While there’s no way to erase the damage Jackie and Hyde’s breakup did to “That ’70s Show,” the show’s sequel series has done a surprisingly good job of trying to ameliorate that problem by showing us how Jackie and Kelso have grown up.
In “That ’90s Show,” we learn that Jackie (wisely) didn’t end up with Fez. The audience is told that he caught her talking to Kelso during a romantic tropical vacation, leading her to break things off with Fez and get back together with her old flame. But — fittingly, and in a nice reflection of their teenage relationship — Jackie and Kelso have not been able to stay together as a couple, and have already been married and divorced twice and are trying for a third time when “That ’90s Show” begins.
Not only is this a fitting notion for both characters, but it’s also one that leaves the door open for further conflict should Hyde ever be recast or brought into the show’s narrative. It’s strongly hinted that the instability of Kelso and Jackie’s relationship has had an impact on their son, Jay (Mace Coronel), who is smart, a bit of a playboy, and resists delving into a long-distance relationship with his summer crush, Leia Forman (Callie Haverda). That’s the kind of storytelling that drives a show forward instead of miring it down.
We aren’t likely to get an onscreen update from Hyde for obvious reasons. And it may take another season or two to fully get the sitcom back into its pre-“‘Till the Next Goodbye” groove. But all of this has gone quite a way toward the franchise unjumping the shark.