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Growing Pains

Growing Pains is an American television sitcom that ran on the ABC network from 1985 to 1992.

The show's premise is based around the fictional Seaver family, who reside on Long Island, New York. Dr. Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke), a psychiatrist, works from home because his wife, Maggie Malone (Joanna Kerns), has gone back to work as a reporter. Jason has to take care of the kids: troublemaker Mike (Kirk Cameron), honors student Carol (Tracey Gold), and rambunctious Ben (Jeremy Miller). From 1988 on, Chrissy Seaver became a part of the family. She was played in her infant stage by twins Kristen and Kelsey Dohring (who alternated). Beginning in the fall of 1990, Chrissy's character's age was advanced ("SORAS'ed") to six years old, whereupon Ashley Johnson took over the role. The show was relevant in the mid-1980s, as women going to work was becoming more and more common, as were stay-at-home dads.

Main cast

  • Alan Thicke as Dr. Jason Roland Seaver
  • Joanna Kerns as Margaret Katherine "Maggie" Malone (she kept her maiden name, although at some points she did refer to herself as Maggie Seaver)
  • Kirk Cameron as Michael Aaron "Mike" Seaver
  • Tracey Gold as Carol Anne Seaver (1985–1991, 1992) (Replaced Elizabeth Ward after the pilot was shown to test audiences with poor results.)
  • Jeremy Miller as Benjamin Hubert Horatio Humphrey "Ben" Seaver
  • Ashley Johnson as Christine Ellen "Chrissy" Seaver (1990–1992)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Luke Brower Seaver (later became Seaver after they adopt him). (1991–1991)

Opening sequences

The season 1 main opening featured various works of art, closing with a shot of the cast, which goes from black-and-white to color.

The opening credits from seasons 2 through 5 featured an opening shot of the cast in front of the house where establishing shots of the Seaver house are used, switching to photos of each cast member from childhood and, in Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns' case, to adulthood, mixed with various episode clips. In all episodes that aired from 1986-1990, the opening sequence ends with a "house gag" immediately after the final episode clip, and, starting with the fifth season, ran while the executive producers names' were listed. The house gag changes from episode-to-episode, and usually features the cast standing in front of the Seavers' house. A typical gag featured all but one member of the cast (this was usually the cast member whom the main story was about in that particular episode) leaving to go inside the Seaver house, with the other leaving seconds later. This was a running visual joke mildly similar to that of the "couch gag" sequences on The Simpsons. Most house gags last only about 10 seconds, but the longest one on record lasted roughly 20 seconds. Certain house gags include:

  • Jason starts leaving before the rest of the cast, only to stop and turn back, and the rest of the cast leaves seconds later. (This was the static open for the 1986 and 1987 seasons.)
  • In the Season 4 episode "Birth of a Seaver", in which Chrissy is born, the sequence goes as normal, though the clips are abbreviated in the form of the syndication airings, while the full theme plays as normal. Near the end of the sequence, a pregnant Maggie realizes and announces to the rest of the family that she is in labor, to which everybody follows and guides Maggie back in the house.
  • Near the end of the opening credits in the next episode, fittingly, Carol (Tracey Gold) holds up a sign saying "It's a Girl", which blocks Mike's face.
  • Everybody leaves, except for Carol. Noticing this, Ben, Mike, and Jason then turn back and pick Carol up, and take her in the house.
  • Everybody leaves to head into the house, except for Mike, to then which Carol angrily turns back and taps Mike on the shoulder, and makes a hand gesture telling him to come in with them.
  • The family stands outside in the rain wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas, and they all head toward the house.
  • Everyone leaves, except for Ben. When Mike notices, he comes back, whispers something in Ben's ear, and they both go in the house.

The opening used in Seasons 6 and 7 featured an opening shot of the mantle on the Seavers' fireplace panning over pictures of the cast. The past photos of each cast member were kept, but the clips where each cast member's name is overlayed on was replaced with still-current photos of each cast member. In this sequence, the male cast members wore tuxedos, and the female cast members wore formal dresses. The only exception was Leonardo DiCaprio: when he was added to the cast, his photo featured him wearing a hooded shirt and jeans, although for the first few episodes he appeared in, the camera would zoom to a wide shot, then his name was displayed). The end of this sequence featured various still-shots of the entire cast trying to get together for their picture, closing with a shot of the pictures on the wall on and above the mantle.

Theme song

The show's theme song is "As Long As We've Got Each Other," written and composed by John Bettis and performed by:
B.J. Thomas (singing solo); Season 1
B.J. Thomas & Jennifer Warnes; Seasons 2, 3, 5 and part of 7
B.J. Thomas & Dusty Springfield; Season 4
Rockapella; Season 6 and part of 7

There were 9 versions of the theme song; others included a Halloween-themed version not sung by Thomas or Warnes used in a 2-part Halloween episode in 1990. The first 3 seasons featured an instrumental part at the end of the theme, but in the fourth season, the original last verse of the TV version of the theme song, "Sharing the laughter and love," was added in its place. There was also an a cappella version of the song which was used for all of Season Six, but this version was abandoned for most of Season Seven in favor of the reinstatement of Thomas's and Warnes's duet version.

Episodes

Decline

At the beginning of the seventh season, a new character, homeless teen Luke Brower (then-unknown Leonardo DiCaprio), was introduced in a last-ditch attempt to salvage ratings, to no avail. Growing Pains had declined slightly on its established Wednesday time slot in Season 6, and was moved to Saturday nights in the fall of 1991 to make room for newer comedies. The other long-running show initially affected by this strategy was Who's the Boss?, which also moved to Saturdays. Ratings for both shows plunged to new lows, with insiders stating that ABC was getting rid of both programs by putting them on the "graveyard shift". To diffuse this fact, ABC moved the long-running sitcom Perfect Strangers, a show with reasonably high ratings, to Saturdays in February 1992; its presence helped to launch a new comedy block known as I Love Saturday Night. This final effort at scheduling had an adverse effect for all 3 shows, and, most of all, for new cartoon Capitol Critters, which was cancelled after only 2 months. By then, Growing Pains (along with Who's the Boss? and MacGyver) was canceled.

Controversies

Despite the show's success, there were a few behind-the-scenes controversies.

Kirk Cameron's clashes

In 1987, Kirk Cameron became a born again Christian. Afterwards he began to increasingly raise objections behind the scene to what he viewed as the depiction and promotion of immoral behavior on the show.

After Cameron's religious conversion, his beliefs frequently interfered with production of the show. He insisted that no "adult themes" be incorporated into episodes, and he often demanded that entire episodes be re-written when he objected to the content (when one planned episode revolved around Julie giving Mike the key to her apartment, Cameron objected to the sexual connotations, and he forced a new script to be written). According to the Growing Pains episode of E! True Hollywood Story, Cameron at one point went so far as to call the President of ABC on the phone, and refer to executive producers Dan Guntzelman, Mike Sullivan and Steve Marshall as pornographers, due to the content of some of the episodes. In 1991, after the show's sixth season, the three men quit the show as a result of Cameron's actions and statements. Cameron's conflicts with the writers were frequent in part due to his low level of tolerance for "immoral" behavior. For example, according to E True Hollywood Stories, one scene which he objected to would have shown Mike in bed with a girl. The camera would then pull back to reveal that the two were on stage, rehearsing a scene for a play. Even this oblique reference to sexuality was too much for Cameron. The most significant instance of Cameron's editorial interference occurred in the 1989-1990 season which was supposed to involve Mike marrying his girlfriend Julie. However, Cameron objected to the fact that actress Julie McCullough, who played the popular character Julie Costello, had once posed nude for Playboy. Cameron demanded that the producers fire her or he would quit. McCullough was fired, and Julie was written out of the series as having left Mike at the altar.

In 2003, according to the article "The Re-birth of Kirk Cameron" in Christianity Today, Cameron "admits he made some mistakes common to new believers — such as distancing themselves so far from the world that they do no good for anyone ... In time, however, he realized his missteps. In 2000, he re-joined his former cast members for a Growing Pains reunion movie. He stood in front of his TV family, and apologized for his behavior. 'I was a 17-year-old guy trying to walk with integrity, knowing that I was walking in the opposite direction from many other people. I didn't have the kind of maturity and graceful way of putting things perhaps that I would now,' he says. Cameron's fellow actors immediately embraced him.

Other problems

In addition to the problems with Cameron, the show's constant references to Carol Seaver as "fat" (notwithstanding her normal weight and size for her age) took their toll on Tracey Gold. Although it was brushed off as "it's not you, it's the character," the producers were unaware that Gold had a long history of eating disorders, and the constant insults eventually triggered a serious case of anorexia nervosa in Gold. She was forced to resign from the cast in January of 1992 and did not return until the 2-part final episode, for which she had to leave the hospital where she was still undergoing treatment.

In addition, about 1990, Jeremy Miller, who played younger son Ben Seaver, began to be stalked by an older man who wrote letters to Miller expressing his plans to rape the actor. The threat to Miller resulted in heightened security until the stalker revealed his home address in a threatening letter and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned.

Reruns/Syndication

International names

Country Name Literal translation
Mainland China 成长的烦恼 (Chéngzhǎng de Fánnǎo) Growing Worries
Taiwan, China 歡樂家庭 (Huānlè Jiātíng) Happy Family
France Quoi de neuf docteur? What is new doctor? or What's up doc?
Germany Unser lautes Heim Our loud home
Italy Genitori in blue jeans Parents in blue jeans
Japan 愉快なシーバー家 (Yukai na Seava (Seaver) Ke) Happy Seaver's family
Latin America Ay! Cómo duele crecer Ouch! How painful is growing up
Poland Dzieciaki, kłopoty i my Our kids, trouble and us
Spain Los Problemas Crecen The Problems grow

United States

ABC aired reruns of the show on its daytime schedule from July 1988 to August 1989. The show originally aired at 11:00am (EST) until January 1989, when with the cancellation of Ryan's Hope and the expansion of Home to an hour (from 11:00am-noon), the reruns moved to 12:00pm.

In the fall of 1989, the show was sold to local syndication, which continued until 1996. The show also aired on TBS for several years.

Reruns aired on the Disney Channel from 1997-2001 with the episodes featuring Leonardo DiCaprio given special emphasis in an attempt to draw in pre-teen crowds who had recently seen him in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic. The cable rights for the show moved to sister network ABC Family, where it ran from 2001 to 2004. It has also aired on ION Television (formerly i).

Nick at Nite began airing "Growing Pains" on February 12, 2007, launching with a marathon from 9:00PM ET-1:00AM ET. They pulled it from the schedule on May 2. Reruns now air exclusively on The N. The show has now returned to Nick at Nite as of June 29, 2008.

It is now being aired on the network The-N weekdays at 11:00 and 11:30am.

Latin America

Nick at Nite also shows it in Latin America Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 pm ET/PT.

Asia

mainland China

  • This show was dubbed in Chinese by the Shanghai Television in the late 1980s with the title of "Chéngzhǎng de Fánnǎo" (成长的烦恼; Chéngzhǎng means Growing, Fánnǎo means Pains). It was one of the first American sitcom introduced to mainland China and instantly became a smash hit. The show also had a great impact on the Chinese family values and broadened many people's ideas of parenting. Some parents regard Dr. and Mrs. Seaver as models and try to befriend their kids after watching the show. The show has been rerun numerous times across mainland China up to date. It is becoming popular once again due to the new DVD release in 2006. Growing Pains remains one of the most favorite American TV shows in China and the major cast members still enjoy huge popularity in China. Many Chinese use this show as materials for English learning.
  • The recent Disney Channel TV show Lizzie McGuire was titled in Chinese as the "New Growing Pains."Taiwan
  • This show was dubbed in Chinese by Chinese Television System during 1980s - 1990s, and was given a Chinese title called "Huānlè Jiātíng" (歡樂家庭; Happy Family). It was very popular at that time as well as other American Sitcoms, such as "Who's the boss", "Cosby Show", "ALF", and "Family Ties".Japan
  • Growing Pains was dubbed in Japanese, and broadcasted by the NHK of Japan in the name of "Yukai na Seava Ke(愉快なシーバー家)" (Happy Seaver's family) from 1997 to 2000.

Europe

Two books published in French exclusively about Growing Pains: Cyrille Rollet, Ph.D (EHESS, Paris),

  • Physiologie d'un Sitcom Americain (Voyage au Coeur de Growing Pains), (volume 1) - Physiology of an American Sitcom (Journey to the Heart of Growing Pains)
  • Circulation Culturelle d'un Sitcom Americain (volume 2) - The cultural circulation of an American sitcom

DVD Releases

On February 7, 2006, Warner Home Video released the complete first season of Growing Pains on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time. In conjunction with the release, Thicke, Kerns, Cameron, Gold, and Miller reunited for a CNN Larry King Live interview, which aired on that same date.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1 22 February 7 2006

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Growing Pains was unusual because, while it did not breach the fourth wall, it often made specific references and in-jokes about its being a TV show, unlike most sitcoms:

  • The Seavers lived at 15 Robin Hood Lane, Huntington, New York 11743. The shows creator Neal Marlens grew up on Long Island, and based the series in his hometown. Robin Hood Lane is fictional, but many speculate it may be based on Robin Lane off of Sweet Hollow Road.
  • The Seavers' next door neighbors were the Koosmans. This is a reference to the 1969 Mets, where Tom Seaver was the number 1 starting pitcher, and Jerry Koosman was the number 2 starter
  • Before appearing on Growing Pains, Alan Thicke hosted a late-night talk show called Thicke of the Night. Joanna Kerns' sister is Olympic swimmer Donna de Varona. In the second season episode "Jason's Rib", Jason asks Mike if he has seen his mom, Maggie. Mike responds, "Tall blonde, looks like Donna de Varona?". Later in the episode, Maggie asks Mike if he had seen his dad, Jason. Mike replies, "Tall man, looks like a talk show host?"
  • In an episode guest starring Kirk Cameron's sister Candace Cameron Bure (who played D.J. Tanner on Full House), Ben quips, "If this family were on TV, millions of people would watch!"
  • At the end of the episode "The Home Show", after disaster is averted by the family working together, when the Seavers hosted a very important dinner guest, Jason notes, "I had my doubts about this whole episode till then." Earlier in the episode, Jason suggests what would happen if they were on Perfect Strangers instead.
  • In one episode (when Mike visits his girlfriend from Maui), Carol quips "Mike, show me that smile again" just before the opening theme whose first line is "Show me that smile again".
  • Humorous opening themes were produced for Halloween and other events. The episode "All The World Is A Stage" began with Mike and several other people singing the theme song for an audience instead of the usual beginning theme. It showed male and female extras who were playing people in Mike's audience, but with the show's star's names superimposed: "ALAN THICKE (but that's not him)", "JOANNA KERNS (but that's not her)"... "KIRK CAMERON (not him either)"... "TRACEY GOLD (Nope)"... "JEREMY MILLER (what do you think?)"... "ASHLEY JOHNSON (not even close)". The pianist for this special opening is none other than Steve Dorff who wrote much of the music for the series.
  • In the fifth-season episode "Coughing Boy", Mike gives his picture to a talent agent. After Mike leaves his interview, the talent agent looks at his photo and says, "He reminds me of a young Michael J. Fox." In the Season 2 episode "My Brother, Myself", Ben asks Mike how long puberty lasts. Mike replies by saying, "You never know. Sometimes it could last forever. Look at Michael J. Fox." During his early teen heartthrob days, Kirk Cameron was hailed as the "young, new Michael J. Fox".
  • "Meet the Seavers" was an episode in which Ben awoke as Jeremy Miller, star of the fictional television show Meet the Seavers, providing a satirical behind-the-scenes look at Growing Pains. Some of the show's actual behind-the-scenes staff made on-camera appearances as themselves, notably the script supervisor, Susan Straughn Harris, and Yuh-Tyng Tsuei, a writer on the show, who later wrote for MacGyver.
  • In one episode, Ben takes a taxi driven by Alan Hale, the actor who played the Skipper on Gilligan's Island. Ben suggests that the cab driver is, in fact, the Skipper, which leads to a discussion about television shows. The cab driver asks Ben what his favorite programs are, and Ben responds that he likes "ABC's Tuesday-night lineup." He adds that he is especially fond of Who's the Boss?, Moonlighting, and "the program that is on between the two of them, especially the little kid." The reference is, of course, to Growing Pains and the character of Ben.
  • In the "Double Standard" episode, once Maggie punishes Ben with no TV for a month, the scene cuts to a title card reading "Growing Pains will not be seen for a month...because Ben messed up!" It stays like that for a second, before Maggie states that the punishment starts the next day and we cut back to the scene.
  • In the last episode of the sixth season, Mike and Kate walk out of the wedding chapel very lovingly. The priest looks at them, and says, "They'll be back." Between the hiatus of the sixth and seventh season, Kirk Cameron and Chelsea Noble, who played Mike and Kate, got married on July 20, 1991.
  • In The Growing Pains Movie, Jason refers to the movie Titanic, and specifically "that kid with the blue lips." He is, of course, talking about Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • In the movie Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers, Jason tells Mike that he should have learned his lesson after 166 episodes. Later in the movie, Maggie says that events tend to occur on Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30 central. Also, Mike's daughter Michelle says she'd buy the jacket only if Leonardo DiCaprio wore it.
  • In the episode "The Triangle," Mike asks his dad how often he comes to him with his problems, to which Jason tells Mike that he comes to him for advice every Wednesday at 8:00/7:00 central (the airing time of Growing Pains.

Minor Recurring Characters

  • Josh Andrew Koenig as Richard Milhous "Boner" Stabone (1985-1989, character was mentioned during flashbacks in the series finale in 1992); Mike's friend.
  • K.C. Martel as Eddie; Mike's friend.
  • Lisa Capps as Debbie (1987-1988)
  • Rachael Jacobs as Shelley (1987-1988)
  • Jane Powell as Irma Seaver (1988-1990); Jason's mother.
  • Robert Rockwell as Wally (1988-1990)
  • Gordon Jump as Ed Malone (1989-1991); Maggie's father.
  • Betty McGuire as Kate Malone (1989-1991); Maggie's mother.
  • Chelsea Noble as Kate MacDonald (1989-1992)
  • Jamie Abbott as Stinky Sullivan (frequent guest star 1987-1989, regular cast member 1989-1991); Ben's friend.
  • Julie McCullough as Julie Costello (1989-1990); Mike's former girlfriend.
  • Bill Kirchenbauer as Coach Graham Lubbock (1987–1988 on Growing Pains, starred in spin-off Just the Ten of Us); gym teacher.
  • Sam Anderson as Principal Willis DeWitt (frequent guest star); who had started as Mike's history teacher early in the series.

Notable Guest Stars

Nielsen Ratings

1985-1986 Season: #17

1986-1987 Season: #8

1987-1988 Season: #5

1988-1989 Season: #13

1989-1990 Season: #21

1990-1991 Season: #27

Spinoffs

Just the Ten of Us was an ABC show that had Coach Graham Lubbock, Mike and Carol's gym teacher, moving to California with his large family to teach at an all boys Catholic school after he was fired from Thomas Dewey High School. It was a consistent hit on the Friday lineup, but was abruptly cancelled after three seasons.

External links

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