The role of psychiatrist and father Jason Seaver on “Growing Pains” was the best gig Alan Thicke almost didn’t get.
The TV star recounted the story of his casting on the sitcom in a 2011 interview.
When ABC sought out to fill roles on “Growing Pains” in the early 1980s, he explained, the network first looked at a few emerging young actors. Thicke was one. Another? Bruce Willis.
“So I guess there would’ve been a chance that I would have been in ‘Moonlighting’ and Bruce Willis would have been [the family’s] dad,” he said.
In hindsight, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Thicke, who died Tuesday, in Jason Seaver’s shoes.
Seaver debuted as it was becoming more common to see men on TV breaking gender norms. On the show, the mild-mannered dad worked from home so his wife could return to her demanding job as a reporter.
“Growing Pains” premiered in 1985, a year after “Who’s the Boss” and “Charles in Charge,” two shows in which male characters filled domestic roles previously only portrayed by female characters. TV was finally catching up with the real world.
Jason Seaver was hands-on at home. He was even a father figure to Luke (Leonardo DiCaprio), a troubled and semi-homeless teen who spent a lot of time at the Seavers’ house.
When son Mike (Kirk Cameron) came home after curfew and revealed to his father that he’d turned down cocaine at a party, his dad expressed not anger but pride. And when Luke poured out the contents of the Seavers’ liquor cabinet because he was afraid drinking would cause them to act like his alcoholic stepfather, the Seavers didn’t reprimand the young boy – they invited him to live with them.
And when his wife considered turning down a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity in Washington, D.C., Jason told her the job was too good to refuse.
The series ended with the family packing up their home and moving to the nation’s capital.
Jason Seaver was a TV dad for a new generation who also ranked among the all-time greats – the Mike Bradys, the Ward Cleavers and the Steven Keatons.
It wasn’t just his advice, his understanding tone or his cheesy jokes. It was that he cared enough to be there for all of it – rain or shine.
There are few “Growing Pains” fans who won’t fondly remember “sharin’ the laughter and love” with Thicke.