“That '70’s Show” was the breakout show for some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Laura Prepon. Originally airing on FOX, the television series ran from 1998 to 2006 and rose to critical acclaim, becoming one of the network’s flagship shows during its eight-year run. While the 20-year-old period comedy may be set in the 1970s, its characters, humor, and plotlines remain relatable to kids of today.

About the show

The show revolves around six teenaged friends, Eric, Donna, Hyde, Kelso, Jackie, and Fez growing up in the suburban town of Point Place, Wisconsin.

Although the show mainly focuses on the friend group’s social and personal lives, historical events and figures topical to the 1970s such as the aftermath of President Nixon’s pardon, Led Zeppelin, and the premiere of the “Star Wars” franchise, also serve as background to some episodes’ plot-lines. Over the course of the series, the characters endure make-ups, break-ups, hook-ups, and life’s hardships in light of a groovy, but tumultuous, time in American history.

Era-specific fads, feminism, and phases

Fashion and pop culture trends such as leisure suits and the rise of disco may date the sitcom but they also play an important role in catalyzing the drama in each episode. This is especially evident in season one, which takes place in 1976.

Ford’s presidential campaign and the sexual revolution are major plot-points in the first few episodes, including “Streaking” and “The Pill.” In “Streaking” Eric’s father, Red is struggling with a recent cutback in hours at his job due to outsourcing. As a result, Red blames Ford and his foreign policies. When Point Place hosts a rally for Ford, Eric and his friends plan to streak at the event in rebellion against the American political system.

“The Pill” addresses the changing views of sex and contraception in American society. Inspired by Jackie’s pregnancy scare, Donna decides to take new birth control drug, Ortho-Novum. The resulting reactions of those around her, including Donna’s mortified father, Bob, are an accurate reflection of the friction caused by the era’s radical developments.

Other socio-political ideologies of the '70s are personified by the show’s main characters such as Hyde and Donna. As the self-proclaimed “rebel” of the group, Hyde’s paranoia, recreational drug use, and abhorrence for the government and other organized institutions reflect a period defined by protest against “the establishment,” rock and roll, and drugs. Donna is the representation of rising feminism. She refuses to adhere to traditional gender-specific rules and call the male characters out for bigoted or chauvinistic behavior which often creates friction between her and boyfriend, Eric.

Same story, different generation

Although the conflicts in “That '70’s Show” are spurred by period-sensitive issues, teenagers of today can still empathize with the predicaments and feelings of the characters.

Now, “That '70’s Show” is joined in the category of period-comedy by newly syndicated sitcoms like ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat,” which takes place in the '90s and “The Goldbergs,” set in the '80s. Covering some of America’s major historical eras, it is shows like these that remind us that while fads come and go, generational differences, teen angst, and discontent with the current socio-political climate are issues that remain timeless.