Thursday, January 08, 2004

Hangin' Out

"That '70s Show" is back on track. Ereck and I were disappointed by the first couple of episodes this season, but last night's broadcast was first-rate, as was the rerun Fox showed Tuesday night.

If you haven't yet delved into this funny sitcom, please do. We Madisonians are lucky to get two episodes rerun in syndication every weeknight on WB 57. I don't know whether other cities have this luxury, or whether it is related to the show's being set in Wisconsin.

At its best moments "That '70s Show" rises to the level of "Seinfeld," to me the sine qua non of crisply written, consistently funny sitcoms of the last, oh, 11.7 years. Actually, "Seinfeld" fired on all cylinders more often than "'70s," which comes up with perhaps one dumb joke for every four superb ones.

What appeals to me about "That '70s Show" is the characters' humility: they're adolescents, so they're anxious about pretty basic stuff, especially sex of the furtive teenage variety. The "Seinfeld" characters' anxieties, on the other hand, have mostly to do with the difficulties of being bourgeois--Saab ownership on the Upper West Side of Manhattan indeed looks like tough going.

Last fall I predicted this would be the breakout season for "That '70s Show," mostly because over the summer, cast member Ashton Kutcher thrust himself into the national limelight with his heavily publicized Demi Moore romance. But the ratings of late seem to have "'70s" ranked somewhere in the upper 60s, below "Joan of Arcadia" and "The O.C." (but above "Reba" and "WWE Smackdown"). Oh well.

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