as: Red Forman
Make no mistake, Kurtwood Smith could do more with the word “dumbass” than most actors could do with an entire page of dialogue and a samurai sword. As Red Forman in That ‘70s Show, he was nigh perfect as the old school, tough love-dispensing father to the show’s main protagonist, Eric (played by Topher Grace).
But, what if that same no-nonsense character was given a bit more charm and a whole mess more good looks? Had Tom Wopat portrayed Red, it’s possible that the elder Forman would have gradually become more of a focus on the show, squeezing Eric out to supporting-player status (much like Homer squoze out Bart over the course of the first several seasons of The Simpsons).
No offense to Kurtwood Smith, but Tom Wopat is a much better-looking dude. That in itself paves the way for running jokes throughout the course of the series. Specifically, we envision lots of references by Eric’s girlfriend, Donna, and friend who is also a girl, Jackie, to Red’s attractiveness. Mostly, it would be a way for the gals to needle Eric, who himself was sort of a goonie-looking guy. There would almost certainly have been a storyline somewhere in the show’s eight seasons where Jackie actually developed a harmless, minor, if misguided, crush on Red.
In this same vein, the other guys in Eric’s group of friends, Hyde, Kelso, and Fez, would have turned to Red Wopat more often for advice on the ladies. “Red, you’re a good-looking guy,” Hyde/Kelso/Fez would undoubtedly have begun at some point (or multiple times—that’s how running gags work, after all), before asking Red what he should do in whatever the situation was.
Next, it should be noted that Wopat is about nine years younger than Smith. This isn’t really a problem as far as “being old enough to be Eric’s parent” goes, as Wopat and Debra Jo Rupp, who played Eric’s mother, Kitty, are the same age. However, it maybe would age Red out of having served in both WWII and the Korean War—with the younger actor in the role, Red probably would’ve been written as only a Korean War vet. This wouldn’t change the character much, as few if any of Red’s storylines hinged on his military service, but it may have necessitated a slight re-write of Kitty’s and his “meet-cute” story, one of the best (and most perfectly cast) flashbacks the show ever did.
Finally, while the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon that Red bequeaths to Eric in the series pilot is a perfectly fine automobile… well, come one. This is Luke Duke we’re talking about here. It would’ve been an absolutely fantastic gag had Red Wopat instead gifted his son with a competition orange Dodge Charger. It would’ve been anachronistic, as well, seeing as how The Dukes of Hazzard didn’t premiere until 1979, but hey, if don’t overthink it, it’s a pretty rad setup. Eric and friends would’ve gotten up to far more hijinks with a hot rod to drive around in.