Bex takes a look at the R1 release of the second season of That ’70s Show, and finds the laughs still plentiful in this fun, timewarped sitcom.
The first thing to say about the second season of That ‘70s Show is that it’s just as strong as the opening season. The laughs are still plentiful and the cast of ordinary and yet amusing characters find development as the seasons progress. The overall premise of show remains the same, however, it’s a light-hearted sitcom set in Point Place, Wisconsin showing the daily lives of Eric Forman, his friends and his family.
The core cast of the show remains the same and obviously continue to enjoy their work together which really shows through in their performances. There’s a lot more airtime for Eric’s sister Laurie, who has now dropped out of college and spends much of the series living back at home and seducing Eric’s friend Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher). All the characters get some attention in this series, which is welcome – and gives an extra dimension to what could have been a one-trick pony show. Eric (Topher Grace) gets a job, loses his virginity and has to come to terms with his sister being back at home. Donna (Laura Prepon) has to deal with her parents’ strange behaviour on their break-up and subsequent reconciliation, as well as losing a beloved pet. Jackie (Mila Kunis) learns that her love, Kelso, has been less than honest with her… and she also realises some surprising truths about her feelings for others in the group. Hyde (Danny Masterson) remains his cynical self, and gets to teach Jackie some of his Zen system for replying to people. And so on… but rather than being dismissive, it’s a positive thing – characters remain the same as we remember them, but they still manage to achieve some development over the season, just how it should be.
The second season of That ‘70s Show is 26 episodes long, each at under 30 mins which allows quick, punchy plots to go alongside the quick-witted humour. It’s hard to pick faults, because this is a really well-scripted, acted and put-together show which had me laughing out loud at quite a few moments throughout. Plots continue to revolve around miscommunication, love, teenage awkwardness, drugs, sex and familial relationships – the core of any sitcom that involves teenagers. But there’s more to this than just the humour; the characters are genuinely likeable and the underlying truth of how the writers deal with situations such as losing virginity makes the show stand out for me.
There’s also the wit of the homages paid to ‘70s culture, especially in this season’s prolonged Scooby Doo segment when the characters are drawn in Scooby Doo fashion and the show moves into cartoon for a fair bit during one episode. The various Charlie’s Angels references are also played to the max, especially as, with the addition of Laurie, the three young women in this show are conveniently a redhead, a brunette and a blonde. In addition to good writing and acting, the nods to the ‘70s are littered throughout, again giving the show not only a schtick but a wealth of material from which to create plot hooks.
The writers of this series have very much adopted a ‘tell it like it is’ philosophy when it comes to naming each episode, more or less handing the audience the story idea on a plate each week. Season 2 included:
1. ‘Garage Sale’
2. ‘Red’s Last Day’
3. ‘The Velvet Rope’
4. ‘Laurie and the Professor’
7. ‘I Love Cake’
8. ‘Donna and Eric Sleepover’
9. ‘Eric Gets Suspended’
10. ‘Red’s Birthday’
11. ‘Laurie Moves Out’
12. ‘Eric’s Stash’
14. ‘Red’s New Job (a.k.a. Red Gets A Job)’
15. ‘Burning Down the House’
16. ‘The First Time’
18. ‘Kitty and Eric’s Night Out’
19. ‘Parents Find Out’
20. ‘Kiss of Death’
21. ‘Kelso’s Serenade’
22. ‘Jackie Moves On’
23. ‘Holy Crap!’
24. ‘Red Fired Up’
25. ‘Fight Club’
26. ‘Moon Over Point Place’
The transfer is in the original 4:3 aspect ratio bears up well to close inspection. Transitions are clean and crisp, and the loud ‘70s colours are all just as loud and garish as they should be, while skintones and more subdued colours remain strong and true also. The video overall looks good, though there’s some scenes that look a little dark.
The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, but with only the lightest touch of directionality and rear speaker workout material. Having said that, the show doesn’t really need a big 5.1 sound treatment to succeed. Dialogue is clear throughout, and the background music is well-chosen and pleasantly appropriate for the setting.
Extras, Packaging & Menus
The show is again packaged in 4 slim Amaray cases featuring nice colourful covers, the lot housed in a pleasant cardboard slip case which features the teenage gang that make up the central core of the show. Menus are, of course, colourful and bouncy with animation.
There’s a fair number of extra features here, more than on the previous season boxset, which is a good progression to note. Director David Trainer provides interesting commentaries on three episodes of the season; ‘Halloween’, ‘Hunting’ and ‘Cat Fight Club’. It’s a good selection of episodes too, as they each include some important and interesting moments between characters. Trainer explains various aspects of how the show was filmed, which bits were live and which pre-shot and also anecdotes about the actors and in what ways the characters have changed over the seasons. He’s an engaging speaker clearly possessing an thorough knowledge and love for the show he’s directed for seven seasons now.
The first disc includes Season One: A Look Back: a selection of clips from the first series of the show, which shows some pertinent moments for setting up the second season. It basically spends 5 minutes on clips summarising the action, so that anyone coming straight in at season 2 gets a good idea of what went ahead. Bizarrely though, there are a few clips from the second season also.
The third disc includes a 7-min segment going behind the scenes, in this case titled ‘Kelso’s serenade’ – there’s small clips of various cast members giving behind-the-scenes comments or showing where they get made-up, but nothing too insightful here. Mostly it’s interesting to see the audience members who gather to watch the live filmed segments of the show.
The final disc includes a season two featurette, which is just under 13 minutes in length and features director David Trainer talking about the show with clips from the episodes playing between his comments. It’s not really as interesting as the episode commentaries – but if you’re not one for commentaries, then this is a nice glimpse into some of the background to the show, and the clips only served to remind me how fun watching this season was.
That ‘70s Show continues to be a sitcom that really stands out and impresses. It has a very distinctive schtick to it which provides a lot of nostalgic humour, but it also contains all the ingredients for a successful sitcom in its own right: talented cast, tight and funny writing, and punchy storylines that look at various life situations from an interesting and comedic perspective. The DVD release is a solid one (with just enough extras to add value and a good all-round transfer), allowing a much wider audience to catch this great show.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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