Turn Back the Clock
Distributed by: NBC Studios
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1999, I had watched a television mini-series called The '60s which followed the life of two families through the tumultuous decade. I enjoyed it so much, that when The '70s mini-series appeared on NBC the following year, I was front and center at the television. Equally as good as the original mini-series, I enjoyed The '70s so much, I wanted to get my hands on the DVD. Thankfully, it was purchased for me. I recently got to watch the mini-series again for the first time since the year 2000.
The '70s follows the lives of four tight-knit Kent State students: the budding attorney Byron Shales (Brad Rowe), his wild sister Christie (Amy Smart), his artist girlfriend Eileen Wells (Amy Shaw) and his best friend Dexter Johnson (Guy Torry). Seniors in college in the year 1970, each has his or her life planned, but a disaster at the college changes everything. When political unrest over the Vietnam War hits the Kent State campus, Dexter must don his National Guard uniform and prepare to prevent a riot.
Unfortunately, on May 4, 1970, Dexter is on duty the day that a protest begins getting out of hand. Shots are fired and when the smoke clears, several students have been killed or wounded. The massacre changes every life present that day. Dexter finds himself lost in his guilt and gives up the National Guard, ducking the draft by taking odd jobs and living with his aunt in Los Angeles. Byron and Eileen moved to New York as planned, but Byron decides to leave law school to work on President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign. Eileen stays in New York to work on her art degree and finds herself getting involved in the Feminist Movement. Christie begins a modeling career.
Now fully engaged in their adult lives, the four discover that life isn't exactly easy. Byron and Eileen break up after she catches him having an affair with another re-election campaign staffer. Byron believes this new relationship will last, but finds it over as soon as the election campaign ends in victory. But Byron has more troubles than just his love life. During his stint working on the campaign, Byron became involved in what would later be known as the Watergate Scandal. Meanwhile, his former girlfriend Elieen discovers that art director jobs are not easy to come by...especially if you are a woman.
Dexter's luck starts to change when he buys a rundown movie theater and gets involved in the Black Panther Movement . Unfortunately, his involvement and success puts him in danger...deadly danger. And Christie's modeling career doesn't start off well, but she does meet a music producer and seems to be enjoying life...until that music producer starts paying more attention to his art and his drugs than to his girlfriend and her modeling agency tells her that she is washed up at age 24.
I loved watching this mini-series and seeing the various true dilemmas that plagued the nation in that era played out through the fictional characters in the film. The Vietnam War and the draft, the Kent State Massacre, the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, disco, the disgrace of an American President, the cults, drugs, free love and so much more - all of these historical moments were covered in this film. Growing up in the era, I can say that, although they may have depicted a few things out of order, the creators of this mini-series certainly got the feel of the time down right.
The acting wasn't amazing, but it wasn't horrible. I see Brad Rowe as a Brad Pitt look-alike with a deeper voice and a little less acting skill. Having seen the movie Hocus Pocus long after seeing The '70s, I always wondered where I had seen Amy Shaw before. Nice to see this actress has certainly improved with time. She was good in Hocus Pocus, but terrific in The '70s. Amy Smart was extremely believable in her role as a young girl whose search for identity brings her perilously down the wrong path. But I think that the best performance came from Guy Torry, a comedian by trade playing quite a serious role in this mini-series and doing it in a believable manner. Other excellent performances were provided by Leslie Silva as Dexter's girlfriend (and later wife) Yolanda, Kathryn Harrold and Graham Beckel as Eileen's parents, Peggy Lipton as a very believable Gloria Steinem and Maurice Godin as the sleazy ad exec.
The soundtrack of this mini-series is amazing, featuring songs I grew up listening to like What's Going On by Marvin Gaye, Papa Was a Rolling Stone by The Temptations, Joy to the World by Three Dog Night, All Right Now by Free, The Hustle by Van McCoy, Peace Train by Cat Stevens and more. The soundtrack is just as diverse as the music of the era, featuring R&B, disco, funk, rock, punk and folk music.
As a drama, the film is a bit predictable, but as a history lesson of sorts, it's priceless, giving viewers a glimpse into the decade - what was going on politically, socially, economically and more. I enjoyed watching The '70s again, but I have to say that the extras on the DVD version are rather lame. There are no deleted scenes or gag reels, no documentary or behind the scenes footage and the "Cast & Celebrity Interviews" - well, they really comprised of interviews with Guy Torry and Peggy Lipton from the cast and a number of high ranking players from NBC shows at the time, like E.R. and Third Rock from the Sun. I would have liked to see more cast interviews and more behind the scenes stuff. That being said, I still think that The '70s is a worthy depiction of the decade and well worth the watch for anyone who grew up in the era or want to know what it might have been like to have done so.