duchovny out of The X-Files: the show can continue but without its core element. Without Grace, the cast begin to show strain, delivering many of their lines at unnecessarily loud volumes in order to fill the void, and failing to mask that several of these "teenagers” were, in reality, approaching 30. There are some enjoyable moments: many of the characters are able to coast on the charm they spent seven years honing. The best part of this season is the return of then recently paroled comic Tommy Chong as deadpan stoner Leo, his presence helps distract from the inane storylines (Hyde drunkenly marries a stripper in Vegas; Donna poses for nude photos; Fez is still in love with Jackie). The last episode attempts to place a sentimental bookend on a season plagued by disingenuous events, and is somewhat successful only in its recognition of past, borderline touching moments. For a show that was originally set in 1976 and ends New Year’s Eve 1979 — with a real-time gap of seven years in between — it’s clear that the show went on far longer than it should have. While That ’70s Show: Season 8 may contain traces of its former glory, by this point it has already jumped the shark, parked the motorcycle, and gone inside. (Fox)