Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Coverage of 3rd Rock From The Sun will commence soon, but in the meantime, I’m excited to set the figurative table by resurrecting another entry from this blog’s nearly decade-long run. Here’s how it works: I’ll provide a link to a piece that I first published many seasons back, and then I’ll offer a bit of updated commentary. But, as I always caution, please be gentle; this early article is from a long time ago, and my standards have changed as I’ve changed — I’ve improved as a thinker, a communicator, and a television-watcher.
So, let’s revisit… The Ten Best THAT ’70S SHOW Episodes of Season One: https://jacksonupperco.com/2019/09/17/the-ten-best-that-70s-show-episodes-of-season-one/
As we get ready for 3rd Rock From The Sun, I thought it would be appropriate to call back to That ’70s Show, another Carsey-Werner ’90s sitcom with a high-concept trapping — in this case, a Happy Days-esque nostalgic setting superimposed on top of a low-concept “hangout” format that prioritizes romance among young singles (per its era’s guiding interest), along with a connected family unit for generational clashes and coming-of-age plots. Obviously, this isn’t anything like the gaudy supernatural premise that we’ll see on 3rd Rock, but by being set in a prior decade, part of That ’70s Show’s “situation” is high-concept, for this is an idea-driven element of identity that must be reinforced every week. Accordingly, and as we saw, this series’ best episodes focused on the characters and their relationships, while also acknowledging how said characters and their relationships were colored by their specific time and place. The ’50s/’60s-set Happy Days, then, is an apt comparison, for the same thing was true on that series, only That ’70s Show managed to be both much funnier and more character-centric… And yet, if That ’70s Show ultimately did a better job centralizing the elements of its “situation” that are low-concept (i.e., its regulars), a big engine of its appeal still came from this setting and the nostalgia it implied. Such high-concept interests will feel similar — albeit, even more prominent — on 3rd Rock From The Sun, which will also push forward its leads and their relationships, while simultaneously guaranteeing an even more explicit acknowledgement of its flashy premise (“they’re aliens!”) as a narratively vital aspect of the regulars’ episodic existence. In this regard, I find more kinship between these two Carsey-Werner shows than might appear at first blush… As for That ’70s Show, I’m also rerunning its debut season because it’s about to be “rebooted” this week on Netflix as That ’90s Show… a continuation of the original that capitalizes on the same nostalgia, only now for the ’90s (when That ’70s Show premiered). I will probably share my thoughts on the new show at some point — my expectations are low (as I think it’ll be hard to have a strong affinity for the new characters like we do the old ones, and that disparity usually is tough), but if it’s as good as its predecessor, it’ll be better than all the revivals we’ve seen lately!
Come back next week for another Sitcom Tuesday! And stay tuned for a new Wildcard!