I just saw all 13 episodes of THAT 80S SHOW (2002) and it was MUCH better than advertised! I think the death knell for this show was obviously because the idea sprung from and it followed in the giant footsteps of the now-iconic That 70s Show, which was half-way through it's run when this new show premiered. T7S was probably right at it's peak of success with it's largest ratings and that's why the makers of T7S (some of which were behind T8S) thought this show would work.
The big myth that I always assumed about T8S was that it was a pure parody of the 80s, with nothing but in-jokes and mired in 80s references, but it really wasn't all that. I do think that was true early on as the show was a bit shaky. In the first couple of eps, they went a bit overboard to PROVE that it was the 80s with several of the main characters dressing exactly like 80s pop stars and icons (Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Don Johnson!) and making a few too many references.
But not long after the Pilot ep, the show really settled in and became pretty solid and the characters all had their own identities that didn't seem like they were 80s impersonators any longer. A couple of the characters actually got a backstory that delved into their personalities and there was actually a wonderful central love story that was the core of the show.
Once it settled in, the characters were solid thanks to very good acting and clever, funny, and witty dialog. The cast had a lot of chemistry, too. Even though I wasn't sure about a couple of characters early on, eventually, I liked ALL of them! By the time I got to the final ep, I was really sad because I absolutely love this cast and wonder what could have been!
T8S was set in 1984 San Diego. The excellent, charming, and dry Glenn Howerton starred as the strait-laced central character, 22-year old struggling musician Corey Howard, who worked at a record store and still lived at home with his quirky 20-year old sister Katie (hilariously played by Tinsley Grimes) and their affluent, womanizing, wise divorced Dad RT Howard (the always-reliable Geoffrey Pierson in a terrific performance). Corey's lifelong best friend Roger (Eddie Shin in a breakout role) is an ambitious yuppie car salesman (and partygoing dance machine that refers to himself in the 3rd person!) who rents the Howards' garage apartment. Corey, Katie, and Roger hang out at a dance club every night, where we are treated to a variety of popular 80s dance and pop songs! A really great way to have an excuse to incorporate this music into the show.
The other main setting is Corey's workplace, the record store. Corey's co-worker is punk chick Tuesday (played by the incredibly sexy Chyler Leigh in a totally winning performance) and the owner-boss is the sharp-tongued, quick-witted Margaret (wonderfully played by scene-stealing Margaret Smith). Rounding out the main cast are Corey's ex-girlfriend, the cutthroat and lusty Sophia (deft performance by Brittany Daniel) and Katie's fiancée, sailor Owen (funny work by Josh Braaten).
A unique hook of T8S was it's use of shaky camera angles and zoom shots in several scenes, mostly the club scenes, giving these scenes a palpable feel to the viewer. Back to the character interactions, the well-crafted Corey-Tuesday love story was truly the central plot and am glad we got to see them as a couple early on and not have the typical will-they-or-won't they thing that most shows do. It's especially good since the show only lasted half a season! Corey-Katie had a sweet, genuine bro-sis relationship. Also, Corey-Roger had a great friendship dynamic. Roger-RT had funny scenes as well since both were materialistic, womanizing businessmen! RT-Sophia had wonderful interactions as well. In general, there was a very comfortable, easygoing repartee amongst this cast that I truly enjoyed.
Even with the limited number of eps, the show did seem to make some noticeable changes as the half-season wore on. The main change was the they downplayed Sophia's bisexuality. Early on, party girl Sophia, having just dumped Corey, really wanted a relationship with Katie, but within a few eps, she seemed to back down from that and was all of a sudden a cutthroat businesswoman in the vein of RT. Also, Katie was a college dropout (but had never told RT), then mid-season, she's back in school and RT is none the wiser that she ever dropped out. Roger started off a womanizer, then after an ep where Tuesday set him up on a blind date, it seemed like he was just a 1-woman guy! It's almost like the show knew it would be cancelled and resolved all the character issues within it's short run.
In the end, this show was not even in the vicinity of how bad I'd heard it was! It has a lot of funny moments, great characters, and potential. What could have been!