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Television Wed Sep 14 2011

Sitcom Cast Change Countdown #6: That '70s Debacle

As silly and campy as it was, That '70s Show had a way of just making you feel good. But the show also stands as a classic example of a sitcom outliving its stars. By the final season, Topher Grace, who played Eric Forman, had decided to move on.

It's hard enough to keep on trucking without your main character, but fan favorite Kelso (Ashton Kutcher, whose upcoming role on Two and a Half Men inspired this countdown) was also missing from the final season. In their place came the uninspiring Randy (Josh Meyers) and a slew of changes to keep things remotely plausible. The gang could still hang out in the Formans' basement, because Steven lived there with his new stripper wife, Samantha. But the action could also take place at Grooves, the record store where Hyde and Randy worked, or at Fez and Jackie's new apartment. With all that excitement, who needs a central character!

Perhaps the producers felt they could get away with such drastic moves because the show had established a tradition of cast changes early on. For evidence of this, we need look no further than the general category of "moms": Hyde's mom (Katey Sagal) just plain left; when Tanya Roberts (who played Donna's mom, Midge Pinciatti) wanted to leave the show, Donna's parents divorced, and an entire new plotline developed. And don't forget Jackie's mom -- played by Eve Plumb (of Brady Bunch fame) in an early episode, Mrs. Burkhart was later played by Brooke Shields, eventually moving in with Donna's dad. Then she disappeared as suddenly as she came. Oh, and then there was Laurie, Eric's slutty older sister. Played by Lisa Robin Kelly for the first few seasons, she was later replaced by Christina Moore, and then vanished from the series altogether.

Whew. That's a lot of changes. Just like the turbulent, go-go '70s themselves. Oh, wait. That was the '60s. And the '80s. But you get the picture.

Check out the rest of the countdown:
#7: The Hogan Family
#8: A Death in the Family
#9: The One with the Magical Morphing Baby
#10: Saved by the Bell

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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