"That '70s Show: '70s Teens for the '90s"
by Gary Levin in USA Today
A return to the past is Fox's hope for the future.
That '70s Show, a retro view of teen life in Wisconsin, is Fox's lone
bright spot in a season of failed or struggling new series. Though not yet a
hit, averaging 11.3 million viewers this season, 70's is improving a
critical time slot between The Simpsons and The X-Files on Sunday, Fox's
Though 70s revolves around a core group of six teens, nostalgic adult
viewers, especially men, are the bulk of its growing audience. Kids and
teens are more likely to tune out after The Simpsons, with "70s losing
almost a third of those viewers.
"People who remember the '70s, they're about 35 now," says Bonnie Turner,
who created the series with her husband, Terry. (They also created NBC's
3rd Rock From the Sun and wrote Saturday Night Live routines such as
Dana Carvey's Church Lady.) "We never thought it would be ABC on Friday
night," where the shows are aimed at teen-agers. "I don't think we ever
intended it to be a teen show."
Although "most people tune in to see what's great about the '70s," says star
Topher Grace, "a lot of the issues are timeless." The show strives for an
unconventional feel, frequently employing a 360-degree camera that swirls
around from actor to actor. That technique, along with the show's daydream
sequences, is a trademark of sorts.
"It's not very sitcomy," says Danny Masterson, who plays Eric Foreman's
(Grace) buddy Steve Hyde. "The Turners have sort of a sick sense of humor,
so instead of being setup, setup, punch line, there's more story. It doesn't
just revolve around getting a laugh."
A surprise for Turner was the response to Eric's straight-laced parents, Red
and Kitty, played by Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp.
"I didn't know that so many people would relate so heavily to the father
figure. He's everyone's dad," Turner says. "The cast knew him from Dead
Poet's Society. All of them were immediately terrified of him and very
On the air only since August, That '70s Show already is making travel
plans. Producer Carsey-Werner is readying a U.K. edition to air early next
year, using slightly modified scripts to play up British aspects of the '70s
TOPHER GRACE: Topher is the levelheaded center of That '70 Show: It's
through his eyes that the sitcom's retro view of Wisconsin life is seen.
Topher (short for Christopher) has been hailed for his wry, subtle portrayal
of Eric Foreman. "The greatest job is if you can toe the straight line but
also be funny," says Grace, 20, likening his role to Dick Van Dyke on the
old Dick Van Dyke Show.
Grace says Eric is becoming less conservative as the series progresses,
playing off his stern father (Kurtwood Smith) and ditsy mother (Debra Jo
Rupp). "As I'm loosening up (in the role), Eric's loosening up as a
character," says Grace, who grew up in Darien, Conn.
His choice of schools was fortuitous. Grace went to boarding school in New
Hampshire with the daughter of Terry and Bonnie Turner, Saturday Night
Live writers who went on to create 3rd Rock From the Sun and That '70s
On a parents' weekend, they saw Grace perform in a school production of "A
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." A year later, "they called me
out of the blue" and invited him to audition.
LAURA PREPON: Laura is redheaded tomboy Donna Pinciotti, who lives next door
to the Foremans with her groovy parents (Don Stark and Charlie's Angel Tanya
Prepon, 18, hails from Watchung, N.J., and like most of her co-stars
the 70s gig is her first TV role. She's actually a dancer, trained in
ballet, modern and jazz.
Though there's romantic tension with the pal Eric, Prepon says the
flirtatious friendship won't take center stage, despite a recent episode in
which Hyde surfaces as a potential rival for Donna's affections. "It's not
one of those shows where everybody goes, 'Will they kiss?'"
WILMER VALDERRAMA: The role of Fez, the heavily accented exchange student,
isn't much of a stretch for 18-year-old Wilmer Valderrama.
He moved to Los Angeles just four years ago from Venezuela, and barely spoke
English. "To my advantage, I can relate a little bit to my character," he
Valderrama took drama classes at high school to improve his speaking skills,
found an agent and "decided to give this a try," he says of professional
As Fez, his origins -- and his last name -- remain a mystery.
"No one really knows where he comes from," Valderrama says. But that secret
may be revealed later this season.
DANNY MASTERSON: At 22, Danny is the wizened veteran among the '70s Show
A model since age 4, he's appeared in dozens of TV commercials, did the
movies Beethoven's 2nd, Bye Bye Love and last year's Face/Off, and had
his first series role in 1993 in ABC's short-lived Joe's Life. Masterson's
resume also includes a regular role as Christine Baranski's son (and Zoey's
boyfriend) on the last two seasons of CBS' Cybill.
Masterson, who is from East Williston, N.Y., plays Steve Hyde, Eric's
sideburned boyhood friend, but the two have little in common. "Eric's not
Hyde's kind of guy, but they grew up together so they have a brotherly
pact," he says. "He's a tiny bit jealous of the Foreman family."
The role was Masterson's easiest audition, he says, offered before Cybill
was even canceled. (Both are from the same studio, Carsey-Werner.)
ASHTON KUTCHER: Ashton says he identifies easily with the bored existence of
That '70s Show's kids, who while away the hours in a Wisconsin suburb. He
grew up not too far away, on a farm in Oxford, Iowa (population 100).
"You're sincerely believing you are living in the most boring town on the
face of the earth. You have to find your own fun. I kind of grew up doing
that, so I'm able to relate to the character in the show," says Kutcher, 20,
who plays dimwitted Michael Kelso.
He says the show's writers have nailed what it's like to be a restless
Midwestern teen -- although like his '70s co-stars, Kutcher was still
in diapers when the decade chronicled by the show ended.
His path from Iowa to fictional Wisconsin was unorthodox. Kutcher was
pursuing an engineering degree at the University of Iowa, earning money by
sweeping cereal dust at a nearby General Mills plant. Discovered by a local
talent scout, he moved to New York little more than a year ago, and got work
in ads for Calvin Klein and Pizza Hut before landing his first TV role as
MILA KUNIS: There's not much to like about Jackie Burkhart, Kelso's
conniving rich girlfriend. "Jackie is a spoiled brat who gets everything she
wants," says Mila Kunis, 15, who plays Jackie. "She's quite controlling and
Kunis, born in Russia, moved to Los Angeles when she was 7 and learned
English by listening to the radio with her father. She took acting classes
and began doing commercials, guest spots on TV shows and films, including
Disney's Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves and Krippendorf's Tribe."In HBO's
Gia, a biographical film about the troubled model, Kunis played the young
- USA Today, 12/11/98.
"Like Mom and Dad used to be"
'That '70s Show' stars tap their pasts
By Linda Temple
Special for USA Today
Kitty and Red Foreman make parenting look fun.
True, they know near nothing of what their teen and his pals are up to on
That '70s Show (Fox, Sundays, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT), but ignorance helped
plenty of parents survive the decade.
"It was not a particularly enlightened time," says Debra Jo Rupp, who plays
Eric's (Topher Grace) chirpy mom. "But that's what makes this show fun."
Whether whisking hot pizza rolls from the oven or handing over keys to the
Vista Cruiser, Kitty and Red seem happy riding herd over the kids.
"I'm doing Kitty as my mother, on those rare days when she was in a good
mood," Rupp says. "She'll kill me, but I think she had maybe three, total."
Rupp imparts her flip-haired character with the frenetic verve she brought
to Seinfeld as Jerry's agent, and the sweetness she conveyed as Phoebe's
sister-in-law on Friends.
Actor Kurtwood Smith, a veteran of TV (The X-Files, Picket Fences) and
movies (Deep Impact, A Time to Kill), says he bases the curmudgeonly Red
on his own father. "I think that's why the audience relates to these charac-
ters. They recognize their own parents."
Rupp and Smith had never met before the series. "We are such opposites, but
we get along really well," says Rupp, who is noticeably younger than Smith.
Neither will disclose their age. "It doesn't matter," Smith says. "She's
younger than I am, but so is my real wife."
Their onscreen sexual chemistry "is just part of their day," Rupp says. "I
would walk into the kitchen and see my parents dancing. People recognize
that it's part of life."
That '70s Show averages 11.8 million viewers, and while no baby boomer
with a high school yearbook needs to ask what's funny about the '70s, teens
(ages 12-17) also are tuning in. Teen viewership has jumped 31% since
August, and Fox has already announced that its only successful new live-
action sitcom will be staying alive into 2000.
Fox Entertainment chief Doug Herzog says the coming-of-age characters, while
from a different era, "seem just as relatable to our audience today." The
show is on hiatus after Sunday's Star Wars-themed season finale, but new
episodes return in June. "We're really pleased to give it more exposure."
Rupp and Smith praise writers Bonnie and Terry Turner (3rd Rock From the
Sun) for their characters' comic dialogue. "Everything is clever and
fresh," Rupp says.
Everything but the clothes.
Kitty's patterned polyester frocks are "hateful," Rupp says, but more are in
store for the second season. "I'm happy the series will be hanging around,
but I have this little capon-chicken body, and the '70s were definitely not
- USA Today, 3/12/99.
From shag carpets to shaggy hairdos, it's a retro, retro world
on the set of FOX's shagadelic hit, That '70s Show.
by Dan Snierson in Entertainment Weekly
The set of FOX's That '70s Show is butt-ugly. But hey, at least it's frighteningly
evocative. "When I walked onto that set, I went, 'Oh my God...'" shudders Debra Jo
Rupp, who plays the sitcom's eager-beaver Wisconsin housemom Kitty Forman.
"That washer and dryer? My washer and dryer. The burnt orange-brown fridge? My
fridge The exact same. I almost died."
On Stage 2 of the CBS Radford lot in Studio City, Calif., they take this Me
Decade thing rather seriously. But this '70s television time warp is about more
than showcasing groovy gewgaws and shagadelica. "This is a middle-class family
attempting to be stylish with the money that they have," explains production
designer Garvin Eddy. "They have teardrop lamps. They have an organ. They have
National Geographics. And for some reason, they have a built-in bar... This is
what Middle America was all about." Fortunately, taste, like time, marches on.
Observes Wilmer Valderrama (Fez), "There was huge confusion in the '70s about
what cool was." Adds set decorator Tara Stephenson: "The scary part is,
there's even more ugly stuff out there."
THE BASEMENT: "I feel like I'm in a garage sale," observes Ashton Kutcher,
a.k.a. Kelso. Behold the grubby sofa (recently taped up after an arm collapsed),
the trippy hanging lamp ($150 at an L.A. collectibles store), and the ELO
poster. While the cast often relaxes here between scenes, Danny Masterson has a
beef about the white chair his character Hyde favors. "It's the most
uncomfortable thing ever," he sighs. "I've tried to form my ass into it for 35
episodes, but it's still lumpy."
THE STEREO: The stereo was pretty happenin' for its time, considering it has an
eight-track, a turntable, and a cassette tape player. "I'm constantly looking through
the records," notes Masterson. "There's always something new on top -- usually
something really bad." Beneath Bob Seger and Linda Ronstadt, we found Go for
Baroque! Greatest Hits of the 1700s! Talk about retro.
THE TOYS: The pile of goodies under the stairwell isn't merely
set dressing; the gang plays with the View-Master and pulls out board games like
Operation during downtime. As for that ratty six-string, says Valderrama,
"Ashton always tries to impress us with his guitar playing!" Adds star Topher
Grace (Eric Forman), "He's like, 'Guess this song... 'Stairway to Heaven'!"
THE TABLE: Expecting to see a joint? Sorry, it's all legal down here -- especially
after the domino-style roach clip mysteriously disappeared last season. Instead,
the cast gets its kicks by reading the handful of vintage Marvel Ka-Zar comic
books that are lying around. "What you have to understand about Ka-Zar,"
explains Grace, "is that he's just a normal guy hanging out with his saber-
toothed tiger, but then he'll whip it off and get naked." Still, even Tarzan
manqués can get tedious. "We've had the same ones since the pilot," he
says. "So I think we've all breezed through all of them a few times."
THE LIVING ROOM: The hardest part about re-creating the classic '70s living room
wasn't tracking down an old set of World Book encyclopedias or even fishing for
the blue marlin -- it was procuring the shag carpet around the stairwell. "We
actually had to have a mill make it because we couldn't find shag carpeting this
long," says Eddy. "It cost between 8 and 10 thousand dollars, because we had to
have a whole run of it made." And if you think that gold sofa is bold now,
consider this: Former set decorator Bill Gregory turned the fabric inside out
because the original pattern was even louder. Wow, man.
THE MAGAZINES: Next to those hideous glass grapes on the coffee table (thank
goodness for thrift stores), you'll find issues of Life and Cosmopolitan. "I spend hours
reading those," says Rupp. "I take them to my dressing room, and everyone knows
it's me. 'Debra Jo? Can you please bring back the prop?"
THE BOOKCASE PICTURES: Who's that little kid with the timeless bowl cut? "The
producers asked my mom to send some baby photos, and she sent in thousands from
every awkward stage in my life," confesses Grace. "These were pictures you don't
want to see -- like me 4 years old, running around naked." In addition to the toddler
shot, there's also a high school graduation shot with dad John.
THE KITCHEN: "The kitchen is the room that's supposed to wake you up," says
Gregory, "and, oh boy, does it wake you up. You don't want to meditate in here."
Or act, for that matter. "You're blinded everywhere you look," insists Rupp.
"You're trying to remember your lines and you find yourself staring at the
cheese-grater lights." Worse yet, she says, are the olfactory emissions of the
non-functioning refrigerator. "I'm at the fridge and the director will say,
'Take some orange juice out.' And I'll go, 'Does that entail opening the
fridge?' I can't do it. That odor could knock you dead."
That '70s Sweetie
Mary Tyler Moore says, "Hello Wisconsin!"
by A.J. Frutkin in TV Guide
Who can turn Point Place on with her smile? Mary Tyler Moore, of course. The TV
legend -- who has graced the cover of TV Guide a whopping 25 times -- appears in
three episodes of the Fox sitcom That '70s Show (Thursdays, 8/7c, Fox)
beginning January 26, 2006. She'll play Christine St. George, a Wisconsin
daytime TV talk-show host.
But don't look for similarities between Christine and a certain other fictional
TV newswoman. Where The Mary Tyler Moore Show"s Mary Richards was the
sweetheart of Minneapolis' WJM-TV, Christine is a bit of a fiend. And that's
precisely what drew Moore to the role.
"She's a very self-centered and egotistical woman," Moore says of Christine. "I
liked the idea of her having a television persona that is beloved and then
showing the real woman. That's something an actress doesn't get to do all the
Christine hooks up with Wisconsin's grooviest gang thorugh shampoo boy Fez
(Wilmer Valderrama), who rinses her 'do. When a jobless Jackie (Mila Kunis)
dreams of an on-camera career, Christine makes those dreams come true by hiring
the wannabe as her assistant.
Moore's time on the set took her back to the 1970s in more ways than one. Fox's
long-running sitcom is filmed in the same studio where Moore's classic show was
shot. And even better: Gavin MacLeod, who played WJM-TV news writer Murray
Slaughter, appears in Moore's first "70s Show episode.
Moore says returning to her old stomping grounds was bittersweet. "It makes me
feel a little sad," she admits. "I remember our youth, as it were, all of us, Ed
[Asner], Ted [Knight], Gavin -- I miss that."
However wistful she was, Moore proved to be an inspiration to her costars. Kunis
was intimidated into silence at first. "And I'm never quiet!" she adds. Soon
enough, Kunis was having a blast: "She's funny, man. She's naturally funny. With
her, it's not all about the job. It's about enjoying yourself."
- from TV Guide
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