That '70s Show

Was That ’80s Show Connected To That ’70s Show? (Links Explained)

The connections between That '80s Show and That '70s show were unclear, which might have contributed to the lack of interest in the 2002 spinoff.

That ’80s Show was a spinoff from That ’70s Show which premiered on Fox in January 2002, but the connections between the shows were few and far between. The spinoff never lived up to the success of its parent show and was canceled four months later, ending up with a 13 episode run. Aside from their names, That ’80s Show and That ’70s Show didn’t appear to be all that much connected. However, a few links between the two sitcoms came to light, which incidentally became the only legacy left behind by That ’80s Show.

Initially, Fox wanted to do a more direct spinoff from That ’70s Show but ended up doing a show set in another decade. In the end, That ’70s Show also got canceled, but not before becoming a beloved hit with a large audience. That ’80s Show stumbled from the get-go. It also featured a teen ensemble that was consumed by the popular culture of their time, but the spinoff never excited the viewers like That ’70s Show did. If That ’80s Show had maintained stronger links to its predecessor, things might have turned out differently. Instead, it fell into sitcom oblivion, only to be heard from when freaks and geeks come out to discuss the odd connections between their favorite sitcoms and their failed spinoffs.

The only clear-cut on-screen link between That ’80s Show and That ’70s Show was the fact that Glenn Howerton’s character Corey Howard was the first cousin of Topher Grace’s Eric Forman. Off-screen, however, a lot of people were involved in both shows. Mark Brazill and Terry Turner co-created both That ’80s Show and That ’70s Show, Ronald W. Browne did all the cinematography, while David Trainer and Terry Hughes directed all episodes. A fun fact about the latter couple is that Hughes directed “That ’70s Pilot,” while Trainer did all the other episodes. Four years later, Trainer directed “That ’80s Pilot” but gave up the directors’ chair to Hughes for the rest of the show.

An even more obscure connection between the two sitcoms is the story of how Brittany Daniel got the part of Sophia, Corey’s ex-girlfriend, in That ’80s Show. Her audition included a guest appearance on That ’70s Show. She appeared in season 4, episode 14, “Eric’s Hot Cousin,” where she played Eric’s cousin Penny. In other words, Corey and Penny were the nephew and niece of Red and Kitty Forman. Whether Corey and Penny were siblings, each other’s cousins, or from either side of Red and Kitty’s family was never explained. The only known details about Penny are that she came from Florida and that she probably was from Kitty’s side of the family since Kitty stated that she was present at Penny’s birth.

Although it was based on the formula that made That ’70s Show successful, it failed in engaging its audience, which is why That ’80s Show was canceled after only 13 episodes. The lack of links between the shows might have contributed to the downfall of That ’80s Show, but truthfully spoken, the love that was put into the making of That ’70s Show never translated to That ’80s Show. The details made much of That ’70s Show magic but rarely stole focus from the character-driven comedy. That ’80s Show, on the other hand, tended to throw 80s references in the viewers’ faces while character development took a back seat. To be fair, superficiality fit the 80s style perfectly, but the lack of quality gags and character chemistry didn’t do That ’80s Show any favors.

In hindsight, the most interesting thing about That ’80s Show ended up being the few interesting insights about That ’70s Show that came with it. Aside from the underlined on-screen connection between Corey Howard and Eric Forman, the off-screen links connected the shows to a larger extent, which only goes to show that it takes more than proven sitcom-makers to re-create success. Hopefully, Netflix will get it right with their upcoming That ’70s Show spinoff: That ’90s Show.

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