Growing Pains: Every Family Experiences Them

This month we are looking at some of our favorite families from classic sitcoms. Today we are traveling to Long Island, New York to visit the Seavers from Growing Pains.

Photo: people.com

Growing Pains aired on ABC from 1985 to 1992. The seven seasons provided 166 episodes.

Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) is a psychiatrist who works from home. His wife Maggie (Joanna Kerns) works outside the home as a reporter. They have three kids: happy-go-lucky and sometimes irresponsible Mike (Kirk Cameron), bright and studious Carol (Tracey Gold), and Ben (Jeremy Miller) who looks up to his older brother. Gold and Cameron had some experience in sibling rivalry because they played brother and sister in a McDonald’s commercial. In season four, Chrissy (Kelsey and Kirsten Dohring and later Ashley Johnson) is born, twelve years behind Ben. In season seven, Mike befriends Luke Brower (Leonardo DiCaprio), a homeless kid he mentors, who moves in with the family.

Photo: pinterest.com

Johnson said that she had fun on the show. Since she was so young, she said she didn’t really have to act; she just was herself. She said she loved working with Thicke and they stayed in touch over the years. She also recalled acting with DiCaprio. She said he was a great actor, and she appreciated her time on the set with him. She felt the family unit on the show was very strong and that it was the same off the screen with the cast as well.

Rounding out the cast are several of Carol and Mike’s friends, Maggie and Jason’s parents, and several teachers. Mike’s best friend Richard was played by Andrew Koenig, son of Star Trek’s Chekov. If you look closely, you might see a couple of familiar faces in some classroom scenes. Alan’s son Robin Thicke played a student in several episodes, and Cameron’s sister, Candace Cameron Bure, who would star in Full House, also played classmates. Carol also had a couple of famous boyfriends on the show including Matthew Perry and Brad Pitt.

Kerns and Thicke received their roles and became good friends in real life as well. Carol was originally played by Elizabeth Ward but was replaced when audience reaction was not positive.

Photo: wikifandom.com

There were four versions of the theme song during the seven seasons. B.J. Thomas sings a solo and later Dusty Springfield was added to the track to make it sound like a duet. Later Jennifer Warnes replaced Dusty in the song with Thomas. An a cappella version was used in the last season.

The show ranked in the top 30 until season seven when it fell to 75th place. DiCaprio was brought onto the show to win teen ratings. Ratings didn’t increase, and the show was canceled.

Photo: imdb.com

This series gave birth to the spin-off show Just the Ten of Us; on this show, Carol and Mike’s gym teacher and coach moves to California with his wife and eight kids to work at an all-boys Catholic school.

Eight years after the show ended, two made-for-tv movies debuted: The Growing Pains Movie in 2000 and Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers in 2004.

After the show went off the air, Kerns felt she needed to switch to directing because she was getting older and there weren’t a lot of available parts for older women. Her friend JoBeth Williams did the same. Kerns had 77 acting credits, most of them before Growing Pains. She has 72 directing credits, so she has been busy behind the scenes. Currently, she is directing episodes for A Million Little Things.

Photo: fanpop.com

In 2018 the Today show interviewed Cameron, Gold, and Miller. They said they all kept in touch some, but they all stayed connected to Alan all the time. They said Thicke set the tone on the set and taught them to appreciate their work and emphasized how important it was to have a happy set. Gold said they laughed a lot. They all agreed that they were a family unit on the set, but they were also a family unit in real life.

I do remember watching the show when it was on live. I did watch several shows for this blog. It wasn’t a show I agonized over missing, but I also didn’t mind watching it when I was home. I think kids growing up in the eighties probably had more fondness for the show and it symbolized what My Three Sons did in my generation.

2 thoughts on “Growing Pains: Every Family Experiences Them

  1. I’ve heard of the show but never seen it. It had a bunch of famous people in it that I recognize though! The father was ahead of his time working from home. That’s fun to hear that they enjoyed their time on and off the set together.

    Like

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