That '70s Show: 11 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Nostalgic Hit Sitcom

Ashton Kutcher on That '70s Show
(Image credit: Carsey-Werner)

The world of That ‘70s Show was taken into a whole different era with the new Netflix original TV revival, That ‘90s Show, which was renewed for a second season not long after it premiered in January 2023. One of the most fun things about the Gen-X centered spin-off is the appearances by members of the original series’ cast, like series regulars Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith as Kitty and Red Forman, respectively, and Topher Grace and Laura Prepon as Eric and Donna, whose daughter, Leia, (Callie Haverda), is the show’s central character.

Originally airing on Fox, That ‘70s Show was one of the funniest and most unique sitcoms of its time, with humor that everyone could easily latch onto. However, it only gets more interesting the more you learn about what the cast and crew went through on set when the cameras were not rolling. See for yourself by checking out these groovy behind-the-scenes facts!

Mila Kunis as Jackie Burkhart in That '70s Show

(Image credit: Fox)

Mila Kunis Lied About Her Age In Her Audition

It is quite rare for a teenage character on a TV series to be played by an actual teen, but that just happened to be the case with Mila Kunis when she was first cast as Jackie Burkhart on That ‘70s Show. However, the producers of the show had no idea.

The Ukrainian-born actor made it “very clear” on a career retrospective video for Variety that, despite leaving the producers under the impression that she was 18 at the time of her audition, she was really just 14. In fact, Michael Kelso actor and Kunis’ future husband, Ashton Kutcher, later revealed on The Howard Stern Show that the first kiss their characters shared on the show was Kunis’ first kiss in real life.

Fez drinking beer in basement circle on That '70s Show

(Image credit: That '70s Show)

That ‘70s Show Went Through Multiple Working Titles

When Kunis and co. began filming the series that would make them A-listers, it did not even have an official name, according to an article from The Hollywood Reporter on the topic of choosing TV show titles. Executive producer Tom Werner shared how, after considering several names that referenced hit songs from the show’s set era — including Teenage Wasteland, The Kids Are Alright, and Feelin’ AlrightThat ’70s Show was finally chosen:

Finally, [co-creator] Bonnie Turner says, ‘You know, why don’t we just call it That ’70s Show? Because that’s what everyone is going to end up calling it anyway. No matter what we come up with, they’ll say, “Did you see that ’70s show?”’ We all looked at her and said, ‘You’re right.’ It was inspired.

The simplicity and matter-of-fact nature of the title could not be more perfect, as far as I am concerned. However, you cannot help but wonder, if other TV execs had the same mentality, Cheers could have been called That Show with the Bar or Seinfeld might have been That Comedian’s Show, to name a few.

Debra Jo Rupp on That '70s Show

(Image credit: Carsey-Werner)

Debra Jo Rupp Did Not Realize The Show’s 1970s Setting When She First Signed On

You know, if not for its title, the fashion choices, and many of its pop culture references, it is not too hard to imagine the eponymous time setting of That ‘70s Show going right over some viewers’ heads. In fact, even one of the series’ stars had no idea that show was actually set in the 1970s when she was cast.

Debra Jo Rupp reveals in a video for Entertainment Weekly — in which she and Kurtwood Smith look back on some of their favorite moments from the original series — that it was not until they began filming the pilot and she noticed the old fashioned appliances on the set that the retro time setting finally occurred to her. When Smith tries to argue that the title should have tipped her off, she reminds him that it was still not called That ‘70s Show yet.

Kurtwood Smith on That '70s Show

(Image credit: Fox)

The Role Of Red Forman Was Offered To Chuck Norris

Something that some younger viewers of That ‘70s Show may have not have known about Kurtwood Smith is that, before Red Forman, his most iconic role was Clarence Boddicker — the main antagonist of ‘80s sci-fi movie classic, RoboCop. Oddly enough, one of the producers' first choices to play the cantankerous sitcom dad was another legendary action movie star.

According to ScreenRant, martial artist-turned-actor Chuck Norris was given the opportunity to play Eric Forman’s father, but his commitment to his hit crime drama, Walker, Texas Ranger, forced him to turn it down. I think Smith was the perfect choice after all, but it is fun to imagine someone with Norris’ reputation exclaim Red’s profane catchphrase — “I’m gonna put my foot in your ass.”

topher grace in that '70s show

(Image credit: Fox/Peacock)

The Producers Discovered Topher Grace At A High School Play

That ‘70s Show was actually the first major gig for many of the younger members of the cast, such as Topher Grace, who had never acted professionally before. The future BlacKkKlansman star was on PeopleTV's Couch Surfing when he revealed how a chance encounter earned him the opportunity:

I had a weird origin story where I was in a high school play, and I was really only in that because I sprained my ankle, so I couldn't be on the tennis team. This was at a boarding school in New Hampshire. The girl who did the sets, her parents were big-time Hollywood producers and produced That '70s Show and 3rd Rock From the Sun, and they wrote Wayne’s World and Tommy Boy; stuff that I was really into at the time, and I still am. And they called me in my freshman year at USC – I was already out at USC in L.A. And they said, ‘Do you wanna come audition for the show?’ I’d never auditioned for anything in my life.

He goes on to mention how he had to be informed what a headshot was and ended up bringing a photo of him taken at Six Flags. Still, he clearly made an impression on them because he ended up playing Eric Forman for seven seasons!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Topher Grace on That '70s Show

(Image credit: Carsey-Werner)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Claims He And Topher Grace’s Kissing Scene Could Have Been Longer

An actor you might have forgotten was on That ‘70s Show for just one episode is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose character, Buddy, is revealed to be gay when he unexpectedly plants one on his lab partner, Eric. The future A-lister shared some interesting insight into that historic moment on a Reddit AMA thread:

I remember the director asking me and Topher to kiss longer, and then on the next take, kissing for what felt like several minutes. But when you watch it, our lips touched for probably less than a second.

According to ScreenRant, this historic moment was originally meant to be one of several appearances by JGL as Buddy, until the idea was scrapped. Luckily, the two-time Emmy winner bounced back pretty quickly.

Wilmer Valderrama as Fez on That '70s Show

(Image credit: Fox)

Wilmer Valderrama Bought Eric’s Vista Cruiser When The Show Ended

Another actor who has done very well since That ’70 Show’s curtain call is NCIS star Wilmer Valderrama. However, he still has a pretty epic way of remembering his days playing Fez that he took home with him from the set.

On an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, the comedian and talk show host was surprised to learn that the Venezuelan actor’s 1969 Vista Cruiser is the same one that belonged to Eric Forman on the show. Valderrama explained that, upon learning the show was entering its eighth and final season, he bought it from the set for $500 and has tried to keep in the same condition as it was on the show ever since.

Days Like These cast

(Image credit: Carsey-Werner)

A Pilot For A UK Remake Was Made In 1999

While it is the first to successfully do so, That ‘90s Show is not the first series subsequently inspired by That ‘70s Show. Even before the sitcom had concluded its first season, it already had been remade into a British show called Days Like These.

According to an article by The AV Club that also includes a link to the pilot, the remake was cancelled after just six episodes. Ironically, it is usually the American remakes of classic UK shows that don't quite make the cut.

That '80s Show cast

(Image credit: Carsey-Werner)

A Spin-Off Set In The ‘80s Was Attempted

You know what? That ‘90s Show is actually not the first spin-off of That ‘70s Show. While the sitcom was still relatively early into its run, Fox debuted a series set in the following decade that was aptly called That ‘80s Show.

According to a retrospective by Collider, the widely forgotten show’s only overt connection to its predecessor is that Corey Howard — played by future It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star and co-creator Glenn Howerton — is Eric Forman’s first cousin. However, we never got to see them meet because this show was cancelled after 13 episodes in 2002.

Donna and Eric fantasy sequence from That '70s Show

(Image credit: Fox)

Topher Grace Has Found Rewatching That ‘70s Show “Hard”

By appealing to fans wishing they could still use their Netflix subscription to watch That ‘70s Show, That ‘90s Show proved to be the first successful spin-off to the original. While the show would see Topher Grace reprising his role, the Eric Forman actor has said that reliving those days has not come easy for him in the past.

Before his cameo on the sequel series was confirmed, Grace appeared on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show to promote his ABC sitcom, Home Economics, and mentioned that he is not one to check out reruns of the comedy that made him famous. He adds that it simply makes him feel too nostalgic, as if he was watching his high school yearbook coming to life day after day.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis on That '90s Show

(Image credit: Netflix)

Mila Kunis “Called BS” On Jackie And Kelso’s That ‘90s Show Depiction

Another one of the most exciting cameos on That ‘90s Show was Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis as a married Kelso and Jackie, whose son, Jay (Mace Coronel), is part of Leia’s new friend group. However, one person who was not the biggest fan of this update in the characters’ lives is Kunis herself.

The actor reminded Access Hollywood that the original series ended with Jackie forming a relationship with Fez and claims it would have made more sense to see them together on the new series. Instead, Fez (who provides an explanation for the break-up) ends up dating Red and Kitty’s neighbor, Sherri (Andrea Anders), which does lead to some funny moments, nonetheless. Not to mention, I think seeing Kunis and Kutcher together in real life is probably to blame for this otherwise canonically nonsensical development.

I am actually hoping to see more characters from the original series eventually make an appearance on That ‘90s Show in Season 2, such as Luke Wilson as Kelso’s brother, Casey, or maybe even Josh Meyers as the otherwise widely unliked, Randy Peterson. Then again, the best way to revisit these characters will always be by rewatching That ‘70s Show — which you can do now with a Peacock Premium subscription.

Jason Wiese
Content Writer

Jason Wiese writes feature stories for CinemaBlend. His occupation results from years dreaming of a filmmaking career, settling on a "professional film fan" career, studying journalism at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO (where he served as Culture Editor for its student-run print and online publications), and a brief stint of reviewing movies for fun. He would later continue that side-hustle of film criticism on TikTok (@wiesewisdom), where he posts videos on a semi-weekly basis. Look for his name in almost any article about Batman.