The Unexpected Way That '70s Show Differs When Airing At Night


Topher Grace (Eric Forman) has provided some thought-provoking insights about how the show is structured. In an interview on “Chicks in the Office,” the interviewers were talking about the infamous “circle scenes” in which the camera would swirl around the characters, while in each other’s basements. Of course, these scenes were meant to allude to marijuana usage, but there was actually another layer of detail involved.

According to Grace, it was all part of the studio’s storytelling technique. “[The studio] had this idea of it’s like two shows. So, when it’s on at 3, it’s all about like Eric upstairs with his parents.” An “upstairs” example is perfectly captured at the moment when Red’s mother dies in Season 1, Episode 23 (“Grandma’s Dead”), which is poignant and powerful. However, there was also another side to the series, one that the studio thought would play better in late-night airings. 

“When it’s on at 11 at night, it’s like downstairs rock and roll,” Grace continued. “They can be both because [Eric] was really smart.” For example, the same episode where Red’s mother dies later takes a more rebellious turn when Eric, Kelso, Hyde, and Fez pretend to be soldiers to gain entry to a bar (via IMDb). The contrast matches what Grace alludes to here about the simultaneous seriousness and playfulness of the series. 

Looking back on “That ’70s Show,” it makes perfect sense when you think about the structure of each episode’s scenes. Another prime example is the pilot episode when Eric is called up from the basement high on reefer and is forced to hold a conversation with his parents (per Variety). This represents daytime responsibility (his parents) infringing upon his late-night fun (his friends). 

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