Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie or TV show coming out that week. This week: Inspired by HBO’s High Maintenance, our favorite episodes about pot.
That ’70s Show, “Reefer Madness” (season three, episode one; originally aired 10/3/2000)
For its first two seasons, That ’70s Show presented the frankest and least alarmist depiction of recreational marijuana use that late-1990s/early-2000s broadcast standards would allow. The show’s tight-knit group of Wisconsin teens got high on the regular, but the show never made a big deal about it—and thanks to the filmmaking cheat affectionately referred to as “The Circle,” none of the kids were ever shown smoking. An errant giggle and some stoned philosophizing aside, you might not even realize that’s what they’re doing down there. And if you didn’t, don’t blame yourself: Even zero-tolerance stickler Red Foreman (Kurtwood Smith) couldn’t pick up the scent emanating from his basement. Until Steven Hyde (Danny Masterson) got busted, that is.
This defeat at the hands of the Point Place Police Department is noted at the top of “Reefer Madness,” with Hyde’s customary spot in The Circle temporarily vacant. The third-season premiere picks up after a second-season cliffhanger, but newcomers are caught up right quick: Hyde’s in jail for possession; he claimed the weed to protect his arch-nemesis/true love Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis); and Red is furious. Kurtwood Smith spent eight seasons plumbing the depths of Red’s rage, but “Reefer Madness” is his TO’ed tour de force. Red took Steven in after Mrs. Hyde hit the road, and what are the thanks he gets? A call from the police, questions from his nosy neighbors (who do a poor job of stifling their excitement about having a potential connection next door), and and forced interactions with Hyde’s photo-hut boss (Tommy Chong, reaping stoner-comedy seeds planted in the actual ’70s). Red eventually learns exactly why Hyde got locked up, but even that is just more steam building up in the tea kettle before it whistles one sharp, ear-splitting “Dumbass!”
But Red and his propaganda-film fantasies—inspired by the episode’s namesake—don’t speak for That ’70s Show. There are consequences for Hyde’s transgressions, but the comedy of the episode is in the outsized reaction they inspire. “Reefer Madness” presents Red’s epic lecture about wasted potential and “hippie stink” in montage, the passage of time noted by disappearing pieces of Red’s work uniform and close-ups of an increasingly dazed Hyde. (Also: Debra Jo Rupp putzing around the kitchen, Kitty Foreman’s ability to compartmentalize forever undaunted.) Red can rant and rave that “fun time is over,” but the new era he seeks to institute in his house will always be superseded by the one ushered in by the episode’s Circle flashback. Despite Dad’s momentary intervention, the kids are all right (they’re all all right!), and would continue to be for five more seasons.
Availability: “Reefer Madness” is available on DVD as part of That ’70s Show: The Complete Series, and can be streamed from Netflix.