When That '70s Show premiered in 1998 it was a groundbreaking sitcom. The majority of successful sitcoms at the time focused on either the lives of adults in the 90s – shows like Friends, Seinfeld and Frasier – or on families in the 90s, with shows like Home Improvement, Full House and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
There weren’t many sitcoms on the air that focused primarily on the lives of teens, and there certainly weren’t any that focused on the lives of teens in a previous decade. It was a new twist on the genre and audiences were immediately smitten – especially us 90s kids who thought a look back into what it was like for our parents to be teenagers was fascinating.
The show introduced us to the wacky, lovable and relatable gang of Point Place, Wisconsin. In many ways, it showed us that being a teenager is pretty much the same, no matter what decade you’re growing up in. Yeah, the pop culture and cultural norms are different, which is what made the show so interesting and hilarious, but the primary conflicts are the same.
However, there definitely were some storylines on the show that didn’t feel very relatable back then, and they definitely don’t feel relatable today. Sometimes that was the point – to showcase how sometimes the '70s were wacky – but some of the storylines wouldn’t fly if they were written into a show today.
20 The Episode Where They Rebelled
In the very first season of That '70s Show, the gang hears that President Ford is coming to the small town of Point Place. Since the gang is opposed to Ford's presidency, especially the fact that he pardoned Nixon, they decide to go streaking at the assembly where Ford will be speaking.
When the day of the assembly finally arrives, the gang decides to abandon their plan to streak because of the security at the event - except Eric, who does end up streaking across the gym wearing a Nixon mask!
Although the episode is hilarious, it definitely wouldn't happen on a modern sitcom. First of all, there's little chance that a sitting president would visit a town as small as Point Place. If they did, the security would be so tight that there's no way someone would be able to pull off streaking.
19 When They Go To The Drive-In Cinema
One of Eric and Donna's first dates in the inaugural season of That '70s Show was when they went to the see The Omen at the drive-in cinema. Going on a steamy date at the drive-in definitely isn't something you'd see on a show today. If there was a storyline that involved a drive-in (like on Riverdale), the implication of going to one wouldn't be what it was in the '70s, which was to get closer to your partner.
It might be a cute date idea, but it's definitely not a PDA-fest the way it was in this episode, so the whole storyline about Donna not wanting to go because she doesn't like PDA wouldn't make much sense on a contemporary show.
18 That Time Red And Kitty Went To A Party
Nothing really embodies the '70s like a party where the couples swap partners. The concept of free love loomed large in society and people were experimenting with all sorts of different relationship configurations. In this way, the '70s were a lot like today, where millennials are redefining relationships in all sorts of ways, especially with the rise of polyamorous relationships and communities.
The whole idea behind the episode was that uptight Red and his wife Kitty accidentally ended up at such a party and basically judged the heck out of everyone there. This storyline wouldn't happen on a modern show because there's a lot more tolerance for non-traditional relationships.
17 The Episode Where The Guys Use A CB Radio To Pick Up Girls
In the episode Parents Find Out in the second season, Kelso shows the guys the CB radio in his van and when they start talking into it, they start to get responses from girls - girls that they decide sound attractive. For the rest of the episode, Kelso, Hyde and Fez use the CB radio to try and arrange dates with these girls. When they finally meet the girls at the end of the episode, it turns out they're just as gorgeous as they sounded.
Though the storyline seems a little familiar - maybe like that time you and your friends gathered around Tinder - the methods used are completely foreign. Does anyone even know what a CB radio is anymore? Who meets people via voice alone?
16 When Red Disciplined Eric
In the episode Eric Gets Suspended, Donna makes the misguided decision to try and get her parents' attention by getting bad grades and smoking. While smoking at school, Donna almost gets busted, but Eric grabs the cig to cover for her. Unfortunately, he gets suspended for smoking at school and has to explain to his father, Red, why he got suspended. Red says if he wants to smoke then he should smoke a whole pack at once, with the goal being to make Eric sick and stop him from smoking.
While this was a common joke on TV shows in the 90s and early 2000s (on King of the Hill, for example, Hank also made Bobby smoke a whole pack when he was caught smoking), it's a storyline that would never happen on a show today. These days, we're more than aware of the dangers of smoking and it would basically be child abuse for a parent to make their kid smoke a pack.
15 The Roller Disco Episode
In the episode aptly titled Roller Disco, a roller-disco competition comes to town and Jackie desperately wants to compete. In case you have no idea what a roller disco competition is (and why would you?) it's where dance partners perform a choreographed routine on roller skates at a roller rink.
Jackie wants Hyde to perform with her, but it's not his thing, and though Kelso wants to perform with Jackie, she's not interested. This leaves her with Fez as her partner, who actually turns out to be very talented.
This episode is so very '70s, which is the point, but it's so '70s that it almost ends up being incomprehensible. Most people today have never been to a roller-skating rink, and even those who have usually just go to skate in a circle and be silly with friends. There's a very small subculture of people who still take roller skating seriously, but not enough that a storyline about a roller disco would make sense on a modern show.
14 When The Gang Goes To Canada
Since the That '70s Show gang is underage, they often have a hard time getting beer. The guys decide to make a trip across the border to Canada, where it's easier for them to get what they're looking for. However, everything goes wrong when they discover that Fez left his green card at home and they have to smuggle him across the border. When they're trying to come back to Wisconsin, they get stopped by the Mounties and have to relinquish their beers.
There are so many reasons why this storyline wouldn't fly today. For one, they would never be allowed to bring the beer back over the border. If they were caught by the Mounties like they were in the episode and found to be underage in possession of beer, they could face serious consequences. And, if Fez didn't have his green card, there's no way he'd be allowed back into the U.S. In fact, he'd be detained and perhaps deported.
Things might've been more lax in the '70s, but crossing the border is a big deal these days.
13 The Whole Big Rhonda Storyline
For the majority of Season Four of That '70s Show, Fez's romantic energy is channelled into his relationship with Big Rhonda. And yes, everyone actually calls her Big Rhonda, mostly because she's tall, but also because she's a bit thicker than the rest of the ladies on the show. Rhonda has a giant personality, too - she's brash, open with her affection and never afraid to speak her mind.
Pretty much the entire storyline surrounding Big Rhonda is about how she's not feminine, how her body doesn't fit the standards of the gang and how she's too loud and opinionated. Essentially, it's all about body-shaming her and shaming her for being a strong, feminist woman.
A storyline like this would never fly today. Though body shaming is still all too common, it's much less tolerated. Being a strong, feminist woman is considered an asset rather than a liability. A character like Big Rhonda would be commonplace in a modern show, but the way she's treated by the gang wouldn't be acceptable.
12 The Musical Episode
Pretty much every single popular show in the early 2000s did a musical episode. For the most part these episodes were absolute disasters (looking at you, musical episode of Grey's Anatomy), and the musical episode of That '70s Show was no exception. Fez's daydreams featuring his friends performing various '70s hits was weird, and not in a good way. And, for the most part, the performances themselves were just as weird. Some actors just shouldn't sing!
Luckily, these days we've learned our lesson about musical episodes. They just don't happen that much anymore. They had their moment, and thankfully that moment has passed. Hopefully no one tries to revive this trend. We definitely don't need it.
11 The Jackie, Kelso, Hyde Relatiopnship
Love triangles are a cornerstone of any show about teenagers. The drama created by one person being in love with another person who's in love with someone else, or having two people desperately in love with the same person, makes for great TV. There's no arguing that.
However, in contemporary shows, these love triangle storylines are rife with intricate backstories, multiple betrayals and twists that leave us with our mouths hanging open. By comparison, the love triangle between Jackie, Kelso and Hyde from That '70s Show seems ridiculous.
The Jackie, Kelso, Hyde love triangle lacks the depth of today's compelling love triangles. Jackie's petulant bouncing between Kelso and Hyde on a whim rarely ever makes sense and the fact that both of them continue to put up with it becomes annoying after a season or two, and unfortunately their love triangle spans the entirety of the show. You definitely wouldn't see relationships like this on a show today.
10 Jackie's Character And Relationships In General
In fact, all of Jackie's relationships in That '70s Show are pretty ridiculous by today's TV relationship standards. Jackie is a selfish, vain, attention-seeking brat and unfortunately her character doesn't experience much growth until the very end of the show.
The way she treats the guys around her is unfair. She uses Hyde and Kelso to boost her self-esteem. When she wants to feel wanted and better about herself, she pits them against each other and feeds off their jealousy. They tolerate it because they both have real feelings for her. It's not until they both stop putting up with her BS that Jackie finally examines her behaviour and changes a bit - but not before exploiting Fez's feelings for her.
A character like Jackie wouldn't really work in a modern show, and the way that she treats her romantic interests definitely wouldn't fly. These days, the expectation of TV relationships is that they're realistic and relatable, and Jackie and her relationships are anything but.
9 The Whole Nina/Fez Storyline
During Season Five of the show, Fez's main love interest is his boss at the DMV, Nina Bartell. When they finally start dating, which takes a lot of persistance on Fez's part, Nina doesn't want him to meet her parents, and she avoids the subject of why. Later in the season it's revealed that Nina's parents are racist and they wouldn't be comfortable with her dating Fez. Then it comes out that part of the reason Nina is dating Fez is to piss off her racist parents.
A lot of the storylines involving Fez wouldn't fly today because of the increased focus on racial relations, and this storyline is no exception. Though the storyline of a love interest having racist parents is one that definitely would be explored in a modern show, the storyline of dating a person of colour specifically to annoy racist parents would be seen as incredibly offensive by today's audiences, because it is incredibly offensive.
8 Jackie And Hyde Living With Their Friends After Their Parents Leave
Throughout the show there's a common theme when it comes to Hyde and Jackie's parents - they're always leaving. Hyde is abandoned by his mother in the early seasons of the show and his father, Bud, who we later find out is actually his step-father, abandoned him years earlier. Though Jackie's parents don't abandon her, they never seem to be around, and eventually, her mom does actually leave her to live in Mexico.
Both of them end up essentially homeless and for a while they secretly live in Eric's basement. When discovered, the Formans say it's okay to stay and they just live there without any drama.
Though being abandoned by parents is a common storyline in TV shows about teenagers, the way it went down in That '70s Show would never happen on a show today. Red and Kitty would have to jump through all sorts of legal hoops in order for Hyde and Jackie to stay with them. This situation would never be as casual as it was on the show.
7 Jackie's Parents
There are plenty of storylines about parents that aren't very present for their kids because this is a relatively common experience in today's society. However, the absence of Jackie's parents on the show goes beyond anything that's believable.
Jackie pretty much lives alone, barely ever interacting with her parents. When her mom leaves for Mexico, her dad isn't around. If this happened today, she would have to be placed in a foster home. There's no way that she'd be allowed to just bounce around from friend's house to friend's house until she turned 18 like she does on the show.
6 Fez Marrying Laurie To Get His Green Card
In the last episode of Season Five, the gang finds out that Fez's student visa is about to expire, which means that he could be deported. Obviously, the gang is devastated at the idea of losing Fez.
Laurie Forman, Eric's sister, comes to visit and talks with Fez about the situation. During that conversation she offers to marry him so he can stay in the country, and he agrees. They get married and when they tell Red, he has a heart attack. In the next season, the newlyweds are under investigation by the INS and struggle to prove that their marriage is authentic, which, of course, it isn't.
This is a storyline that definitely wouldn't happen on a modern show. Given the current state of affairs around undocumented citizens in the U.S., the consequences of faking a marriage so that one person could stay in the country are just too big to take the risk.
5 That Time The Guys Took The Toys From The Toy Drive
During the seasons of That '70s Show the guys pull some pretty ridiculous pranks, some of them pretty harmless and some of them pretty malicious. During the episode called Winter in Season Seven, the guys pull a prank that definitely wouldn't land well on a modern television show.
Kitty is hosting a Christmas Toy Drive and the guys decide to steal the toys and play with them. They eventually return the toys, but only after they've already unboxed them, played with them and re-wrapped them.
Although their theft is played off as a childish prank, the kind of thing they do all the time, it's something audiences today wouldn't find all that funny. There's not really any humour in stealing from a Toy Drive.
4 Donna Getting Fired For Not Doing A Promo
One of the major storylines in Season Seven is Donna's job at the radio station. In the episode It's All Over Now, Donna gets a new assistant, Sarah. Though Sarah knows very little about music, she knows all about getting what she wants through flirting and showing off her rocking bod. When Sarah suggests that Donna promote an event by posing for a billboard in a bikini, Donna refuses. When Sarah offers to do the bikini billboard instead, Donna's boss fires Donna on the spot.
Obviously, this story would never make it on a show today. It's totally illegal to fire someone for not being willing to pose in a bikini, unless the job is bikini modelling! And, although some bosses are unfortunately creeps who force their employees to do things they aren't comfortable with, there's much less tolerance for this kind of creepiness than there was back in the day.
3 Leo's Whole Backstory
Leo is one of the most hilarious characters on That '70s Show. He's the resident hippie, which obviously makes him a great nemesis for Red, Eric's prudish dad. Leo provides a lot of comic relief throughout the show, mostly by being a completely zoned-out stoner.
However, Leo's character kind of falls apart when we find out about his backstory. In the sixth season we find out that Leo was a WWII veteran and a very successful businessman until one time that he smoked up in the 60s. The implication is that his life basically fell apart because he smoked ONCE.
This backstory would never work today. In most U.S. states and in all of Canada, weed is legal and people use it recreationally all the time. The idea that smoking once would ruin someone's life is a completely ridiculous idea in today's world.
2 Hyde's (Fake) Marriage
Was there any more annoying character on the show than Sam, the dancer that Hyde kind of married in Vegas? Probably. But she definitely ranked in the top ten.
When Hyde goes to Vegas after finding Jackie and Kelso together, he marries Sam during a drunken escapade. Hyde heads back to Point Place, not even remembering the marriage, but Sam soon shows up and informs him that she's his wife - which, of course, leads to all sorts of drama with Jackie. Sam then sticks around for way too long before revealing that their marriage wasn't even really legal.
This storyline was a ridiculous stretch to begin with. What woman, who's probably making it as a dancer in Vegas, follows some dude she accidentally kind of married back to Wisconsin? If a show tried to pull off this story today, we'd all be turning off our TVs.
1 The Water Tower
One of the most iconic places in the town is the Water Tower. Whenever the gang wants to get out of Eric's basement - and drink without being caught - they head up to the Water Tower. Some of the funniest and most pivotal scenes in the show happened at the Water Tower.
However, some of the most ridiculous things happened there, too - like that time their friend fell off the Water Tower and died. Actually, pretty much all of the guys fell off the Water Tower at some point.
The Water Tower was a supremely dangerous location. Today, a place like that would be impossible to gain access to because it would be blocked off.Everything that took place there would more likely take place at a party location in the woods or on a remote beach in a modern TV show.
References: IMDB, Wikipedia