That 80s Show (Fox, 2002)
The American sitcom That 70s Show was a big success for Fox. It ran for 200 episodes and eight series from 1998-2006 (and some episodes were also shown on Channel 5). The show was successful enough for there to be the British version Days Like These that launched in 1999 (it definitely wasn’t a decent 90s ITV sitcom though, especially when compared to the similar The Grimleys).
So clearly someone thought that it would be a good idea to launch a variation, the same idea, but this time set it in the 80s, it should be a success. It was an example of an “if you liked that, you’ll like this” show. That 80s Show wasn’t shown in the UK, but I have tracked it down on YouTube. The reason I was interested in seeing it was because if you’re a regular you’ll know that I’m interested in 80s pop culture, so I wondered how it would be represented here.
That 80s Show was set in 1984 (remarkably, this year is now as far away as 1984 was in 2002 when this show was made, blimey) in San Diego, California. It centred around the lives of five people in their early-20s. The opening theme was “Eighties” by Killing Joke. Now I wondered if among other things the show would contain a punky-type woman in the cast because if you’ve some seen of my pieces on 80s pop music you’ll know I have become interested in all this.
The main character is Corey Howard who is an aspiring musician. His sister is Katie, his best friend is Roger, and Sophia is his ex-girlfriend. RT is Corey and Katie’s dad who works at Videx, a company that sells mail order exercise equipment. Corey gets a job a Permanent Record, where they sell vinyl and everything. The boss is Margaret who is very fussy about customers’ tastes, and throws them out if they ask for any Kajagoogoo. Also working there is Tuesday, and wait a minute…
…well would you believe it, indeed there was a punk-type character with a big attitude. How amusing. As the episodes progress, Corey and Tuesday begin to fall in love despite the culture clash. The cast also like to go to various nightclubs, that often seemed to be filled with yuppies and Madonna lookalikes. There were indeed lots of 80s pop culture references, and the show was soundtracked by songs from the time, including Heaven 17, Talking Heads, and many others.
They also liked to watch these new-fangled music videos on MTV, have a bowl of Franken Berry, and randomly reference old TV shows (Scarecrow And Mrs King), all in silly clothes. There were also some guest appearances from people who found fame in the 80s, including chart-topping singers Tiffany, Pat Benatar and Debbie Gibson, along with that guy who used to be in Duran Duran.
That 80s Show was a big flop with viewers, and it received a lot of bad reviews. Where That 70s Show had seemed to get the mix right, this one got it all wrong. It totally failed to duplicate the success of the original, and it quietly ended after 13 episodes and one series, never to be seen or referenced again. There hasn’t even been a DVD release (or a retro VHS one).