The leading six characters on That 70s Show are, ummm, a mixed bag. The writers didn't really know what to do with Donna, Jackie is mostly thrown from dude to dude, every third joke from Fez is "Whore!," Hyde's paranoid shtick gets tired a few episodes in, and Kelso is Kelso, a shining star in a dark, dark night. Oh, and there's Eric Forman, who is trash.
Having a main character who is an absolute dork isn't special in sitcoms. You have characters like Ross from Friends, Ben from Parks & Rec, and the haunting specter of ineptitude that is Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother. But all of these characters have some sort of redeeming quality. Ross seems to know a lot about dinosaurs, Ben is super devoted to his relationship and is a great guy, and Ted wears cool sweaters every once in a while. But Eric, the lazy Star Wars-obsessed nerd who has whole episode plots devoted to how he's not really good at anything ... isn't good at anything.
He's not book smart. He's not hard-working. He's not especially romantic (but we'll get to that more later.) His best quality is that his house has a basement. I guess you could say that he's snarky and that's fun, but apply that to real life for a second. Think of every friend you've ever had whose only way of connecting with the world was just a barrage of sarcasm, just a constant stream of trying to prove that they're certainly smarter than the other dumb-dumbs in the room. He also stands up for himself and others every once in a while, but these are exceptions, not the rule. For the most part, Eric is just pretty horny and loud.
He also spends eight seasons in an on-and-off relationship with Donna, and despite being in someone's orbit for this amount of time, he never really gets it together enough to ever once make them a happy couple. The first few seasons are marked by a mix of awkward mishaps and terrible decisions, and as he grows up, this turns into a flip flop between ridiculous amounts of devotion and the coldest feet imaginable. He skips their rehearsal dinner! And Donna forgives him shortly after! She also forgives him when he suddenly decides to leave town and go teach in another continent. Hell, the whole series is basically Donna forgiving Eric for whatever dumb thing he's just pulled. Seven years. That 70s Show is a nightmare.
I'm sure it doesn't help that Eric's Dad is constantly threatening him with physical violence and is only proud of Eric when he shows displays of stereotypical "manliness," such as beating up someone at a football game or yelling at him. I don't want to play armchair psychologist for a 1998 TV show character, but I'm sure that having cartoonish issues with committing to stuff and then trying to out-snark the world MIGHT have something to do with having a Dad who is openly proud of you only 2% of the time.
In short, Eric is just not that great. And it kind of makes sense that Sam Raimi would hire him to play Spider-Man 3's Venom, a character who, in the movie, is basically Peter Parker if he never got the "Great responsibility" speech and also sucked. Because Eric Forman thinks he's Peter Parker, but he's really Eddie Brock.
Daniel Dockery is a writer for the internet. You can follow him on Twitter!
Top Image: The Carsey-Werner Company