No, it’s not your glasses. And it’s not a printing error, either. The set of Fox’s That ’70s Show really is that butt-ugly. But hey, at least it’s frighteningly evocative. ”When I walked onto that set, I went, ‘Oh my God…”’ shudders Debra Jo Rupp, who plays the sitcom’s eager-beaver Wisconsin housemom Kitty Forman. ”That washer and dryer? My washer and dryer. The burnt orange-brown fridge? My fridge. The exact same. I almost died.”
As you can see, here on Stage 2 of the CBS Radford lot in Studio City, Calif., they take this Me Decade thing rather seriously (someone even went so far as to post an old photograph of Fox Broadcasting Entertainment president Doug Herzog sporting a big ‘fro). But this ’70s television time warp is about more than showcasing groovy gewgaws and shagadelica. ”This is a middle-class family attempting to be stylish with the money that they have,” explains production designer Garvin Eddy. ”They have teardrop lamps. They have an organ. They have National Geographics. And for some reason, they have a built-in bar…. This is what Middle America was all about.” Fortunately, taste, like time, marches on. Observes Wilmer Valderrama (Fez), ”There was huge confusion in the ’70s about what cool was.” Adds set decorator Tara Stephenson: ”The scary part is, there’s even more ugly stuff out there.”
”I feel like I’m in a garage sale,” observes Ashton Kutcher, a.k.a. Kelso. Behold the grubby sofa (recently taped up after an arm collapsed), the trippy hanging lamp ($150 at an L.A. collectibles store), and the ELO poster. While the cast often relaxes here between scenes, Danny Masterson has a beef about the white chair his character Hyde favors. ”It’s the most uncomfortable thing ever,” he sighs. ”I’ve tried to form my ass into it for 35 episodes, but it’s still lumpy.”
This stereo was pretty happenin’ for its time, considering it has an eight-track, a turntable, and a cassette tape player. ”I’m constantly looking through the records,” notes Masterson. ”There’s always something new on top — usually something really bad.” Beneath Bob Seger and Linda Ronstadt, we found Go for Baroque! Greatest Hits of the 1700s! Talk about retro.
The pile of goodies under the stairwell isn’t merely set dressing; the gang plays with the View-Master and pulls out board games like Monopoly during downtime. As for that ratty six-string, says Valderrama, ”Ashton always tries to impress us with his guitar playing.” Adds star Topher Grace (Eric Forman), ”He’s like, ‘Guess this song…’Stairway to Heaven’!”
Expecting a close-up of a joint? Sorry, it’s all legal down here — especially after the domino-style roach clip mysteriously disappeared last season. Instead, the cast gets its kicks by reading the handful of vintage Ka-Zar comic books that are lying around. ”What you have to understand about Ka-Zar,” explains Grace, ”is that he’s just a normal guy hanging out with his saber-toothed tiger, but then he’ll whip it all off and get naked.” Still, even Tarzan manques can get tedious. ”We’ve had the same ones since the pilot,” he sighs. ”So I think we’ve breezed through all of them a few times.”