That 70s Show - The Prom

"You see the world through your own time, which means that some values disappear and some values come into closer focus. Same film, same images, but in the case of a great film the power - a timeless power that really can't be articulated - is there even when the context has completely changed." 
- Martin Scorsese, "The Persisting Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema"

Today we're looking at "Prom Night," the 19th episode of the 1st season of -

It's hard to believe that That 70s Show has been off the air for 10 years. I was never a huge got-to-catch-the-new-episode sort of fan, but it was something I always enjoyed watching. It aired in March '99, so I imagine I saw it the night it originally aired; those were the last days of the ol' Sunday Night Line-up crew and That 70s Show had taken King of the Hill's place between The Simpsons and The X-Files. It hit the syndication double jackpot (200 episodes) which means, among other things, its cast will be receiving fat residuals for conceivably the rest of their lives.

The AV Club did a good overview of the show if you want the full bells-and-whistles treatment. For our purposes all you need to know if you've never seen it is the show focuses on a group of pot-smoking teens in 1970s Wisconsin: Eric Forman (Topher Grace, whose parents Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp are cast regulars - 

as are their friends / Donna's parents Bob (Don Stark) and Midge (Tanya Roberts)

- and whose basement is the show's main set), his girlfriend next door Donna (Laura Prepon), spoiled princess Jackie (Mila Kunis), her himbo boyfriend Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), foreign exchange student Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), and antiestablishmentarian Hyde (Danny Masterson). 

Not much to this one. It's a fun episode - the show rarely misfired - just not too much to say. But I'll give it the ol' college try.


Technically, yes, there's Season 4's "Tornado Prom" episode. That's the one that's the basis for the whole "Eric Is Dead" fan theory out there. But despite the title, "Tornado Prom" is about something called the "Snow King and Queen Ball." So the only real Prom episode is "Prom Night."

The junior prom, but still.

Our Prom Tropes include awkward photos -

- will-they-or-won't-they, going-with-someone-to-make-the-person-you-really-want-to-go-with-jealous, and one of the characters doing a big dance number. 

Specifically, Fez, who, after spending the prom hitting on his English teacher, dances to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive", as sung by the real Miss Gaynor herself. ("Mrs. Clark").

As for the two other tropes:


Or as this kid yells out as Eric and Donna arrive at the motel:

"Hey! It's Forman and Donna, and they're going to DO IT!"

Eric and Donna have yet to sleep together at this point in the show, so most of this episode is their separately wondering/ worrying whether that's going to happen after the prom. Eric is concerned with whether or not it will appear to be spontaneous, knowing Donna approves of that, and he imagines it both totally spontaneous (left, below) and overly planned out with forms and spelled-out-conditions (right).

Ultimately, the motel makes them feel awkward enough where they decide to return to the dance and put it all off until Season 2's "The First Time."


Kelso's and Jackie's on-again, off-again romance is a recurring focus of the first few seasons. She eventually ends up with Hyde (and even Fez in Season 8), which makes the set-up here interesting.

As she and Michael (aka Kelso) are in one of their "off" phases, he is going out with Pam Macy, "frequently mentioned for her physical attractiveness and promiscuity."
Pam (Jennifer Lyons ) appears on the show intermittently during the show's high school years.

The awfulness of Hyde's mother is an ongoing plot point (ultimately resulting in Hyde moving in with the Formans when his mother abandons him), and when Jackie goes to his house to pick him up, we hear her yell "They're all going to laugh at you!" at him before he can hurry out the door.

"Do you want me to meet your mother?"
"No. Trust me, she's lovely."

Naturally, at the dance, Hyde loses patience with the whole thing and gets the two talking to one another again. 

Hyde and Pam then leave together.

"Have you ever seen the backseat of a Lincoln Continental?"
"Lots of times."
"Would you like to see another one?"

Hyde's referring to Jackie's car, above. So I guess here we have another trope of sorts, albeit a more caddish one - getting taken to the prom by one girl, then hooking up in her car with a different one.



  1. Oh man, now I have to read that Scorcese book...

    1. Here you go: http://www.film-foundation.org/the-persisting-vision

      (I haven't read the whole thing, but I'm confident it's excellent.)

    2. Thanks.

      I should add that I want to see the alternate universe version of this prom episode with Telekinetic Hyde as Carrie.

  2. Of all the prom episodes you've covered, this one seems especially prommy. But it also seems like that show was built to accommodate a more traditional sort of prom episode than, say, "Friday the 13th."

    Fez hitting on the teacher -- would that plotline fly in 2015?

    I've seen bits of this show here and there, but not enough to have much of an opinion. Seems like the sort of thing I'd enjoy, though.

    1. Probably not re: Fez and the teacher, no. Or if they managed to get it off the runway, it'd probably be flying Law and Order: SVU Airlines, if this ridiculously overdone metaphor makes any sense.