'Growing Pains': The Seavers explain why their sitcom makes you go 'Aww'

growing-pains

Image Credit: Everett Collection

“Awwww.” You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t let out such a satisfied, delighted response when the cheesy ’80s/’90s family sitcom Growing Pains comes up in casual conversation. Just look at the cast shot to the left here. It’s adorable. Makes you go “Aww,” right?

But what about Pains elicits such a response? Well, first off, there’s that infectious theme song with a dueting couple encouraging you to “show me that smile” and suggesting that all will be great “as long as we got each other.” That might be it, but there’s also the fact that Pains was the kind of show — dripping with family values and lessons learned, great big hair-dos and a heartthrob in Mike Seaver — that families sat around and watched together during those all-important, Reagan-and-post-Reagan, TGIF-fueled years. So, the reaction is mostly nostalgia, a yearning for bygone days. The Seaver clan wistfully falls into that tradition of family shows — along with other staples like Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step, and others — that goes down in history as “good, clean television.”

But why? How can Growing Pains still be so appealing, more than 20 years after its launch? Seeing as how we recently got the Seaver clan back together for our annual Reunions Issue — which is currently on stands and features cast reunions such as Aliens, Home Improvement, and more — we’ll leave it to Jason, Maggie, Mike, Carol, and Ben to explain the show’s “Aww” factor:

ALAN THICKE (Dr. Jason Seaver): “We were a good wish-fulfillment show. It was a functional, loving, amusing, somewhat relateable family that we all wish we could have been a part of. I’m often flattered when people ask me for parenting advice, to which I usually say, ‘It’s easier being a good parent when you have 11 writers following you around, telling you what to say.’ That was the idyllic kind of family environment and dynamic that our writers created for us, and it’s largely the kind of family that a lot of people aspire to.”

JOANNA KERNS (Maggie Malone Seaver): “Maybe it’s nostalgia for a different time. It was a different time. It was before all of these wars, before the craziness of the economy. You didn’t even deal with those things on TV. Everything could be wrapped up in 22 minutes. Everybody was safe, nobody got hurt, nobody died, and they all loved each other in the end. It’s just a different world on TV now. The really fabulous half hours that have come along, like Modern Family, in the end, they all love each other! You know? I think it makes you feel good. Every episode kind of gives it back to you so you’re not sitting there feeling sad.”

KIRK CAMERON (Mike Seaver): “People’s lives are so much more fractured and distracted because of all the different things we’ve got going on. You’ve got to keep up with things today that you didn’t have back then. When Growing Pains was on, there was a sense of family solidarity. There was a stability and still some rootedness in family values and things that people don’t experience as much today. It was an era where you had a lot of shows going on like that. I think there is something about watching people who lived in a different time and a different era, and in a different set of values, that is really appealing. I think people wanted to be a part of the Growing Pains family, just like people wanted to be a part of the Waltons, or Little House on the Prairie. It was like, ‘Man, I wish I could be part of that family.’”

TRACEY GOLD (Carol Seaver): “[Growing Pains] was on during a more innocent time, to sound cliché. I think it brings back a softer, gentler time. It was extremely relateable. You can take something from everyone’s experience on Growing Pains, whether you related to the parents or Mike or Carol or Ben, whatever they were going through. I know just from being in the show, I felt a warmth about it and a relatability when certain episodes would come up. It felt very real, and at the end there was always a takeaway, kind of a soft, gentle lesson learned.”

JEREMY MILLER (Ben Seaver): “These types of shows just aren’t made anymore, the type of family viewing that literally was made for the entire family. That doesn’t really exist. I think people look back at that very fondly, at a time when they could sit down with their brothers and sisters, mom, dad, everybody, and watch something together. I’d say it was about that and the chemistry between all of us. I think it always really, really came through. People for years told us how much we reminded them of their family.”

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Read more:
‘Growing Pains’ star Andrew Koenig committed suicide, father says
‘Growing Pains’ actor Andrew Koenig reported missing
‘Growing Pains’ debuted 25 years ago today: Show me that smile again.
Encore: ‘Growing Pains’
‘Growing Pains: The Complete First Season’ Review

Comments (58 total) Add your comment
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  • bfett

    I always hated Growing Pains. Alan Thicke annoys me and I always wondered why and how he made it in Hollywood. I see no talent.

    • Michelle

      So why are you here?

      • bfett

        Didn’t read the article Michelle. I just took advantage of my right to blog with my own opinion.

      • paoli

        Right on bfett, I’ve always despised this corny show. I don’t get all the hype that surrounds it.

    • stu

      i agree bfett.
      Though i was hoping when the show ended Kirk would do gay porno.

    • SaraS

      That show happens to feature a nice family and be funny at the same time.
      I loved Growing Pains.

  • dc

    aww?
    eww!

    • paoli

      Ha!

    • Chuckie

      Results:You See Halloween as ScaryYou are an outgoing peosrn who’s a bit of a showoff. It’s likely that you dress up for Halloween every year.No one quite understands you, but everyone also sort of worships you. And that’s exactly how you like it.Your inner child is bittersweet, thoughtful, and never too greedy.You truly fear the dark side of humanity. You are a true misanthrope.You’re prone to be quite emotional and over dramatic. Deep down, you enjoy being scared out of your mind even if you don’t admit it.You are a traditionalist with most aspects of your life. You like your Halloween costume to be basic, well made, and conventional enough to wear another year. My thoughts? Ummm .there are some good points, and then there is the outgoing peosrn who is a bit of a showoff and everyone else sort of worships you. And that’s exactly how you like it. I really don’t think so .

  • Bounce

    Loved this show!!! And they are right, there is very little TV out there now that the whole family can watch, with the exception of Phineas and Ferb :)

  • Kerri

    I did love this show. I wish the reruns were on somewhere. Although I disagree with you, Joanna Kerns, when you say, “Nobody died.” I don’t remember a lot of individual episodes, but I sure remember the one where Matthew Perry died!! :)

  • Meg

    Thanks EW. Now I have the theme song stuck in my head and this day is long enough already.
    *
    On a different note, what’s the possibility of Thicke’s TV family showing up as his “family” on HIMYM? Long shot, though.

    • Weezer

      Now THIS is something I can totally get on board with!! Oh how the Barnacle would love to hit on Carol Seaver (or maybe even Maggie for that matter).

      • Meg

        woot! I have a feeling that Carol Seaver and Marshall would totally go head-to-head on the whole “lawyered” thing. That’d be pretty awesome.

  • Carl

    Wasn’t there another girl? And didn’t they take in another kid? Whatever happened to him?

    • Eric P

      It was Leonardo De Caprio he was on just towards the end. He was the “cousin oliver” of GP.

      • iyyak

        Yes, with the exception that I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was super cute and worth watching, and that his name was hard to spell. All of which, apparently, are still true.

    • Flame

      Ashley Johnson as Chrissy Seaver came into play in the middle of the run, like Season 4 or 5. Luke (Leonard, the Cabriolet) was adopted in Season 7 and went back to his father eventually.

    • Melissa

      They had another daughter Chrissy laster in the series. Not sure why she wasn’t included but I will ALWAYS love this show and Mike Seaver!!

      • Kim

        Maybe because she ruined the show!?! I couldn’t stand that kid.

    • Michelle

      There was another girl…Chrissy. She was very annoying, not cute and more of the Cousin Oliver than Leo’s Luke was.

  • Eric P

    OH! The baby that grew overnight!! I think she was Crissy?? Nobody wants to remember her…

  • Bobby

    Ashley Johnson played the youngest Seaver, Chrissy. She even showed up in the two reunion movies ABC did. These days, she’s on “The Killing” and is a voice on “Ben 10.”

  • KCB

    So true! I miss those family shows like Growing Pains, Who’s The Boss and Full House. I offer up Melissa and Joey as a nostalgic substitute.

  • *

    If I had known Kirk Cameron was batsh*t crazy, I never would’ve had his poster on my wall.

    • Ava

      Yea that’s pretty much all I can think of when I think of Growing Pains now. It’s like watching a Tom Cruise movie and all you think about is him jumping over Oprah’s couch and talking about how awesome Scientology is. Days gone by.

    • J.D @Ava

      How is he crazy because he loves God and his family? He makes millions producing films that support his beliefs(much like George Clooney,Robert Redford,Sean Penn,Micheal Morre:etc) and raising millions for charity. That makes him insane? Maybe he should spend his time on comments section putting down people for their beliefs like you do who don’t have half his success or talent.What do you people contribute to the world?

      • Rob

        Kirk Cameron is INSANE.

        His comments, based on his religious brandings, on gays and evolution are downright nasty. Hey, Kirk can love family all he wants, I just cringe when he tries to dictate his religion to me. Kirk even tried to overtake the producers/writers of Growing Pains with his religious rants. This is fact. E did a behind the show series of GP and interviewed producers who openly clashed with Kirk. It’s OK for Kirk to adopt loads of kids but not gays? His statements about science are stupid to say the least. He has single handedly ruined my enjoyment of this show.

      • SaraS

        I am all for gay marriage, but I agree with you J.D. He’s not insane or a religious dictator — he is just very Christian and has conservative values.
        Doesn’t make him any less hot in my book :)

      • corrie

        Please get a life.

  • Steve-o

    ” You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t let out such a satisfied, delighted response when the cheesy ’80s/’90s family sitcom Growing Pains comes up in casual conversation.”

    Seriously? LOL

    1) Growing Pains never comes up in anyone’s casual conversation. Ever.

    2) You must have this show confused with Family Ties.

    • Paige

      I have talked about Growing Pains with friends. Just because you didn’t like it doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of people out there who did.

      • Steve-O

        Yes, I watched the show AS A CHILD. It was crap. If you sit around talking about this silly footnote in tv history as an adult you are a bigger loser than I can possibly imagine.

  • Maude

    I loved this show. I always wanted to be a Seaver.

  • Paige

    LOVE Growing Pains. I hate that there aren’t re-runs on anymore. I absolutely had a crush on Kirk Cameron as a kid.

  • Kim

    I always had a crush on Ben. Ha ha.

  • Lisa

    I’m sorry but what the hell are you talkng about EW? This show is not a classic! Frasier, Cheers, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld are classics.These are shows that will be in reeruns for years and that is what “classic”means.I never need to see Growing Pains again in my life it was not funny at all.How many emmys did it win? Zero.

    • Michael

      Actually, Lisa…GROWING PAINS was nominated for five Emmy Awards and won two during its run. How many minutes did you fact check before making your statement? Zero,

      • Sarah

        LOL Michael!

      • corrie

        @Michael….it’s still crappola!!

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