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That '70s Show: Season 2(TV) (1999-2000)
Season two of the popular Fox television sitcom.
For more about That '70s Show: Season 2 and the That '70s Show: Season 2 Blu-ray release, see That '70s Show: Season 2 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 4, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Kurtwood Smith, Danny Masterson, Wilmer Valderrama
Director: David Trainer
» See full cast & crew
That '70s Show: Season 2 Blu-ray Review
The answer, of course, is Willie Stargell, staying with the '70s theme.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 4, 2012
Remember that old Abbott and Costello Who's On First? routine? It went something like this: "Who's on first?" "Who." That's what I'm asking, who's on first." "Who." "Who?" "Yes." "What?" "Who is on first." "Why are you asking me, I'm the one asking you 'who's on first?'" "Like I said, Who." And the gag goes on and on to include "What" on second? and "I Don't Know" on third. That '70s Show, at least going by its title, seems like the television equivalent, capable of confounding a conversation between a fan and someone who's been living under a rock for the past dozen or so years. "Hey, did you catch 'That '70s Show' last night?" "What '70s show?" "'That '70s Show!'" "No, you tell me, to which show are you referring?" "'That '70s Show!'" "What's it called?" "'That '70s Show!" And the gag could go on ad infinitum. In truth, That '70s Show isn't destined to become quite the classic as that -- or most any -- Abbot and Costello routine, but it's a well-designed, very nicely acted, and oftentimes humorous little show that was a big hit in its day and remains a fan-favorite years after its original airing. Its second season is a particularly strong effort, far superior to the first in flow, funnies, and feeling.
The place is Point Place, Wisconsin, nestled within the state famous for dairy products, frozen tundras, and a few ordinary Middle America folks who do what they can in the name of friendship, hormones, and highs. In the 1970s, the people of the Badger state struggle with everyday challenges but get on by through tight (and sometimes not so tight) relationships, good humor, and maybe just a little scriptwriting television magic. In season two, the gang remains often planted in the Forman family basement, watching the old clunker television while settled in on a comfy couch with more than a few tears and a couple of pieces of duct tape holding it together. When they're not hanging in the basement, the gang efforts to make it through their lives, complicated, of course, to dramatic and humorous effect. Eric (Topher Grace) and Donna (Laura Prepon) slowly but surely find their romantic relationship inching ever closer to a magical moment, two, really, if both words and deeds count. Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) is still dating Jackie (Mila Kunis), but the relationship is complicated when Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly) makes a move and makes Kelso choose between two very lovable ladies. Forman family patriarch Red (Kurtwood Smith) struggles with the realities of unemployment, while his supportive wife Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) keeps the family afloat with her work in the medical field. Forman family live-in Hyde (Danny Masterson) finds gainful employment at a photo hut operated by a hippie named Leo (Tommy Chong). Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) is still trying to mate with a sexy American woman. Finally, Donna's parents Bob (Don Stark) and Midge (Tanya Roberts) have reached a crossroads in their relationship.
The theme song may proclaim the "same old thing" and "not a thing to do" but the truth of the matter is that the 26-episode season two of That '70s Show is anything but repetitive or boring as the tune lyrically suggests. The show really finds its stride in this grouping of episodes and through the various plot arcs, catching on to a current of story lines and interconnectivity as well as fine character development and cast chemistry, all of which make each episode a pleasure and every major evolution edge-of-seat stuff, both of which greatly enhance the humor, humor that tickles the fancy and busts the gut with great frequency. Whether light comedy throwaway episodes that feature spiked brownies or more serious drama that advances inter-character relationships, season two has something to offer in every show, the same of which cannot be said of season one, a solid but sometimes hit-or-miss effort that at the very least laid the groundwork for the excellence that's on display here. Season two captures a magic that's sometimes lacking even in the upper-tier Sitcom; there's an uncanny cast chemistry, effortless storyline advancements in every episode, and a rapid pace that leaves audiences wanting the next episode before the one that's playing has even reached its conclusion. In other words, it's must-see-TV, to borrow a phrase from a network other than the one that aired That '70s Show, but it's nevertheless just as applicable, if not more so, than most of that channel's era offerings.
Though the scripts and story arcs certainly define the show, the characters and the careful attention to period detail actually shape it, truly give it life. The cast is superb; every core player is the result of inspired casting, and all of the actors settle naturally into their parts. They share wonderful, always-on rapport yet display an intimacy with their own characters as well, breathing life into the individuals and, then altogether, the group. It's a wonderful collection of talent performing a group of characters that are just as well defined on the scripted page. Every actor brings a unique charm to every part, and it's difficult to see different actors in any of the roles, even those that within the boundaries of seasons one and two remain a bit more one-dimensional than some of their more complexly drawn counterparts. Yet it's the effortless strengths of the entire grouping that make the show work so well and play with so much evident enthusiasm for the parts, the stories, and the era. It's also that latter element that makes the series work. There's nothing much here that couldn't play in a modern setting with only a few reworks, but the period influences give the show a freshness and appeal that's missing in "here-and-now" or "way-back-when"-set programming. It's close enough to the present to be familiar and comfortable but at the same time unable to rely on modern crutches to advance the stories. Better, the set design is absolutely flawless. That '70s Show is as close as modern man can come to time travel (as far as most everyone knows). It's very well put together right down to the last detail, and anyone who lived through the era or even grew up on the tail end will appreciate the exhaustive authenticity that helps make the series such a rousing success.
That '70s Show: Season 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
That '70s Show: Season 2 follows up on the excellent season one release with another high-yield Blu-ray presentation. For the most part, this is a gorgeous transfer. Light grain remains over the image, and the filmed elements are displayed with fantastic textures and natural crispness. Aside from a few soft shots scattered here and there, the image captures with precision everything from the concrete bricks to the wooden beams in the basement, everything from era clothing textures to the ragged Forman basement sofa. Even Red's morning paper is revealed with wonderful crispness to the point that large headlines are oftentimes easily readable at medium distance. The transfer also handles the film's wild 1970s color palette remarkably well. Every shade is recreated brilliantly, from the pastel kitchen greens to the brightest red shirts. The multicolored elements yield all sorts of complex color transitions, all of which are presented without flaw. Flesh tones appear accurate and black levels never go too bright or crush out details, though some lower-light shots appear quite noisy. The image is largely free of wear and overt digital manipulation. The only real eyesores come in episode two. It seems some of the film elements weren't located for the release, and many scenes have been sourced from standard definition video (see screenshot 10), yielding fuzzy textures, false colors, jagged lines, and poor clarity. The switch is jarring, but such scenes are brief though rather plentiful. Otherwise, the rest of the episode's scenes dazzle. Overall, this is a very good transfer from Mill Creek.
That '70s Show: Season 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
That '70s Show: Season 2 features a pleasant DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Keep in mind this is a TV sitcom, not a Michael Bay blockbuster, so the results aren't mind-boggling or ear-shattering but certainly satisfactory considering the material. Music enjoys nice spacing and good clarity within episodes; popular music notably plays remarkably well, a fine example being "Stayin' Alive" as heard in the season's third episode. The reworked-for-season-two theme song blares with high energy that dominates the vocals. The laugh track gently envelops the listening audience and plays with fair authenticity, though certainly listeners won't feel like part of the "live studio audience." Minor ambience lingers around the front in a few episodes, notably in those featuring outdoor segments like "Vanstock." Dialogue is clear and accurate throughout. The episode "Eric Gets Suspended" features some lip sync issues in a "dream/flash forward" sequence featuring Eric at a college interview; it's not quite clear whether the out-of-sync dialogue is intentional considering the highly stylized nature of the scene, but it does revert back to normal afterward. Altogether, this is a rather good soundtrack, nothing that will rewrite the history books but certainly a very strong presentation for a TV sitcom.
That '70s Show: Season 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
That '70s Show: Season 2 includes three commentaries, three behind-the-scenes featurettes, a season one recap, and an interview with Director David Trainer.
That '70s Show: Season 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Perhaps one day audiences will enjoy Some '80s Program or Random '90s Sitcom, but until then, That '70s Show will have to do, not that that's really some burden to carry. The second season is tremendous, easily besting the first with strong character arcs, higher quality drama, and more frequent humor. The season moves by in a flash; a whole lot happens without any real downtime in between. It's some of the best half-hour network comedy programming of the late 1990s, early-to-mid 2000s, and it's found a new home on Blu-ray in a high-quality, low-cost release. Mill Creek's doing a heck of a job with these Blu-rays; season two delivers excellent video, strong lossless audio, and a decent array of extras. Highly recommended.
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