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That '70s Show Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

The long-running Fox sitcom "That '70s Show" will be fondly remembered by fans for as long as people are watching television. The show's goofy sensibility, inspired running gags, and consistently hilarious writing would have likely made it a hit in any event, but the show was raised to iconic status thanks to the talents of its core cast — an ensemble with chemistry like few others in TV history. Every week, viewers could count on that cast to bring the funny: Topher Grace as the nerdy, acerbic Eric Forman, Laura Prepon as his girl-next-door sweetheart Donna Pinciotti, Ashton Kutcher as lovable idiot Michael Kelso, Mila Kunis as spoiled rich kid Jackie Burkhart, Danny Masterson as stoner and conspiracy theory enthusiast Steven Hyde, and Wilmer Valderrama as the perv-tastic foreign exchange student known only as "Fez."

In addition to the main cast, "That '70s Show's" supporting players and even guest stars were never anything less than note-perfect, and watching the show today, it's positively shocking how many familiar faces, from '70s legends to future superstars, passed through Point Place, Wisconsin. Of course, with so much talent having been involved in the series, it seems only inevitable that since its ending way back in 2006, some of those featured players and guests would have shuffled off this mortal coil — and this is sadly the case.

Among them are an actress best known for her time slinging the hottest burns at "That '70s Show's" group of buddies, another whose career was revitalized by the show's excellent use of her previously-underutilized comedic talents, and another whose very name is synonymous with television comedy. They may not be with us anymore, but every one of them will be fondly remembered — particularly among the many fans of one of the sweetest, smartest, and funniest sitcoms of all time. 

Tanya Roberts stole her scenes as Midge Pinciotti

When one thinks of "That '70s Show's" parental figures, they may be forgiven for immediately calling to mind Eric's parents Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp) and Red (Kurtwood Smith), whose loving relationship and strongly-drawn character quirks made them two of the most memorable sitcom parents to ever grace the small screen. But one shouldn't have to think very hard to come up with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments involving Donna's weirdo parents: goofy, hirsute Bob, portrayed by veteran character actor Don Stark, and his budding feminist wife Midge, whose wide-eyed airheadedness and surprisingly thick wise streak were brought to life by Tanya Roberts.

Prior to her role on "That '70s Show," Roberts was best known for her stint on the fifth and final season of the classic TV series "Charlie's Angels," for her role in the 1982 cult classic fantasy flick "The Beastmaster," and for being Roger Moore's final Bond Girl in 1985's A View to a Kill. For the decade or so prior to being cast as Midge, she had appeared mostly in low-budget direct-to-video flicks with titles like Night Eyes and Sins of Desire — but on That '70s Show, she revealed herself to be a gifted comedic actress with a knack for delivering Midge's ditzy dialogue with deadpan aplomb. (Bob: "You wanna go for a walk?" Midge: "Sure, I'll drive!")

In December 2020, Roberts fell ill with an infection that ultimately spread to her bloodstream. She was confirmed to have passed away by her longtime partner Lance O'Brien on January 4, 2021, at the age of 65, according to The New York Times. Roberts had been retired from acting for a decade and a half, but fans of "That '70s Show" will always remember her as Donna's good-hearted, free-spirited mother, who was just as quick with oddly insightful advice as she was with a head-scratching non-sequitur. 

Lisa Robin Kelly constantly sparred with the gang as Laurie Forman

"That '70s Show's" gang of buddies spent so much time engaging in friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) verbal sparring matches with each other that few of those outside of the group could hang when the burns started to fly. When you're the older sister of the lead Burnmaster, though, you've got a leg up on the competition — and so it was with Eric's big sis Laurie (Lisa Robin Kelly), whose reputation for egregious promiscuity was matched only by her razor-sharp tongue.

Despite the fact that she was a couple years older than the rest of the gang, Laurie kept finding ways to insert herself into their activities; she briefly "dated" Kelso while he was in a full-on committed relationship with Jackie, worked tirelessly to maintain her edge over Eric in the "Red's favorite" sweepstakes, and even married Fez so that he could avoid deportation (and, well, because she was bored). Kelly's personal issues forced her from the show beginning with season 6, at which time the role of Laurie was recast with Christina Moore. But while Moore was perfectly capable, she just couldn't quite embody Laurie's combination of venom and Daddy's-girl vulnerability quite like Kelly.

Unfortunately, Kelly's aforementioned issues included severe depression and alcoholism, and despite publicly and emotionally coming clean about her problems in a 2012 interview with ABC News, she was never able to overcome them. In August 2013, she passed away from an accidental overdose of an unspecified combination of drugs less than a day after entering a Los Angeles rehab facility, according to The Hollywood Reporter; she was only 43 years old.

Mary Tyler Moore lent her iconic comedic flair to the role of Christine St. George

There are television icons, and then there is Mary Tyler Moore, whose talents helped guide the course of the medium for several decades. During "That '70s Show's" much-maligned eighth and final season — during which Grace and Kutcher both departed to pursue film careers — Moore appeared for a three-episode stretch as Christine St. George, the host of local TV program "What's Up, Wisconsin?" and one of Jackie's idols. Jackie briefly ends up working as Christine's assistant, only to find that her hard-driving personality is just a touch different from the one she projects to her audience and that the world of TV isn't quite as glamorous as it's made out to be.

Moore brought her devastating comic chops to her brief run on "That '70s Show," filming her scenes on the same soundstage where she held court decades earlier as the star of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which ran for seven seasons from 1970 to 1977, via ScreenRant. The production company formed to produce that show, MTM Enterprises, was responsible for some of the most groundbreaking series of the '70s and '80s, including (but in no way limited to) such shows as "The Bob Newhart Show," "Lou Grant," "WKRP in Cincinnati," "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere," "Remington Steele," and the excellent revival "Newhart."

Moore enjoyed her share of big-screen success as well, earning an Oscar nomination for 1980's "Ordinary People," which won the Best Picture statue. However, she will forever be remembered for her vital contributions to the medium of television — not to mention for her legendary talent and screen presence. She maintained a tireless work ethic despite struggling with alcoholism and Type 1 diabetes for her entire adult life — struggles which she publicly shared in a pair of memoirs — and only with the onset of serious health problems in her 70s did she begin to slow down. After a brief hospitalization with pneumonia, Mary Tyler Moore passed away in January 2017 at the age of 80.

Tom Poston brought decades of sitcom experience to the role of Burt Sigurdson

During "That '70s Show's" fifth season, we were introduced to Kitty's parents: Bea Sigurdson, portrayed by the great Betty White, and her husband Burt, played by Tom Poston. (According to Kitty, they're "very complicated people who can't be summed up in a couple words," to which Eric has a succinct response: "Grandma yells, Grandpa drinks.") Showbiz legends don't get much more legendary than White, but Poston's name carries just as much weight. He wasn't only a sitcom veteran; according to USA Today, Poston appeared in more sitcoms than any other actor in television history, with a small-screen career spanning all the way back to 1950. From The Bob Newhart Show to Mork & Mindy to The Simpsons to Family Matters to The Drew Carey Show, Poston's distinctive mug could be seen on virtually every series sporting a live studio audience or laugh track for several decades.

As Burt on "That '70s Show," Poston offered a warm, loving, slightly tipsy contrast to White's distant, emotionally unavailable Bea. The pair appeared over a three-episode stretch during which Kitty believed herself to be pregnant again. In reality, Kitty was simply going through menopause — an emotional blow made even worse by Burt suffering a fatal heart attack in the Formans' driveway.

Poston would follow up his "That '70s Show" appearance with only a few more roles, including a recurring part on the single-season NBC sitcom "Committed" in 2005 and a guest spot on the Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody" in 2006. As reported by The New York Times, Poston died after a short illness in April 2007, at the age of 85.

The perennial Betty White went toe to toe with Tom Poston as Bea

Tom Poston's better half in the "That '70s Show" was just as iconic and memorable as his character Burt. Joining the sitcom veteran was fellow small screen superstar Betty White as his fictional wife, Bea Sigurdson. Unlike Burt, Bea was far more aloof and distant, best remembered for calling those around her out for their mistakes or goofs. Never one to mince her words, Bea was expertly played by White, whose sarcastic and sharp wit made her a household name all the way back in the '50s. Like Poston, White's run on "That '70s Show" was brief. 

After Burt died of a heart attack on the series, Bea stayed around Kitty's home for an episode, before returning to Phoenix. It's a shame that White never returned after her four-episode arc in Season 5. Fans would have appreciated seeing White return every season for an episode or two, watching her move past her husband's untimely passing. Kitty would have certainly appreciated the opportunity to bond with her mother some more. Nevertheless, White's arc as Bea is considered by some "'70s Show" fans to be one of the best from a guest star, per Reddit

It's possible that White never returned to the series due to her busy schedule. With a string of regular and guest appearances, White continued to work on the small screen well into her 90s. Per People, White died peacefully in her sleep on December 31 2021. She was 99. 

Gary Owens always brought the laughs as the narrator

"That '70s Show" never shied away from dipping into the fantasy, the world of dreams, and general spoofing. Whenever it came to satirize a popular theme, idea, or notion from the '70s, there was no better person to narrate than Gary Owens. Remember Season 1 Episode 17 "The Pill"? With Donna getting on the pill, her father Bob Pinciotti becomes curious about its effects. Jump to a parody educational video that mimics the tone and vibe of the '50s, where Bob learns about the pill and becomes paranoid about Donna's sex life. Narrating the satirical video is none other than Owens, who even makes a small appearance in the clip. Owens appeared as a narrator several times during Season 1. 

Before joining "That '70s Show" in a guest capacity, Owens was a revered voice on radio and television, best known for voicing the titular character in "Roger Ramjet." Owens even served as an announcer on the original "Batman" series starring Adam West, making him a true fixture from the '60s and '70s, making his apperance in the sitcom all the more authentic. Perhaps his most memorable appearance as a narrator in "That '70s Show" is when he voiced a "National Geographic" documentary involving Eric in Season 1, Episode 21 "Water Tower." Owens' career as a prolific voice actor and announcer came to an end when he died on February 12, 2015, per Variety. He was 80. 

James Avery terrified Kelso as Officer Kennedy

From the aftermath of Red's heart attack to Donna's pregnancy scare, Season 6 was a pivotal time that forced the characters to evolve and change. The season also saw Kelso step into maturity and try his best to succeed, joining the police academy. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned for Kelso when it comes to his career as a cop. The sixth season notably introduced Officer Kennedy into the mix. Played by James Avery, Officer Kennedy and Kelso have their fair share of differences. A no-nonsense type, Kennedy was the perfect example of an authority figure who had it out for Kelso the moment he opened his mouth. 

One moment that particularly highlighted Kelso's lack of care is when he broke into the police academy, only to be caught by Kennedy. Just as Kelso's time on the police force was brief, so was Avery's time as Officer Kennedy. Avery's character as the scolding cop on "That '70s Show" was just one of many post-"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" appearances the Uncle Phil actor made. The actor died on December 31 2013 at the age of 68, per ABC News

Howard Hesseman will always be remembered as Max to That '70s Show fans

"That '70s Show" was populated with a variety of colorful characters who served only one purpose: to put the gang in awkward and hilarious situations. Consider Max, the radio station manager who seemed to be spending more time giving out concert tickets than actually managing his station. A guest character in Season 3 and 4, the manager was played by Howard Hesseman. Audiences might remember Hesseman as the DJ Dr. Johnny Fever in "WKRP in Cincinnati," which ruled the airwaves in late '70s and early '80s. A throwback to his old-school DJ character, Max was always ready to dish out concert tickets... with strings attached. 

Some might remember his scheme to let go of a van in Season 4, which led to hilarious results. Besides his stint as Dr. Johnny Fever and guest appearance on "That '70s Show," Hesseman is best remembered for popping up in "Halloween II" and "Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment." Hesseman died on January 29, 2022 according to The Hollywood Reporter.