When I heard the news today that Alan Thicke had died at the age of 69, I was shocked. Well, not really; 2016 has been taking some of our most cherished celebrities this year, and with 18 days to go, I share the hope with the rest of the world that no more much loved household names leave us.
A few months back I wrote a blog post about Alyssa Milano who was one of the stars of the sitcom Who’s The Boss? Although it started the year before Alan Thicke’s own sitcom Growing Pains, for me, those two shows go hand in hand as the former was on Tuesday nights at 7:30pm followed by the latter at 8:00pm. From 1986 until 1993 my Tuesday nights were an education in how to be a dad. Actually, both Monday and Tuesday nights from 1986 until 1993 were a real eye opener for me with shows such as The Cosby Show, Who’s The Boss, Growing Pains and Family Ties showcasing dads in a positive light and being positive role models to their children.
Growing Pains was an amazing concept; Jason Seaver is a psychiatrist who decides to work from home after his wife goes back to work. As she is a reporter who cannot work from home, it is agreed that Jason can move his office to their house so that he can raise their children. One may suggest that back in 1984/85 when the show was first produced that a father looking after the kids whilst his wife is out to work is a strange concept, as it still may be in 2016 to many.
In fact, with the launch of Matt LeBlanc’s new sitcom Man With a Plan being about a guy whose wife goes back to work “forcing” him to be a stay-at-home-dad and discovering it’s harder than he imagined (yes, I kid you not, the bumbling fool television dad still exists), it seems that the creators of that show totally missed watching Growing Pains.
Despite Mike Seaver’s alter ego Kirk Cameron turning out to be a doofus in real life, Carol Seaver’s alter ego Tracey Gold very public battle with anorexia, and Ben Seaver’s alter ego Jeremy Miller having a drinking problem, Dr. Jason Roland Seaver was an exemplary on screen father; one who could discipline enough to be righteous, but fair, and knockabout enough to have the kids actually like their dad.
Jason Seaver was the right mix of cool dad, awkward dad, loving dad, grateful dad, strict dad, family man, and everything in between. Being a dad didn’t define him, but not being a dad was not a option for this guy. Even though fatherhood made him feel old, when his wife Maggie reunited him with his old band mates, it was something that allowed him to remember who he was pre-kids, but being the family man that he was, he never thought about shirking his responsibilities.
I am sure that there is a huge part of Dr Seaver’s character that Alan Thicke brought to the set, and although he own children were younger than his on screen children, I am sure that he brought his own experiences as a parent to that character as well.
Away from acting, Alan Thicke was a songwriter who wrote theme songs for television shows such as Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life (I always thought he wrote and sang on the Growing Pains theme song, but that’s not the case). Of course, his skills as a musician and songwriter obviously rubbed off on at least one of his own children with his second son Robin having a career as a music producer and songwriter for many and varied pop acts, and himself recording songs that have made their way onto the charts.
Now I’m not going to be one of those people who say “I’ll miss him” because, in truth, until today, he hasn’t really been on my mind. But I would like to think that somewhere, maybe in the back of my mind, the spirit of Dr Jason Seaver is there guiding me through this craziness that we call parenting. If I’m half the dad I remember him to be, then I’m doing alright.
Did you watch Growing Pains? Is Jason Seaver your favourite television dad, or at least one of them?