If everybody took leave of his or her senses during that 10-year period to the degree indicated here, it's flat-out miraculous mankind lived to see 1980. This sitcom shows the '70s as a black hole of disco and leisure suits that sucked everybody's brain cells up like a vacuum cleaner.
This demonstrates especially true in the pilot (penned by the Turners, who are also listed among the show's dazing six executive producers, to oblige three co-executive producers). The basic storyline appears to ape "Happy Days" somewhere 20 years later, centered by a group of teenagers focused on getting themselves safely through the passé that gave the world such cultural touchstones as "Play That Funky Music".
In the frenetic opener, there is so much mugging and goofiness going down that it's difficult to even sort anything out. This is what we know: it's May 1976 in Point Place, Wis.; "Love Will Keep Us Together" is playing on the jukebox; and a 17-year-old adolescent named Eric Foreman (Topher Grace) is desperate to break out from the cloying grips of his dopey parents, Red (Kurtwood Smith) and Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp).
Hanging with Eric is Donna (Laura Prepon), his teasing knockout of a neighbor, and his hunky buddy Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Kelso's princess girlfriend Jackie (Mila Kunis), the paranoid Hyde (Danny Masterson) and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), a foreign-exchange student whose comic errand is to garble the language in a pre-political accuracy sorta way.
By and large, things improve in a subsequent episode. The funniest elements find Kelso processing a conversation with Laurie in an amusingly grimaced way, and the gang imagining aloud the neurotic hassles of Eric's parents at having them celebrate Eric's birthday at the house without the parents around.
It's kinda cute, however, insufficient to make "That '70s Show" a great deal more than a curious homage to a period that really wasn't too intriguing. Mostly, it gives an excuse for everyone to revel in the campy retro-unhipness of everything. The threat in that, obviously, is that uncool isn't made automatically cool simply in light of the fact that you poke fun at it, regardless of how frequently you play "Hooked on a Feeling".