That ‘70s Show: Season Four

Until it jumped the shark toward the end of its eight-season run, That ‘70s Show was one of the most reliably entertaining programs on television. Boasting one of the best ensemble casts of the last ten years, its goofy mix of humour and character-driven stories kept the show from being either too silly or too predictable. Nearing the halfway point of the series, season four shows the gang in typically fine form as Eric and Donna try to navigate their relationship after the big break-up, Fez continues to try and escape the shackles of his virginity and Jackie and Kelso hit yet another rough patch. In the meantime, Bob gets a girlfriend, Donna dates Kelso’s older brother Casey (Luke Wilson in the role he was born to play), Hyde moves back in and Red finds a non-dumbass friend in Pastor Dave (The Kids in the Hall’s Kevin McDonald). As usual, film homages, elaborate fantasy sequences and decade-appropriate guest stars (including Roger Daltrey in the underwhelming musical episode) abound, but the real treat is watching the actors hit their strides — even the most inane jokes become funny when they look like they’re having such a great time delivering them. Though director David Trainer’s (all too few) commentaries insist that the show resonates with contemporary audiences because it deals with universal teenage experiences, part of the show’s appeal also lies in the way it simultaneously sends up and celebrates the "me decade.” The dysfunctional nuclear Forman clan is affectionately portrayed without the overt sentimentalising of a retro show like Happy Days (who wouldn’t choose cupcake-baking, borderline alcoholic, maniacally sunny Kitty Forman over happy ’50s housewife Marion Cunningham?) and Donna’s interest in second wave feminism represents one of the few instances in recent memory where that political movement has been positively depicted in pop culture. The extras are paltry — the three Eric-centric commentaries aren’t especially insightful ("Funland plays against Eric’s depression”) and the obligatory featurettes are short and hastily put together — but overall, it’s a pretty satisfying package. Plus: featurettes; promos. (Fox)