The late 70s and 80s were truly the golden years of the TV father. From Archie Bunker and Steve Keaton to Bill Cosby and Danny Tanner, the dad heyday was marked by a sea of salt and pepper lids and nubby sweater vests. But none were so thoroughly modern and impactful for me, than Alan Thicke's Jason Seaver. When his wife Maggie goes back to work as a reporter after having their fourth (!) child, Jason decides to work from home to help raise the kids. Ok Growing Pains, you had me at hello. Even though I'm sure when they initially pitched the show it must have seemed like a real wacky concept that dad stays home, Growing Pains managed to play it relatively straight. Maggie was a cool, hard-working journalist and Jason was a fairly collected, though sometimes frighteningly serious dad.
I loved both Seavers equally and they were my surrogate TV parents. In the chaos of my own loud, raucous immigrant family, this milquetoast couple represented a kind of stability that seemed endlessly appealing to a very young me. As soon as that iconic theme song came on, I was lulled into a calm, ready to see what mildly comical and easily solvable antics the family would get up to, always steered stoically by their captain, Jason Seaver. As long as we've got each other....And despite how all-American he was meant to be, Alan Thicke, even in that Long Island home, was a quintessentially Canadian dad. From the makeshift ice rinks in the backyard to his endless patience with actual maniac Kirk Cameron, Thicke always betrayed his Northern Ontario roots. He was an American import but we could always lay claim to the mild-mannered man from Kirkland Lake.
Growing Pains went off the air in 1995, seven years after its debut and I replaced those loving TV dads with sultry teen soaps. In the Beverly Hills 90210 universe, Jim Walsh was an afterthought. A creepy nuisance whose storylines were getting in the way of what I really cared about, Brenda and Dylan's disasterous teen romance. But still the Growing Pains influence extended well into my young adulthood. I was a bit too young to really crush on Kirk Cameron's eldest son, Mike, but I definitely fell hard for late addition Leo Dicaprio who played runaway Luke Brower. That crush set off decades of poor romantic choices (don't run away, I can fix you!)
Yet, decades later when I hear the opening lyrics of that theme song I remember the warmth of Alan Thicke's Jason Seaver and I'm reminded of the impact his stay-at-home dad had on my young brain. He was the father Canada always wanted.
And to his last day he remained as such, dying of a heart attack on Dec. 13 on the ice playing hockey with his youngest son, Carter.
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