American television sitcom about an affluent family, residing in Huntington, Long Island, New York.
166 episodes of 30 minute duration. ABC 1985 - 1992
A family comedy in the style of NBC’s successful Family Ties, Growing Pains also featured an upper-middle-class clan with two working parents. In the case of Pains, psychiatrist Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) operated his practice from his Long Island, New York home while wife Maggie (Joanna Kerns) worked outside the home as a reporter. The Seavers had three children–oldest son and troublemaker Mike (Kirk Cameron), bright middle child Carol (Tracey Gold) and youngest son Ben (Jeremy Miller). The Seavers later had a fourth child named Chrissy (initially played by infant twins before the producers accelerated her age to six years old; Ashley Johnson took the role as the older Chrissy).
Growing Pains turned out to be a pleasant comedy dealing with minor and major issues, as a good family sitcom should. For the show’s first four seasons, Mike’s best friend was Richard Milhous Boner Stabone (Josh Andrew Koenig); his character was later written out as joining the Marines. Another notable regular came in the final season, where future film star Leonardo DiCaprio played Luke Brower, a homeless boy taken in by the Seavers.
With an enviable time slot (between Who’s The Boss? and Moonlighting), Growing Pains soon became a top-ten series and ran for seven seasons. But there were behind-the-scenes problems: Kirk Cameron, who converted to Christianity during the show’s run, began demanding changes to scenes he thought were too risqué. Actress Julie McCullough briefly played the role of nanny Julie Costello during Pains’ fifth season; Cameron called for McCullough’s firing because she posed nude for Playboy magazine. Cameron accused the show’s producers of promoting pornography. He also alienated other cast members by not inviting them to his wedding. (Cameron later apologized for his actions, blaming a lack of maturity). Co-star Tracey Gold, who gained some weight before the show’s fourth season, became the target of fat jokes by her brothers in future episodes. Gold later wrote she became obsessed with her weight and started binging and purging, causing her to drop to a dangerously low 80 pounds. Because of her appearance, Gold only appeared in a few episodes during the show’s final season.
Growing Pains spawned a pair of reunion movies in both 2000 and 2004, along with a spin-off series Just The Ten Of Us, with Mike and Carol’s gym teacher Graham Lubbock (Bill Kirchenbauer) moving to California with his wife and eight children. It ran for three seasons.
Growing Pains’ theme song, As Long As We’ve Got Each Other, was sung over the opening credits by B.J. Thomas (both alone and later with Jennifer Warnes and Dusty Springfield) for much of the show’s run.
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