Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Best And Worst Parts Of Eric And Donna's Relationship On That '70s Show

Sitcoms may be all about that comedy, but the vast majority of them come with a generous helping of romance. Some of the most iconic romantic pairings of the last few decades belong to sitcoms, from Ross and Rachel in "Friends" to Pam and Jim in "The Office" and Eric and Donna from "That '70s Show." 

The Eric and Donna romance was in many ways the central narrative of their entire show. As the name suggests, "That '70s Show" was a period sitcom that originally aired on Fox from August 23, 1998, to May 18, 2006. The series focused on high-schooler Eric Forman (Topher Grace), his crush on the girl-next-door Donna (Laura Prepon), and the assortment of friends and relatives who treated Eric's house like their own, much to the irritation of Eric's dad Red (Kurtwood Smith).

As with any relationship that had to keep viewers interested over several seasons, Eric and Donna saw a lot of ups and downs. From being too shy to admit their feelings for one another to almost getting married, the two have seen a lot of love and heartbreak. Here are some of the best and worst aspects of their relationship over 8 seasons of "That '70's Show."

They were childhood sweethearts

One of the most unbelievable aspects of fictional relationships is how often something like "love at first sight" can occur. Shows/movies often need the main characters to get into a relationship quickly so the drama can start. Such love affairs can seem quite sudden and abrupt. But in the case of Eric and Donna, their relationship was built on much firmer ground because they had lived next to each other since they were children.

In "Class Picture" (Season 4, Episode 20), we see the first time the two met as kids. Donna punched Eric for looking at her funny, and that was the day Eric fell in love with Donna. He never quite fell out of it. The two started to hang out together, but Eric felt too nervous to express his feelings. In fact, it was Donna who made the first move when she kissed Eric at the age of 16. 

This long familiarity between Eric and Donna makes their deep abiding love for each other all the more meaningful. The two have stood by each other through every awkward phase of their childhood and young adulthood. In all that time, their love for each other has grown and weathered all kinds of strife. That makes the "Eric and Donna" pairing one of the most heartwarming things about the show.

Donna occasionally bullied Eric

Donna is a big, strong girl. Eric is a slim, not-very-strong guy. The difference in sizes of the two has been commented upon in the show many times, and Donna has taken advantage of her natural athleticism to pick on Eric from time to time. It started at an early age, since the very first time the two met as children, when Donna punched Eric.

Later when they became teenagers, Donna could easily wipe the floor with Eric in any sport from basketball to air hockey, as shown in "Battle of the Sexists" (Season 1, Episode 4). This made Eric feel like less of a man, but Donna was usually too busy exulting over her victory to notice. She also mentioned once how fun it was to wrestle Eric, to which he replied "You sat on my chest and made me eat a clump of dirt."

While getting physical in the bedroom, Donna is similarly shown to be aggressive with Eric, like throwing him onto a bed and ordering him to stop talking. The joke is that Donna in such situations acts in a more "manly" manner than Eric. But imagine if the roles were reversed, and it was Eric who manhandles and physically belittles Donna in a similar manner. The truth is, Donna's behavior in such instances is closer to that of a bully than a friend/lover.

They took things slow

There is an unwritten rule in romcoms that true drama can only begin when two characters finally sleep together or make a serious commitment. As such, writers are often in a hurry to pair off the main characters as soon as possible. But the "Eric and Donna" love affair developed much more gradually. 

Eric had liked Donna for years before he finally gathered up the courage to admit his feelings. Even after they started dating, the two took things slow so as not to mess up their friendship. For Eric and Donna, it was not as simple as sleeping together one drunken night, and then having to deal with the consequences of it for the rest of the show.

Other characters like Jackie (Mila Kunis) and Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) hooked up with each other and additional characters willy-nilly, and that made their relationships appear rather shallow and empty. On the other hand, Eric-Donna was always seen as the endgame of the entire series because of much how time had been spent building up the relationship. 

Each other's firsts

Since Eric and Donna liked each other for a long time before starting to date in high-school, the two were each other's firsts in many ways. From dating, to making out in the drive-in, to becoming exclusive, Eric and Donna explored most of the frontiers of young romance at each other's side. 

The going was not always smooth, mostly because of how inexperienced both were in the romance department. Like Eric failing to pick up on Donna's strong signals that she wanted to get intimate in "Eric's Burger Job" (Season 1, Episode 5). From trying to find the courage to express their feelings, to trying to find a gift for a special occasion that felt casual yet intimate, there is something really sweet about watching Eric and Donna attempt to navigate their relationship firsts together. 

Of course, having so many firsts does not blunt the harsher edges of being in a committed relationship. The two often had to deal with jealousy, insecurity, and one not willing to make a commitment to the other. Still, Eric and Donna are an entertaining example of what happens when childhood sweethearts go on to become long-term partners as adults.

Hyde in the middle

As often happens in a large group of friends of both sexes, Eric and Donna were not the only romantic coupling in the mix. In fact, Eric's relationship with his best friend Hyde (Danny Masterson) was complicated by the fact that Hyde also liked Donna. He competed with Eric for her affection, even interrupting their time alone in "First Date" (Season 1, Episode 16) to confess his love.

Then there was the fact that Donna was also good friends with Hyde, and she could not turn him down without hurting his feelings and straining their relationships. In the end, Hyde did the only positive thing possible when he saw that Donna was serious about being in a relationship with Eric. He stepped aside, and allowed Eric and Donna to get together while still being friends with them.

This kind of a love triangle, one where the audience is rooting for all three characters, occurs rarely in romantic fiction. Fortunately, Hyde's friendship with both Eric and Donna was strong enough to survive getting his heart broken. Later on, Eric and Hyde became foster brothers, and the latter moved on to other love interests like Jackie and Samantha (Jud Tylor).

They were caring Exes

As happens in every relationship that needs to be the focus of several seasons of a show, Eric and Donna reached a point where they could not make their relationship work. Yet despite a difficult breakup, the two continued to look out for each other as friends.

In the episode "Tornado Prom" (Season 4, Episode 15), the gang decides to go to the prom together but then forget to pick up Donna. Even though they were broken up, it was Eric who quickly rushed to get Donna from her place of work. Whether or not Eric actually managed to reach Donna has given rise to one of the strangest fan theories about the show. But in any case, the two are shown having a long private talk, and you could tell there was regret over the way things ended between them on both sides.

Later, when Donna broke up with Kelso's douchey brother Casey, it was Eric that she rushed to while grieving. Even though Eric refused to act as a rebound for Donna, he later felt bad about turning her away and went to find her. That kind of love and consideration was often missing from the other characters' broken relationships. 

Eric's inferiority complex

Even though Donna liked Eric just the way he was, he had a hard time believing that a girl like Donna could be into a guy like him. It did not help that Donna was often the object of admiration for other guys. 

Unfortunately, the seed of jealousy in Eric's mind did not wither away after he and Donna began to go steady. When she landed a job that required her to meet rich and famous men, Eric felt it was only a matter of time until Donna found someone better than him. Meanwhile, Donna was growing increasingly annoyed over Eric constantly questioning her and their relationship.

Things finally came to a head when Eric tried to solidify their commitment by giving Donna a promise ring. Donna had no choice but to return the ring, since she was not ready to make that kind of a promise. As a result Eric ended their relationship, leaving Donna broken-hearted. 

The glue for the whole group

Eric's basement was the informal headquarters for "That '70s Show," and Eric and Donna's relationship was the informal glue that kept the whole group together over the years. After all, Jackie and Donna only really began to grow close over discussions about their respective boyfriends.

Similarly, Hyde, Kelso and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) have wildly contrasting personalities. But they all managed to bond over making fun of Eric and telling him Donna is out of his league. Even Eric and Donna's parents, despite being neighbors, were far from being bosom buddies, but found something to bond over by worrying about their kids' relationship.

The importance of Eric and Donna's relationship to the main cast of characters continued to increase over time. Even when Eric left in later seasons, the question of whether he would come back and whether he and Donna would get back together was one of the main driving plot points for the show.

Less important than Donna's job

Despite being a character in the '70s, when women's careers were much more curtailed than today, Donna was a proud feminist who believed in having her own job. To that end, Donna was thrilled when she got a job as a DJ at WFPP in "Radio Daze" (Season 3, Episode 14). Unfortunately, Eric could not bring himself to share in her enthusiasm. 

Donna felt that it was more important to prove herself at the new job than attend to Eric's needs. To that end, she chose to blow off their dates to work at the station. Unsurprisingly, Eric did not see the matter in an understanding way. Things got even worse when Eric's jealousy reared its ugly head again. Old feelings of not being good enough for Donna, and her finding someone better at work, only added to Eric's insecurities regarding her new job. 

Despite being played for laughs, these issues between Eric and Donna are quite reflective of the real world even today, with regards to one person in a relationship having a better job or opportunities than the other. Sure enough, the problem did not go away after a few episodes, but actually led to Eric and Donna breaking up and deciding to go their separate ways.

Deciding to wait until marriage

Today, sex is more common than a handshake in film and television. One side effect of this casual approach is that it can give the impression that people are hooking up randomly and constantly in real life as well. That is far from the case, and Eric and Donna's relationship exemplifies the other side of the taboo subject by exploring their vulnerabilities with regards to sex in some of the show's best episodes.

For instance, the two had to think long and hard before finally consummating their relationship for the first time. In "Afterglow" (Season 2, Episode 17), the two have to deal with the result of their night together, since Eric is afraid he did not measure up to Donna's expectations. But she assures him that the activity will only become better and more enjoyable over time once they have grown more comfortable with this new dimension to their relationship.

As they got older, the topic of sex and how it would affect their relationship continued to be explored. After a pregnancy scare, the two decide to only get intimate with each other after they are married to avoid a situation like Donna's parents, who had her when they were in high school. There is something almost revolutionary about watching the leads of a sitcom voluntarily hold off on sex for more than one episode.

Leaving Donna at the altar

Eric's cowardly nature has long been a prominent feature of the character. Donna has always been the confident one in their relationship. Unfortunately, that confidence could not transfer over to Eric when they decided to get married in "Going Mobile" (Season 6, Episode 24), leading to the worst case of cold feet when Eric left Donna just as they were about to get hitched. 

It was one of the lowest points for their relationship, as the fallout from the wedding being called off impacted all of Eric and Donna's friends and families. Donna was heartbroken, and everyone blamed Eric for treating her in such a callous fashion. Eventually, Eric did return to apologize to Donna in "The Seeker" (Season 6, Episode 25), when he snuck into her room at night.

Although Donna was angry, she admitted she was also having doubts about getting married. The episode does not end on a tidy note, but at least Eric and Donna come to some sort of an understanding about their doubts regarding marriage. 

Donna takes Eric back

After Eric left Donna at the altar at the end of Season 6, things were never quite the same on "That '70s Show." Even though Donna accepted Eric's apology and decided to try to make things work with him again, there was still the rest of their family and friends to deal with. 

This brings us to perhaps the most difficult period between Eric and Donna while they were still together. Not only were their plans for wedded bliss now over, but Eric developed a strange new aspect to his character, and not in a good way. Suddenly he started acting lazy and aimless, unsure of what he wanted to do and where he wanted his life to go. 

To make matters worse, he started acting out more and more, from vandalizing a muffler shop in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (Season 7, Episode 3) to pranking a neighbor's yard in "Rip This Joint" (Season 7, Episode 6). Donna stood by Eric through all his troubles, as well as his various stabs at getting jobs and retaking summer school. To top it all off, the season ends with Eric moving to Africa to become a teacher, and Donna left with the prospect of navigating a long-distance relationship.

And then Donna takes Eric back again

With the eighth and final season of "That '70s Show," the "Eric and Donna" relationship also reached its zenith in an unfortunate fashion. After keeping in touch through letters for a few episodes, Donna abruptly announced that she and Eric have broken up, and she quickly appears to have moved on to new main cast character Randy (Josh Meyers).

In truth, Eric's absence was necessitated by Topher Grace's exit from the show to pursue other projects. This left the writers with the difficult job of explaining his absence, and the solution they came up with was to break Eric and Donna up yet again. Naturally, many fans were not pleased. There was also the high bar that had been set, making it impossible for Donna and Randy to become the new "Donna and Eric" in the span of a few episodes.

The series finale had Topher Grace come back as Eric in a brief cameo where he patched things up with Donna, and the two resolved to once again try to make things work. It was far from a satisfactory ending. But at least the show ended with the two back together again — even though many fans were of the opinion that Eric no longer deserved Donna. 

Topher Grace and Laura Prepon's sparkling chemistry

Although Eric and Donna's relationship got rocky at times, and their storylines did not always make sense, the one thing that never changed was the excellent chemistry between Topher Grace and Laura Prepon. It was this chemistry that made the relationship between their characters so special. 

Sure, the drama between Jackie and Kelso, or Jackie and Hyde, or Jack and (improbably enough) Fez appeared much more dynamic at times, but those characters and their romances never seemed to carry the same kind of weight as Eric and Donna. It's little wonder, then, that the show ended when Eric was replaced by Randy, and writers had to try to make Randy and Donna the new "it" couple. 

Although "That '70's Show" ended more than a decade ago, fans have often voiced desires for a reunion episode. While it would be interesting to see what Eric and Donna are up to now, Prepon is of the opinion that it would be difficult to recapture that moment in time. 

"That experience [of making the show] was wonderful," the actress told HollywoodLife in May of 2021. "It's in this time capsule for [the cast]. .. It really is just this special moment in my life ... I know it was pivotal for so many of us and it kind of ... wants to stay there, you know what I mean? Like in that time capsule where, when we get together we laugh about it."