I hadn’t really seen That 70’s Show since it first came out (I think I watched a season or two then). Now I’ve been watching it (mostly YouTube clips, sometimes whole episodes), and I’m surprised at how much I enjoy it. (Of course, I’m skipping season 8 execpt for the finale).
Part of my surprise is due to my lack of patience for multi-cam, laugh track sitcoms. I used to love Friends, but I find it hard to watch now. I much more prefer shows like The Office, Parks and Rec, Community, etc.
Here are some of the reasons I think I am enjoying it:
- The writing is really good. They do a good job of balancing between funny comedy and emotional scenes that resonate. And while there are running gags, they don’t seem to fall into the standard sitcom tropes.
- One of the things I like less now about Friends (and other shows) is that the characters just seem really mean to each other, in an unpleasant way. There’s some of that in T70S, but since the characters are teenagers, it doesn’t seem so toxic. For better or for worse, that’s how teenager act. Adults - not so much…
- A laugh track itself can be distracting from the comedy. But beyond that, when you remove the laugh track from a sitcom (plenty of YouTube videos have done that), you notice that the characters themselves never laugh at the jokes that are happening during the show. But these young actors during T70S break frequently, and laugh, or at least really smile, during the funny bits. That allows me to connect with the humor in a much less artificial fashion.
- Watching sitcoms from the 90s (or earlier) can seem dated. But since this is taking place in the 70s, that’s not really a problem. So even if some interactions and scenes aren’t comfortable by today’s standards, I don’t find myself judging them that way, since 40 years ago people acted differently.
- There is so much creativity. They didn’t hesitate to think outside the box, and they have all kinds of dream/dance/fantasy/etc sequences that really show the talents of the writers, directors and producers (and I guess the actors too).
Plus I’m sure there’s some degree of nostalgia for me as well. Although I was a young kid in the 70s, it does bring me back to my teenage years in the 80s.
It’s interesting actually, that so many of these coming of age shows - Happy Days, Wonder Years, That 70s Show - take place 20 years before they were filmed. I wonder if we’re in line for shows from the early 2000s…