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Television Q&A: Catching up with 'That '70s Show'

Saturday, May 03, 2014 - Updated: 4:08 AM

By RICH HELDENFELS

Akron Beacon Journal

Q: As a youngster, I watched "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," and now I'm able to watch the reruns on Antenna TV. I know James Brown, who played Lt. Rip Masters, has passed away, and so have the actors who played Corp. Boone and Sgt. O'Hara. But is Lee Aaker, who played Rusty, still living? Did he and Rin Tin Tin get along and like each other?

A: Aaker is still with us at the age of 70. In a TV interview about two years ago, which can be seen on YouTube, Aaker says that he liked doing the show (which had three different Rin Tin Tins during its run). But he walked away from acting when he became an adult because "I did not like the Hollywood game. ... I'm a very private person." (I reached out to him for an interview, and he did not respond.) He has not acted onscreen for about 50 years. He is now retired from construction work. But he still teaches skiing for the Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra organization in California.

Q: "Family Tree," a British comedy series, was one of the funniest programs I've ever seen. Will there be a second season, and if so, when will it air?

A: The HBO comedy, starring Chris O'Dowd as a man tracing his family's roots, is done after a single season. In spite of a team that included the formidable Christopher Guest as co-creator, the series "struggled for ratings even at HBO, which has a history of airing programs with low viewership," the Los Angeles Times said.

Q: Would you please give me an update on the actors and actresses who starred on "That '70s Show?"

A: Since the show had close to a dozen regular characters and even more recurring ones during its 1998-2006 run, let me just offer a selection. Ashton Kutcher (Kelso) is co-starring on "Two and a Half Men." He is also involved with Mila Kunis (Jackie), whose work includes the movies "Ted" and "Black Swan." Kunis and Kutcher are expecting a child together.

Laura Prepon (Donna) was recently seen in Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black." Danny Masterson (Hyde) is on the TBS series "Men at Work." Wilmer Valderrama (Fez) has been seen frequently on TV, including the new "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" on the El Rey Network. Topher Grace (Eric) works in theater and in movies. Kurtwood Smith (Red) is in ABC's "Resurrection." Debra Jo Rupp (Kitty) does both live-action and animated productions.

But a cast reunion would not be free of sorrow. Lisa Robin Kelly, who originally played Laurie (before being succeeded by Christina Moore), had some well-publicized problems with drugs and alcohol, She died in 2013 at the age of 43.

Q: I seem to recall seeing Michael Douglas in a TV movie during the '70s. He and his black partner were semi-hippy math or electronic whizzes. They were hired by a large corporation to do research. The plot was full of age-difference arguments and prejudices. Would you have any information about such a movie?

A: That would be "The Experiment," one of the dozen specials showing under the CBS Playhouse name in the late '60s. "The Experiment," from 1969, was "a drama of young rebels in conflict with the business establishment," according to a TV Guide capsule at the time. Douglas -- billed as M.K. Douglas -- played a science prodigy who took a corporate job to support his research. Ellen M. Violett's script was nominated for an Emmy.

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Email rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with "mailbag." Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

     

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