Great Series Finales: Revisiting “That ’70s Finale”
In this decade, it’s extremely difficult to find a sitcom that is as perfect as That ‘70s Show was. This show was, and still is, one of the best coming-of-age/high school set sitcoms (after Freaks and Geeks, of course). It’s probably not the first finale that comes to mind when thinking about greatest television finales, but for me, it’s way up there.
With good vibes, brilliant writing, and excellent characters that actually evolve That ‘70s Show is, to me, the ideal sitcom. What starts off as a comedy centered on the ‘70s, with a boy with mistaken ideals and a lack of confidence, soon turns into a series of memories, with six characters who weren’t adults but conflicted and hilarious teenagers who have an entire decade to figure out who they are and what exactly it is they should do with their lives.
The show had an excellent cast, brilliant cameos, and a number of hilarious running gags, as well as great references to a number of television shows and films. The dynamic characters shared were absolutely fantastic, and the show never failed to entertain its viewers. That ‘70s Show also maintained the correct balance of emotion and comedy, something a lot of contemporary sitcoms struggle with today.
Arguably there was a decline in quality when both Ashton Kutcher and Topher Grace departed before the final season, but it was never terrible in the way that The Simpsons became unbearable to watch. Their replacements – Bret Harrison as Charlie and Josh Meyers as Randy – weren’t great, and some of the storylines (Hyde’s stripper wife and Jackie and Fez becoming a couple) suggested they were running out of ideas but the finale really makes up for these weaker seasons.
The finale for That ‘70s Show actually consists of two episodes. The first is “Love of My Life,” which is actually the funnier of the two and “That ‘70s Finale”, which feels more like an ode to the show that provides hilarity through memories of the greater seasons. The first episode features the very amusing Justin Long as a good friend of Fez’s. Staying faithful to a running gag, he does very little to help the gang figure out the mysterious country Fez calls home. Meanwhile, in an extremely clever subplot, Hyde decides to quit smoking weed, leading the rest of the gang to do what they usually do when a friend is in need. The glory days are long over for That ‘70s Show, but “Love of My Life” is still a solid installment, with several moments of hilarity with excellent lines of dialogue.
The actual final episode, appropriately titled “That ‘70s Finale”, focuses on something beautifully simple to bring the show to a close, the gang celebrating New Years’ Eve and the end of an era. It’s clear things really are coming to an end as the characters rush to resolve their troubles just in time for the midnight countdown. By the end of the night, Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and Red (Kurtwood Smith) decide against moving to Florida, Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) and Jackie (Mila Kunis) successfully transition from friends to an item, Kelso comes back for a New Year’s visit and Donna waits for Eric’s arrival before setting off to begin college. The time of Eric’s arrival and that tearful goodbye become the driving plot and crucial moment of the finale.
In the past, a number of finales have chosen to incorporate the tactic of showing flashbacks, but none of them have done it as well as That ‘70s Show. A very huge part of the show’s comedy is hysterical running jokes, and we get to revisit their greatness through a number of quickly cut montages. Particular favorites include returning to the many times Hyde (Danny Masterson) hit Kelso and the several times Red threatened to put his foot in everybody’s ass. (The show should also be applauded for its continuity, as Fez tries to draw over Michael’s graffiti on the Water Tower.)
Ending this perfect finale, we see the last “circle” moment, where Hyde remembers a car that runs on water (an obvious homage to “That ‘70s Pilot”), and the countdown begins. Instead of showing us them all hugging and celebrating, when the countdown reaches one, the scene abruptly changes the license plate logo with the new year, 1980. Finally, the credits are exactly the same as they were in the pilot episode – the gang riding along in the Vista Cruiser singing Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me.”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.