That '70s Show

The Real Reason Leo Wasn’t In Season 5 Of That ’70s Show

There’s no hiding the influence that stoner comedies had on “That ’70s Show.” Though we never actually see Eric Forman (Topher Grace) or his cohorts smoking pot, the series makes too many references towards marijuana for its iconic Circle scenes to be anything but smoking sessions, but that’s really no surprise. Marijuana use was a major part of the movements that the main characters of “That ’70s Show” are made to represent.

But that’s only half of the series’ tributes to toking. It also hearkens back to classic stoner comedies with Leo, the middle-aged hippie friend that semi-frequently tags along on the group’s misadventures. Not only is Leo a representation of the stereotypical burnt-out pothead, but he’s also played by an icon in stoner culture, Tommy Chong. In the real world, Chong earned his fame throughout the 1970s as one-half of the stoner comedy duo Cheech & Chong, along with Richard “Cheech” Marin. Through films like “Up in Smoke,” Cheech & Chong became household names, and Leo became every stoner’s favorite sitcom guest star.

For a time, however, it seemed as if that role was meant to be short-lived. Between seasons 5 and 6 of “That ’70s Show,” Leo was nowhere to be found. Of course, many fans missed the maestro of Mary Jane, but it couldn’t be helped. Whether they knew it or not, Chong was simply out of commission in Season 5, though the real reason behind his disappearance probably won’t surprise you.

Chong was out serving jail time for selling bongs

Leo talking to Eric Forman

It shouldn’t be too much of a shock that Tommy Chong has had some trouble with the law. The guy basically built his career on doing something that, for a long time, was illegal. But while Chong made most of his movie money using artistic expression as a shield from police, the same cannot be said for his family business. In 2003, before Season 5 of “That ’70s Show” was released, Chong was arrested and charged for selling drug paraphernalia (via The Guardian). He, like many of the thousands of legal head shop proprietors across the country, had been selling glass pipes. The only difference is that Chong had been selling his goods across state lines over the internet.

In order to keep his wife and child from being prosecuted along with him, Chong pleaded guilty to the charges and wound up spending nine months in prison. This explains his extended absences in Seasons 5 and 6 of “That ’70s Show,” after which Leo returned to the fold as if nothing had happened.

Behind the scenes, however, much had happened to Chong. In an interview with The Guardian, Chong revealed that he spent most of his time in jail reading the I Ching, and attained a sense of peace. Despite coming out of jail with a cleaner mind and spirit, however, Chong’s smoking habits have remained the same. Though on the other hand, that’s to be expected.

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