If Father Knows Best had been
revived in the 1980's, it would have been called Growing Pains. As
amiable and wise as Jim Anderson had been, Jason
Seaver was more so - and a little hipper to boot. This father was a psychiatrist
(who better to deal with teenage traumas?) who had moved his office into his suburban New
York home when his wife Maggie went back to work, in order to keep an eye
on the kids. The young Seavers were Mike, a gangly teenager who was more interested in having a good time than in responsibility
("a hormone on feet," his mother called him); shy Carol,
his brainy sister; and their cute little brother Ben, no slouch himself at
getting into scrapes. Dad was always available with sage advice, while Mom,
who had become a reporter for the Long Island Herald (later
a TV reporter as "Maggie Malone"), rushed off to work.
Mike and Carol attended school at Thomas E. Dewey High.
The characters evolved as years went
by. In 1988 Maggie had another child,
which didn't stop her from quickly resuming her career. Baby Chrissy grew
remarkably fast, turning six only two years later. Hormonal Mike graduated high school
and enrolled in a local college, while working odd jobs. His parade of
girlfriends was truly awesome, the most notable being Julie (Chrissy's nanny,
whom he almost married, but who dumped him at the altar) and later Kate. Boner
and Eddie were his best pals. In later seasons, Mike dabbled
in acting and taught remedial education, for credit, at an inner-city
school, where homeless boy Luke was his star student. Luke moved in with the Seavers, while Mike now had his own
"pad" - over the family garage.
Carol had a tougher time on the dating scene, but soared academically; following graduation she worked for several months, and then entered Columbia
University. Ben, on the other hand, seemed to develop into a junior version
of Mike, with mostly girls on his mind. Other kin seen in recurring appearances
were Jason's vivacious, widowed mother Irma and her new husband Wally, and Maggie's parents
Ed and Kate Malone.
In addition to the safe little stories of dates, first jobs
and fun around the house, Growing Pains periodically tackled more serious issues
than Father Knows Best ever imagined, including drunk driving, teen
suicide, racism, and peer pressure on Mike to use cocaine. As in the earlier
series, however, a wise dad and mom saw their basically decent kids through it
all. In the final original
episode, Maggie was offered a chance-of-a-lifetime job as media relations
director for a senator in Washington, so the family moved there - minus
Mike, who by now had become an actor(!), and Carol, who was in college. The
following fall, the Seaver house was occupied by none other than Hangin' with
Fourteen-year-old Kirk Cameron,
formerly unnoticed as a regular on Two Marriages, became something of a
teenage heartthrob on this series, receiving 10,000 letters a month. "I'm still
nervous and shy when I meet girls," he told a reporter. "The only thing that's
changed is that I've gotten the chance to meet more girls because
they introduce themselves to me."
In 1991, over his shyness, he
married actress Chelsea Noble, who played Kate.
ABC aired reruns of Growing Pains on
weekday mornings from July 1988 to August 1989.