Delving into the past for laughs is a tricky thing to accomplish, but late ’90s/early ’00s sitcom That ’70s Show managed that very feat. Eric, Kelso, Fez and co. perfectly encapsulated the time period with clothes, music, jokes and cultural references all used to establish its retro style.
And with the acting alumni that appeared on the show, as well as their successful endeavors after its conclusion, there’s certainly no denying its influence. But there’s plenty of things that you may not know about the ’70s sitcom. So feast your eyes upon our list of 20 secrets about That ’70s Show that the producers didn’t want you to find out.
20. Real-life inspiration
The great Kurtwood Smith was one of the highlights of the show as Red Forman, but it turns that out much of his inspiration for the part came from his stepfather. Smith told the A.V. Club in 2014, “I did not write any of those jokes, but when I first auditioned for the role and from then on, I always had my stepdad in mind.”
19. First kiss
A first kiss is pretty nerve-racking on its own, but the anxiety must increase tenfold when in front of the camera. Mila Kunis, however, found herself in precisely this position on That ’70s Show, with her first ever kiss being with none other than future husband Ashton Kutcher. She told People in 2001, “I was so nervous and uncomfortable. I had the biggest crush on him.”
18. That hard-to-name show
Coming up with a catchy name for a TV show is quite a hard feat, which probably explains why That ’70s Show had so many title changes. Three to be exact, with execs considering Teenage Wasteland, The Kids Are Alright and Feelin’ All Right before settling with its now iconic name.
17. Saturday Night Live can wait
That ’70s Show would’ve been nothing without the writers, and Will Forte was certainly one of the key players when it came to penning stellar comedy. In fact, Forte actually turned down an offer to work on Saturday Night Live in order to remain on the sitcom. Job security and a fear of failing kept him there, before he finally made the jump to SNL the next year following a second offer.
16. Laura Prepon had a blonde moment
As the quick-witted Donna, Laura Prepon certainly stood out as one of the highlights of the show. But do you know why she really dyed her iconic red locks blonde? In the show, it was explained as a spontaneous post-breakup decision. In reality, however, it was because the actress had landed a role in the 2006 crime movie Karla.
15. Landing a venomous role
Not to be outdone by his fellow co-star Laura Prepon, Topher Grace also decided to kick start his movie career during his ’70s Show years. He bagged a role in Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3, playing Eddie Brock/Venom. And Grace had to take some time off from the sitcom in 2005 in order to work on the blockbuster motion picture.
14. Josh Meyers as Eric?
When it came time for Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace to leave the show, another character was added in during the eighth season to fill the void. Enter Josh Meyers as Randy Pearson. However, Meyers was initially brought on board to replace Grace as Eric. But after much deliberation, the writers scrapped the plan and went with the Randy character instead.
13. Apparently not so graceful with his fellow cast members
Allegedly, not everything was hunky-dory behind the scenes on the show. And most of the blame has been pointed at Topher Grace, who some believe wasn’t too fond of his cast mates. E! True Hollywood Story reported that Grace felt like he was being overshadowed by Kutcher. On top of this, his brief stint in the finale wasn’t all that endearing. Grace, however, denies these statements.
12. Mila Kunis told fibs to get the part
That ’70s Show marked the first time audiences got acquainted with actress Mila Kunis. Of course, Kunis is now a huge movie star, but you may be surprised to learn that she actually lied to get the part in the sitcom. Yes, despite only being 14 at the time, Kunis told producers that she was coming up to 18. Tut-tut!
11. The license plate chronicled the show’s time frame
Just because the show aired for eight seasons, it doesn’t mean that it reflected the time span in the show. In fact, the events of the sitcom only spanned four years. How do we know this? Well, by the license plate on Eric’s car. If you look closely after the theme song’s finished, you can see the fictional year that each episode takes place in.
10. Ironic royalty payments
You’d think that writing the theme song for a hit TV sitcom would pay pretty handsomely. Well, not in the case of Alex Chilton, the co-writer of That ’70s Show’s theme song. Chilton told Rolling Stone in 2000, “It’s actually ironic that the amount is $70. To me it’s ‘That $70 Show.’” At least he’s got a sense of humor!
9. Mila Kunis was at a height disadvantage with Laura Prepon
What do you do when you’re six inches shorter than your co-star? In the case of the shorter Mila Kunis and the taller Laura Prepon, you wear huge heels or stay seated. Yes, these tactics were necessary in order to keep Kunis in the shot with her larger counterpart.
8. Fooling the censors
One of the most recognizable recurrences on the show were the camera-spinning confessionals, otherwise known as “the stoner circle.” But while the mind-altering sequence clearly indicated that the characters were high, due to censors, this couldn’t be shown explicitly. And thus a more creative approach was required.
7. Tanya Roberts made a noble exit
Tanya Roberts played the unscrupulous role of Donna’s mother, Midge, to perfection. But in reality, Roberts couldn’t have been more different. In fact, her sudden departure in season four was an honorable one: she left to take care of her terminally ill husband.
6. Love/hate relationship
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis might be married now, but they weren’t always so fond of each other. In fact, they allegedly couldn’t stand one another during their time on That ’70s Show. And so an old friend of the pair, surprised at their blossoming relationship since, told Radar Online, “The two were never close on the set. Quite the opposite!”
5. Tommy Chong ended up in the joint
Fans of the show may have wondered just where huge stoner Leo disappeared to during the show’s run. Well, in real life Leo actor Tommy Chong was sent to prison for selling drug paraphernalia. And this was actually a real case of life imitating art for the Cheech & Chong star. Chong did, however, return to the sitcom following his release.
4. Fez is actually an acronym for something else
Fez elicited much laughter on the show, but how exactly did he get the name? Well, it’s actually an acronym for foreign exchange student. The other characters on the show struggled to pronounce his actual name, so Fez was the alternative choice.
3. Tragic ending for one of the cast members
Lisa Robin Kelly was known on the show as Eric’s sister Laurie, and it looked like the actress had a promising career ahead of her. Sadly, however, an addiction to alcohol got the better of Kelly, leading to her departure from the show in 2003. And the actress’ vices continued to plague her, right up until her death in 2013. Aged just 43 years old, she passed away due to cardiac arrest.
2. A teary farewell
Saying goodbye to something you hold dear isn’t easy, and the cast of That ’70s Show were no different. In fact, during the reading for the series finale of the show, several of the cast members broke down trying to recite their lines. It was clearly an emotional time, but the group eventually pulled it together and delivered their swansong.
1. Topher Grace was spotted in a school production
Topher Grace was an inspired choice for the level-headed Eric, but did you know that he was initially spotted in a high school play? Yes, his friend’s parents just so happened to be the creators of the show, and they spotted the 17-year-old up-and-comer in an amateur production. And the rest, they say, is history.