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Here’s What Happened to Kirk Cameron and the Cast of ‘Growing Pains’ Before, During and After the Show

In the early years of the 1980s, the sitcom was very much considered a genre that had run its course on prime time television, with the audience having tuned out and critics dismissing pretty much every series that hit the air. But then, and proving that the fall-off just maybe had something to do with the quality of programming being shown, The Cosby Show premiered in the fall of 1984 and turned everything around. Given the audience’s response to that show (proven by the ratings), suddenly everyone wanted sitcoms. One of them, as it turned out, was ABC’s Growing Pains (currently airing on Antenna TV).

Debuting in 1985 and running until 1992, the show focused on interactions with the Seaver family in the form of Alan Thicke as psychiatrist Dr. Jason Seaver, who works out of a home office; Joanna Kerns as his wife, Maggie Seaver, a reporter who has now gone back to work; and their three kids, Kirk Cameron’s Mike (and it wouldn’t be long before Kirk, it should be noted, would suddenly find himself a teen heartthrob and on the cover of magazines everywhere), Tracey Gold’s Carol and Jeremy Miller’s Ben, later to be joined by Ashley Johnson’s Chrissy and Leonardo DiCaprio (yes, that Leonardo DiCaprio) in one of his early roles as the homeless Luke Brower.

Warner Bros

What’s fascinating is that although the critics were pretty dismissive of the show at first, considering it nothing more than a rip-off of Cosby, it was actually a ratings hit right out of the gate — not really surprising considering that it was created by Neal Marlens, one half of the creative team behind The Wonder Years.

One of the people who dismissed the comparisons to The Cosby Show was Alan Thicke, who told The Sacramento Bee in 1986, “How about Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best? We’re not really like Cosby. We’re more story-oriented than ensemble. Cosby’s show is a platform for him. They don’t deal with stories, they deal with relationships. Cosby raised it to an art form. There really isn’t anything new. He’d done family foibles in his act for years. He’s the parenting Mark Twain of our time.”

He also pointed out that there were romantic, sensual overtones between Joanna Kerns and him. “And,” he said, “if you looked at our script, or Cosby’s or Miami Vice, you wouldn’t say, ‘Wow, revolutionary.’ It’s the combination of cast and execution that makes it different.”

For much more on the cast of Growing Pains, please scroll down.