Release Date: April 3, 2012 (Mill Creek Entertainment)
Packaging: Keepcase with black paper sleeves
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 27
Running Time: 618 minutes
Running Time of Features: 36 minutes
Audio: English Stereo
Subtitles and Captioning: Closed-Captioned
Special Features: Commentaries (3 episodes); "Season 4 in 4 Minutes" featurette; "Making Company: David Trainer on Directing That '70s Show" featurette; "A '70s Show Flashback: Laura Prepon" featurette; "A '70s Show FlashBack: Laura Prepon" featurette; Episode Promos
Boogie on down to the basement for another groovy season with our favorite friends from the '70s! That '70s Show returns to DVD with That '70s Show - Season Four, a Mill Creek value priced rerelease (originally released by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) of the hit Fox series from just a few short years ago. The three disc set contains all 27 episodes from the 2001-2002 season of the series, where we see the aftermath of the Donna and Eric breakup, Hyde moving back in with the Formans, Kitty wanting to redo the basement, and Donna deciding to relocate to California. It's another groovy adventure back to the '70s with all of your favorite characters!
Eric wishes that he and Donna had never kissed in "It's a Wonderful Life," and an angel shows him what life would have been like if he hadn't. In "Eric's Depression," Eric deals with the heartbreak of the breakup between him and Donna. Eric won't let Donna into his basement in "Pinciotti vs. Forman." The gang throws a party so Hyde can get a girl in "Hyde Gets the Girl." In "Bye-Bye Basement," Hyde moves back in with the Formans; meanwhile, Kitty decides it is time to renovate the basement. In the two episode arc "The Relapse" and "Uncomfortable Ball Stuff," Eric and Donna could possibly just end up back together... maybe. Donna writes a school newspaper story which makes Eric look bad in "Donna's Story." Kelso replaces Eric when Red shoots an instructional video for Price Mart stock employees in "Forgotten Son."
In "Red and Stacey," Red's matchmaking efforts for his son don't quite go as planned. Eric doesn't like the idea of Hyde's new girlfriend hanging out with them in "The Third Wheel." Eric directs the church Christmas pageant in "An Eric Forman Christmas." In "Jackie Says Cheese," Jackie gets a new job as a cheese maiden at a local mall. Eric's cousin comes to visit in "Eric's Hot Cousin." In "Tornado Prom," Eric and Donna are forced to stay at the radio station during the annual school prom. In "Donna Dates a Kelso," Donna gets a date with Kelso, but not Michael, rather his brother Casey (played by Luke Wilson). Kelso decides to donate sperm to pay for a Valentine's Day gift for Jackie in "Kelso's Career." Leo falls for Kitty in "Leo Loves Kitty."
Jackie's boss (played by Christopher Masterson) kisses her in "Jackie's Cheese Squeeze," which Eric catches and decides to blackmail her with. Everybody looks back at how they met in "Class Picture." The guys are trying to get back at Kelso in "Prank Day." In "Eric's Corvette Caper," Eric decides to take Red's Corvette out on a date to impress a girl, but Red doesn't know that. Kitty wants to throw a surprise party for Hyde's 18th birthday in "Hyde's Birthday," but he doesn't want one. Fez stars in the school musical pageant in "That '70s Musical." In "Eric's False Alarm," Eric learns that Casey and Donna are going to spend the night at a hotel. Eric wants to turn everybody against Casey in "Everybody Loves Casey." The season ends with yet another cliffhanger episode, "Love, Wisconsin Style," where everybody seems to be falling out of love.
This is the first opportunity in which I've been able to do a direct comparison to the runtimes of the Fox release of the series (since our original review included those review times), and the runtimes here are mostly about six or seven seconds shorter than those on the Fox release. However, I don't think there is anything to be concerned about regarding that issue, because the episodes on this set which have commentaries all have the exact same runtime as the Fox versions (which would allow them to match the timing of the commentaries), and I noticed that those episodes have a much more black space after the fade to commercials than the other episodes. In other words, Mill Creek has removed about six seconds of dead space in each episode. I can't personally speak as to what has been and hasn't been edited as far as music, but my understanding is that not all original music on any of the releases, so that is likely the case here as well. Runtimes are as follows:
1. "Itís a Wonderful Life (22:07)
2. "Ericís Depression" (22:15)
3. "Pinciotti vs. Forman" (22:07)
4. "Hyde Gets the Girl" (22:07)
5. "Bye-Bye Basement" (22:06)
6. "The Relapse" (22:07)
7. "Uncomfortable Ball Stuff" (21:47)
8. "Donnaís Story" (21:46)
9. "The Forgotten Son" (21:47)
Annoying black paper sleeves. That sums up the otherwise nice packaging. On the cover, we have a cast photo with an "enlarged" Fez, and of course, the stereotypical disco ball. It is very nice and professional looking. There is another cast photo, as well as a season description and special features listing on the back. But when you open up the case, you find those annoying black paper sleeves. There is no episode listing in the set, but episode titles are printed on each disc. You'll find exactly nine episodes on each disc (as well as special features on Disc 3), and the disc artwork is nothing more than the series logo.
Menu Design and Navigation:
If you've liked Mill Creek's menus on the previous releases, and I know that I have (they're rather elegant yet straightforward), you'll be satisfied with the menus this time... because they are the same. The main menu has a rotating disco ball in the background (yes, that darn disco ball, AGAIN) with the same artwork as seen on the cover, sort of. The difference is that Fez has the largest photo only on Disc 1, and on Discs 2 and 3, Donna and Eric take the spotlight, respectively. So where is Fez? Mill Creek has very cleverly photoshopped him into the spot of the character with the largest photo. The menus are pretty nice, but if you pay close attention to that details, it is a bit tacky. Options on the main menu include Play All and Episodes. Disc 3 also has a Bonus option. Selecting Episodes takes you to a listing of all of the episodes on the disc, and if the episode has a commentary, you can select the episode with or without the commentary. Once you select an episode, it plays right away. There are chapters after the opening credits and in the middle of each episode. And once again, the theme song loops to infinity on EVERY menu, and it isn't even the good Cheap Trick version, but rather the very annoying version from the first season.
Video and Audio Quality:
In my review of the third season (which I received at the same time that I received this set), I noted that some episodes were in widescreen, and others were in fullscreen... and they probably should all be in fullscreen. This time, there are two episodes on the set that are presented in widescreen, but all the rest are in fullscreen. I still don't know why this has happened, or if it is for some reason "correct" (I doubt it), but it is worth mentioning. Other than that, the video quality is decent, just incredibly compressed (and what else would you expect with nine episodes per disc?). The audio seems fine, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. All episodes are closed-captioned.
All of the special features that were on the previous release of the fourth season as released by Fox are here again. We'll briefly recap them. There are commentaries for three episodes on the set: "Eric's Depression," "Class Picture," and "Hyde's Birthday." They're all from director David Trainer, alone, so they're not that exciting and focus more on the production side of the series.
"Season 4 in 4 Minutes" (4:30) is no more or less than what it sounds like, although I suppose more since it is longer than four minutes as the title suggests. We get a brief introduction from David Trainer (yes, more of David Trainer) and a series of clips from the fourth season.
"Making Company: David Trainer on Directing That '70s Show" (7:46) is a brief featurette about directing the series, and if the name of the featurette wasn't obvious enough (along with who seems to be involved on all of the special features on all of these sets), it is an interview with David Trainer. Again. This time, he talks about (I'd think the title would be pretty obvious) directing the series.
We get a little more variety in the next two featurettes, "A '70s Show FlashBack: Laura Prepon" (6:20) and "A '70s Show FlashBack: Mila Kunis" (6:01). Both of these are a nice change from the "training" which we get from most of the other features on the set, where we to hear interviews from two of the female cast members of the series, along with clips of their "best" moments of the season. Mila Kunis gives much better insight here than she did on her episode introductions from the third season, which is a nice change.
Finally, "Episode Promos" (11:51) is a collection of all of the syndication promos for all of the episodes in the fourth season. I always enjoy seeing these, and Mill Creek even created separate chapters for all 27 of them, which is even nicer.
Once again, another repeat of the Fox release, just with one disc less, more video compression, black paper sleeves... but an incredible value. I honestly think that I'm being too harsh on Mill Creek when I write these reviews. For the price they are setting on these sets, they are a very good value which allows every fan to own the seasons, and nothing is a terrible disaster by any means. So with that being said, I'm generally satisfied with this set, and it is definitely worth it for fans of any level to own it. If you already own the previous releases from Fox, then you should probably just stick with those releases. They're a little better than this one in regards to packaging and (most likely) video quality. But if not, this is a decent set as well. As for this season of the series, it is a little odd, but I feel like the series doesn't exactly follow the mold of middle seasons being the best. I'm not sure what it is about this season, but it just isn't quite as good as the earlier ones. But it is still enjoyable and sure to give you plenty of groovy entertainment value... at a price that doesn't even seem to be adjusted for inflation since the '70s!