Jackie is introduced in the pilot episode primarily as Michael Kelso's girlfriend. She likes to give advice which often sounds typically thoughtless and superficial, but turns out to be correct. She is rich, spoiled, selfish, conceited, and annoying, constantly insults every "unattractive" person she sees, and is never really invited into the circle of friends—but believes she has a VIP pass into the group because she's dating Kelso, who is a member. Despite these characteristics, Jackie is popular at school, and has been voted Most Popular and Best Legs, and was the runner-up Snow Queen. She is also something of a chatterbox, rambling on about things that the group (and everyone else) has no interest in. She often is shown thwarting the affinity with others in the group due to her self-absorbed persona. The negative aspects of her personality slowly begin to fade as she matures throughout the seasons, however, and by season 5 Jackie begins to show a more vulnerable and insecure side of herself, as a result of her father's imprisonment and her mother's abandonment of her, as well as her failed romantic relationships. Jackie is also one year younger than everyone in the group except Kelso who is two years older as which is discovered in the episode "Halloween." Also in the episode "Halloween", Jackie's middle name was revealed as "Beulah" (which she hates).
From the second season onward, Jackie continues to hang out in Eric's basement even while single and not dating another member of the gang, which is a sign that her status has grown. These gradual changes make her character develop a defined character arc. However, she still heavily keeps part of her valley girl persona intact and she still looks at herself as the personification of what a woman should be. In contrast to Donna and the prevalent feminist thinking of the 1970s, Jackie is a traditional woman, once claiming that a woman should be a "cook in the kitchen, a maid in the living room, and an acrobat in the bedroom, and I can hire a cook and a maid." Her mindset is probably a result of her pampered upbringing and limited experiences, however, and by season 7 she is actively pursuing a career as a television hostess. By season 8, it does not pan out and her run of good luck is over. Jackie finds herself on a rapid downward spiral.
During the first season, Jackie is in her sophomore year of high school. Her parents in the first season are Mr. Burkhart (played by Paul Kreppel), an attorney who owns a local Fatso Burger fast food restaurant; and Pam Burkhart (initially played by Eve Plumb and later by Brooke Shields), a real estate agent. Jackie appoints herself Donna Pinciotti's best friend. Due to her haughtiness, Jackie believes Donna is unattractive compared to herself, and also boring — but as she states in numerous episodes, she believes Donna could do much better than Eric (though in the Season 7 finale, Jackie reveals she always cared for Eric as a friend). Despite their extremely different personalities, Donna serves as a de facto big sister to Jackie and often tries to look out for her when she feels Jackie is making a mistake, more often than not due to lack of common sense. Conversely, sometimes Jackie is the voice of reason for Donna. After her father was sent to prison in the middle of Season 5, Jackie moved in with Donna after having stayed with Hyde in his basement room for a period of time (unbeknown to the Formans).
Jackie has mostly an acquaintanceship with Eric, though she has teased a close friendship several times. She once told Eric she considered him a great friend and nice guy, and he was the first person to whom she revealed that she was under the impression she was pregnant. She also called Eric before he left for Africa saying she was sorry she couldn't be there to say good-bye in person and he was always special to her. Although she is Red's favorite (sometimes), Eric hates her, and makes no attempt to hide this. They hate each other even more when Eric blackmailed and extorted her (for kissing her boss), and Eric continued to dislike her. They did have their moments, such as when Eric convinced Jackie she was right for Kelso (ironically, they break up soon afterward), and when he stands up to comfort her after she ends her relationship with Kelso. During the course of the series, Jackie becomes an integral part of the "gang" and is considered a friend in her own right, as opposed to a friend because of who she is with.
Jackie also has a friendship with Red. Early on, Red remarked she was the favorite of Eric's friends for her ability to hold a flashlight on a car. Jackie has run crying to Mr. Forman's arms no less than three times, all of which he objected to. Red finds Jackie as annoying as everyone else, but she still loves him because he's the closest thing she has to a father.
When the show debuted, Jackie was dating Michael Kelso, an attractive, but dim-witted, partyboy. The two lost their virginity to each other after Kelso and his friends got out of jail for riding in a car that was mistaken for being stolen. Jackie gets on Kelso's friends' nerves on a daily basis and Kelso repeatedly said that he was going to break up with her. But Jackie beat him to it and broke up with him after catching him kissing Pam Macy. However, they got back together in the very same episode. Jackie later broke up with Kelso again after a pregnancy scare, but they got back together later at the Junior Prom. The two's relationship is somewhat of a contrast to Eric and Donna's mostly steady union. Their entire relationship was based on mutual obsession and complete physical attraction.
In Season 2, Kelso began an affair with Eric's promiscuous sister, Laurie, which Jackie eventually discovered, and subsequently broke up with him again. After this, she mostly showed nothing but contempt towards Kelso such as openly saying to his face that he makes her sick, calling him and idiot in front of the others, and almost always giving him turn downs whenever she could. She did eventually soften up with him. Following his subsequent breakup with Laurie, Jackie decided to test Kelso to see if they should get back together, which they did. Kelso remained loyal to Jackie after that and stayed with her throughout Season 4. However, when Kelso began to neglect Jackie as a result of his joining a modeling agency, she was caught by Eric kissing her boss Todd. Kelso eventually found out, and went to ambush Jackie's boss. However, Jackie's boss was a black belt and easily beat up Kelso. This event resulted in a period of discovery for Jackie and Kelso. Kelso realized he cheated because Jackie always insulted him and made him feel bad about himself. As a result, he felt insecure and cheated on Jackie in a self-conscious way of getting back at her. As a result, he broke up with her because he felt he couldn't be with someone who made him feel like that. It didn't last, and again they got back together shortly after.
Then in the Season 4 finale, Jackie asked Kelso to marry her, but Kelso freaked out and left for California with Donna. When he returned in the beginning of Season 5, he found out that Jackie had moved on to Hyde, which made him extremely jealous, and he spent the majority of the season trying to get her back. By the beginning of Season 6 however, Kelso had claimed to be over Jackie and was fine with just being friends with her. At the end of Season 7 however, Kelso drove Jackie to Chicago after her break-up with Hyde. He was later seen entering Jackie's hotel room in only a towel, making a comment implying he and Jackie were about to sleep together. Hyde soon showed up, however, and Kelso ran away nude. In Season 8, he considered marrying Jackie, claiming that he did still love her, before he was offered a job in Chicago. However Fez had already told her about his pending proposal, which made him feel he should do so, but then she turned him down when he asked at Red and Kitty's anniversary, much to his own delight.
Jackie and Steven Hyde were from the beginning of the show, polar opposites and even enemies. While Jackie was girly, rich, and shallow, Hyde was lower in social class and a rebel in the group. They strongly disliked each other during the first seasons, but Hyde began helping Jackie after her break-up with Kelso in Season 2. This eventually led to a phase in which Jackie was infatuated with Hyde, but her feelings gradually faded and it wasn't until Season 5, when Kelso was in California, that their romance really began. After watching too much of The Price is Right, the two began making out. At first they did not want to admit that they were dating, but finally gave in. They dated for the most part of Season 5, but Hyde's jealousy caused him to cheat and they broke up.
At the beginning of Season 6, Kelso and Hyde were in competition to get Jackie back, because they both still loved her. She decided she needed time to think about it, and left them both hanging, but chose Hyde in the end. Their relationship went on for two more seasons, until Jackie was offered a job in Chicago. She went to Hyde and told him that she would stay if he gave her any indication they would eventually get married. Hyde didn't have an answer, but when he did, she was already gone, or so he thought. Jackie had no way out of Point Place, so in one last attempt to get an answer out of the man she said 'meant everything in the world' to her, she went over to the basement. Hiding his hurt and anger that she'd "left" him, Hyde told her to have a good trip.
Then merely an episode later, Hyde had decided he was going to get her back. He hit a snag, however. During his conversation with Jackie, Kelso walked into the hotel room with a towel around his waist and a bucket of ice in his hands, making a comment that implied he and Jackie were about to have sex. Hyde drove off to Las Vegas. When he came back to Point Place, she discovered he had married a stripper, Samantha, which effectively ended his and Jackie's relationship.
Throughout Season 8, Jackie remained single, and she and Hyde reverted back to the way they were in the first season. Fez told Jackie that Kelso was going to propose to her, she considered it and decided to say yes, but realized that the life that she and Kelso would have together meant an unemployed Kelso constantly cheating on her, bringing home boxes of dogs, and being a bad influence on their multiple kids, so she refused (which made them both happy). By the end of the season, Jackie realized she was in love with Fez because had all the qualities she was looking for in a man and they began dating in the final episode (That '70s Finale).
- Jackie's dream is to move to Dallas, Texas. One time, she said she wanted to become a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys, and another time, she tries to convince Donna to go to Dallas with her and become a weather girl. However, in another episode, she claims she dislikes Texans (or any part of the south).
- In a season one episode Red claims that Jackie is his favorite one of Eric's friends after she demonstrates her skills at holding a flashlight and helping him work on the car, despite Eric pointing out that they aren't friends. Conversely, in another episode, Jackie didn't bother to help with Red's muffler shop. Instead, she just stood around saying "Eww... grease."
- Jackie loves disco music and keeps up with the fashions of the late 70s. She is a fan of ABBA and The Carpenters. She also listens to Peter Frampton and Todd Rundgren.
- Jackie's character is named after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
- In the Halloween episode where her middle name is mentioned ('Beulah'), she would become very angry whenever it was said. However, at the start of a season one episode where the audience comes in midway through an argument about who could beat up the other (Bruce Lee or The Fonz), her shirt says "JSB" (Jackie "Something" Burkhart); perhaps an attempt to cover up her real middle name. She is seen wearing the shirt in subsequent episodes of the show in later seasons.
- Jackie has a stuffed unicorn named Fluffycakes. It was a gift from Kelso after they had sex for the first time after Kelso did not call her for a week, using the excuse that his family was "having their phones cleaned." In reality, he did not call because he was thinking about breaking up with her. That was not shown at the time but they talk about it in the season 5 episode "A Whole Lotta Love." In that episode Jackie is appalled after learning the truth and exclaims that "Fluffycakes is tainted?". In Season Eight, Donna refers to it as "Mr. Fluffycakes". Jackie, angry over Hyde's sudden marriage to Samantha, promptly rips it in two and tosses it aside.
- Jackie has been shown to have coulrophobia, an irrational fear of clowns, that stems from her seventh birthday party when she walked in on a clown making out with her mother.