That '70s Show

That ‘70s Show Theory Finally Explains Those Timeline Issues

The confusing timeline of That '70s Show has often been criticized, but one fan theory explains that there is a reasonable explanation.

That ’70s Show is notorious for its timeline continuity issues, but a fan theory could explain how this works with the plot. The series is set in the 1970s and is stuffed full of nostalgia—even at the expense of accuracy. The characters listened to albums that wouldn’t have been released yet, or referenced events that shouldn’t happen until later in the decade. Still, the biggest issue was the amount of time that was supposed to have passed between season 1 and season 8—and how this just couldn’t have been possible.

When the story starts in That ’70s Show season 1, Eric Forman is 16 and in the 10th grade. From there, eight seasons went by, each containing some Holiday episode or other indication that full years were passing at the same pace as the real world. However, the crew didn’t graduate from high school until season 5, several years after they should have. These timeline issues have always been considered a comical fault of That ’70s Show, but according to a Reddit theory, there is a logical, in-plot explanation.

That ‘70s Show’s Timeline Continuity Can Be Blamed On “The Circle”


Season after season, Eric and his friends would sit in what was called ‘the circle’ in That ’70s Show. Audiences looked on from the center of this circle as the camera spun to show each character surrounded by a cloud of smoke, giggling uncontrollably at whatever ridiculous conversation the group had landed on. Of course, the implication is that the 1970s teenagers were smoking weed, which could be precisely why the passage of time in That ’70s Show is so confusing.

Marijuana is infamous for changing a person’s perception of time—and the That ’70s Show crew certainly smoked a lot of it. The substance is known to make a short amount of time drag on forever, and that could explain why the end of the 1970s took eight full seasons to explore. This could also explain some of the other continuity errors in the series. Perhaps Donna really did have a little sister, but from the perspective of the high teenagers, she stopped being noteworthy. Or, instead of eight Christmas or Thanksgiving episodes, maybe the group was remembering a few years that they confused to be many more.

How Much Time Actually Passed In That ’70s Show

The main cast of That '70s Show

Though eight years went by in the real world between the start and end of That ’70s Show, the in-wold timeline is much shorter. Halfway through season 1, Eric and the gang rang in the 1977 new year. Then, in the finale of season 8, the teenagers prepared to welcome the 1980s. This made sense since a series called “That ’70s Show” couldn’t exactly be set in the ’80s. However, this would mean that after all that time, only four years had passed.

Four years seems like such a short time when considering the years that audiences spent watching the characters grow. Hundreds of episodes took place over those years, containing fights, burns, kisses, break ups, and—of course—the circle. So, naturally, the timeline just doesn’t make sense. Ultimately, using the group’s love for smoking is a fun way to make That ’70s Show‘s timeline less confusing. However, when it comes to it, the series is more about fun and nostalgia than continuity.

That ‘70s Show Never Needed To Take Its Timeline Seriously


The primary purpose of That ’70s Show is to good-naturedly poke fun at a nostalgic period in many people’s lives. The 1970s left a sizeable mark on popular culture, and even those who never lived through the decade have an appreciation for the music, language, and fashion of the era. Ultimately, this means that That ’70s Show can be stuffed to the brim with inaccuracies and still be enjoyed. If the series had limited itself to a real-world timeline, then audiences would have been left with only a few seasons—and that just wouldn’t have been enough.

What’s more, the fact that That ’70s Show never took its continuity too seriously worked out in its favor. There were several other details that didn’t make sense, such as Fez never returning to his home country after the end of his first school year (or even graduation). The Netflix sequel, That ’90s Show, could’ve tried to explain this away, but it instead chose to call it out and make fun of itself. Ultimately, That ’70s Show never pretended to be anything it wasn’t, and whether its timing issues could be blamed on ‘the circle’ or not, the series pulls it off.

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