Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Debuting September 24, 1985, the weekly, half-hour ABC sitcom Growing Pains was set in Long Island, the home of the Seaver family. Alan Thicke starred as Dr. Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist who had moved his practice from New York City into his home in order to spend more time with his family. The move was largely the idea of Jason's wife, Maggie (Joanna Kerns), a reporter for the "Long Island Herald," who believed that at least one parent should be home at all times to keep an eye on the kids. After a couple of seasons in the newspaper world, Maggie landed a job as a local TV reporter, using her maiden name, Maggie Malone. The original three Seaver children were Mike (Kirk Cameron), 15 years old when the series began; Carol (Tracey Gold), initially age 13; and Ben (Jeremy Miller), aged 9 at the outset. In the series' fourth season, Maggie gave birth to a fourth child, a daughter named Chrissy, who via typical TV-series shorthand turned six years old only two years later, at which point she was played by Ashley Johnson, taking over from twin infants Kirsten and Kelsey Dohring. Described by his dad as "a hormone with feet," oldest son Mike spent most of his high school career trying to impress girls, usually in the company of his best buds Boner (Andrew Koenig) and Eddie (K.C. Martel). When the series' fourth season began, Mike entered junior college, moving out of the Seaver's house -- and into the apartment above the family's garage. At the end of the same season he proposed to Julie Costello (Julie McCullough), who'd been hired as baby Chrissy's nanny, but eventually the couple decided not to wed. The following year Mike began taking acting classes, where he met and fell in love with Kate McDonald (Betty McGuire). In season six Mike moved to New York to pursue an acting career, but by season seven he was back in his garage apartment, even though he'd landed a steady (but not particularly rewarding) role on a daytime soap opera. During his New York stay Mike had briefly taught remedial classes at an inner-city community center. Here he met a 15-year-old homeless kid named Luke Brower (played by a decidedly pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio), who would briefly live with the Seaver family. Meanwhile, overachiever Carol enjoyed her first romance with Bobby (Kevin Gerard Wixted), a fellow high school freshman whom she was tutoring. In the series' fifth season, Carol went to work for a publishing company, hoping to earn enough money to attend Columbia University, which she did the following year. By the final season, Carol was studying abroad in London, a plot development created to compensate for the fact that actress Tracey Gold had been forced to drop out of the series due to her debilitating struggle with anorexia. As for Ben, he established himself as the family's prime troublemaker early on. As he grew older, Ben began to emulate older brother Mike, especially in his tireless pursuit of the opposite sex. His best friends included Stinky and Vito, played respectively by Jamie Abbott and Kenny Morrison. Among the series' recurring characters were Gordon Jump and Betty McGuire as Maggie's parents Ed and Kate; Jane Powell as Jason's widowed mom Irma; Robert Rockwell as Irma's new husband, Wally; and Bill Kirchenbauer as local high school athletic coach Graham Lubbock. In 1987, Lubbock would be spun off into his own weekly comedy series, Just the Ten of Us. Growing Pains' theme song was "As Long as We Got Each Other," sung by B.J. Thomas and Jennifer Warnes. Created by Neal Marlens, Growing Pains ended its ABC run on August 27, 1992.