Power Rankings: That ’70s Show

8 Aug

Considering the utter mediocrity of this show, it’s astounding how successful some of the cast members have been after its end.

  1. Ashton Kutcher (as Michael Kelso) – this choice was by no means obvious. I think the first two are pretty clearly the first two, but the order is not clear at all.  A couple of years ago, I think it would have been a runaway, but the second place finisher has made it a race.  Ashton Kutcher’s movie career, in which he’s starred in a number of movies, but has largely been more famous than successful, may or may not be enough.  However, the fact that he’s the new star of Two and Half Men, combined with his past, but still noteworthy work on Punk’d, and his other production work with Beauty at the Geek keeps him at the top (Actually, I looked again at how some his movies did, and they were more successful than I thought – While Killers kind of bombed, What Happens in Vegas and No Strings Attached, although tepidly reviewed at best, made a ton of money – Ashton is a clearer #1 than I realized).
  1. Mila Kunis (as Jackie Burkhart) – she came so close to taking the top spot for me, but I thought she didn’t quite have the body of work.  That said, she’s been on the rise the past couple of years, highlighted by her performance in The Black Swan.  While she wasn’t the lead, she was highly acclaimed as the second star in one of the most talked about films of the year.  She also appears this summer in Friends with Benefits, the direct copycat to Ashton Kutcher’s earlier-this-year No Strings Attached, which featured Kunis’ Black Swan co-star Natalie Portman,  so the first two spots have more in common than That ‘70s Show (their characters also dated on That ’70s Show for most of the first four seasons). Perhaps the relative success of the two films will give us a more concrete judgment.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall was her first big, successful movie role, and afterwards she had a couple of fallow years, but has rebounded in a big way.  Bonus points for being the voice of Meg Griffin (yes, I know, it’s Meg, but still) in Family Guy almost since its inception (replacing Lacey Chabert).
  1.  Topher Grace (as Eric Forman) – there’s a big of a dropoff after the first two.  Grace keeps trying to force his way into starring roles, but every time he makes progress, he seems to take a step back.  Way back during the run of That ’70s Show, he starred in the light Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! and the significantly darker In Good Company.  After that there was a break until he filmed his role as Venom in Spiderman 3, which came out after the last season of That 70s Show, in which he showed up only in the finale.  From there, he’s had one of the fifty bajillion roles in Valentine’s Day (alongside showmate Kutcher), and starred in the retro-’80s flop Take Me Home Tonight.  He’ll be costarring with Richard Gere in a political spy thriller as his next chance.
  1. Laura Prepon (as Donna Pinciotti) – Propon’s work has pretty much been relegated to the small screen, with guest star appearances here and there, including most notably for me, a three episode stint in How I Met Your Mother as Ted’s college ex-girlfriend.  She apparently starred as one of the main cast in the one season October Road, which I vaguely remember (but may just be thinking of space movie October Sky or one-hit wonder Blue October) and was about a 30-year old who went off to Europe for a trip, ended up staying there a decade, and is just coming home to deal with his old hood.  Prepon is getting her biggest opportunity in years with the starring role in the new sitcom based on Chelsea Handler’s life, named after her best-selling autobiography, Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea.
  1. Kurtwood Smith (as Red Forman)– the actor who came into the show with the most renown (a lot easier when you’ve had thirty or so more years to work with) has had a relatively decent amount of work, mostly in television.  He starred as the father in the American clone of British Worst Week, which actually lasted its whole one season run on the air.  He was a major character in 24’s second to last season as a liberal senator, and he starred in the short-lived 2011 series Chaos, as the director of a bunch of rogue CIA spies.  He also appeared in two of the best episodes of personal favorite Childrens Hospital.
  1. Wilmer Valderama (as Fez) – he’s had a little bit of work – in 2006, he was one of many characters in the not incredibly successful Richard Linklater attempt to make a fictionalized version of Eric Schlosser’s classic tale of the tragedy of our food system Fast Food Nation (right up there with Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma) .  For two years, he hosted MTV insult-fest Yo Momma! In 2008, he was in a crime drama called Columbus Day with Val Kilmer which did not actually make it to theaters, and sounds more like it should be the sixth sequel in the Valentine’s Day franchise.  In 2011, he was the fifth lead in Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts kind-of-flop-but-at-least-it-didn’t-cost-that-much Larry Crowne.  Yeah, we’ve fallen a long way from the top two.
  1. Deborah Jo Rupp (as Kitty Forman)– and the entries get shorter yet.  Rupp worked plenty in the years before That ‘70s Show, with key roles in Friends and Seinfeld in the ‘90s.  Afterwards?  Well, she was in an SVU episode (who wasn’t?), she played Jay Baruchel’s mom in She’s Out of My League, and she was the mom in Better Than You, a sitcom I don’t remember at all existing which ran this past television season on ABC before being cancelled.
  1. Danny Masterson (as Steven Hyde) – he was in Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man, and an episode of well-reviewed Fox sitcom Raising Hope.  He’s also way into DJing, and DJed sets at Lollapalooza the last three years.  That’s kind of cool.
  1. Josh Meyers (as Randy Pearson) – his older bro is SNL head writer Seth Meyers.  He appears in The Pee Wee Herman show on Broadway.  That’s also kind of cool.
  1. Don Stark (as Bob Pinciotti) – it’s pretty slim pickings here, and I consider it a courtesy for me just to list him.  He has been in single episodes of Supernatural and Dirty Sexy Money and a couple of episodes of Disney web series Cory and Lucas for the Win.
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