Growing Pains holds up very well over time.
A DVD set like this needs a featurette on the life and history of Kirk Cameron. Sadly, there isn’t one here.
While Growing Pains may not have been a show I watched all the time, I watched it enough in the 1980s to be pretty darn familiar with it. Like a lot of kids, I related to the character of Mike (Kirk Cameron) who was precocious but also very smart and knew how to handle many different situations (especially those dealing with his parents). To my knowledge this is one of the first shows in which we see the parents roles flipped. The mother, Maggie Seaver (Joanna Kerns), goes out to work as a journalist while Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke), the father, runs a psychiatric practice from his home. The family (and cast) is rounded out by sister Carol (Tracey Gold) and younger brother, Ben (Jeremy Miller).
While a lot of these shows are freehweeling and fun, they also deal with many issues that families go through. It seems that a lot of people look back at these shows from the 1980s and see them as sugarcoated, but as a latchkey kid I was really able to identify with the Seaver family. Whether the adults were trying to juggle being parents around their work schedules, or the kids were dealing with things that all kids deal with, I always saw a little bit of my own family in each episode.
Original Pilot - Unaired Scenes
The most interesting part of this pilot is the fact that Tracey Gold was not the original Carol Seaver. This part was held by a less pleasant to look at, Elizabeth Ward. This seems to be the biggest distinction, because Elizabeth Ward very much embodied the “nerdy” character that Carol was. Also, this pilot show is pretty raw with Jeremy Miller looking at the camera more than he should.
Seaver Family Reunion: S’mores and More
This is a great assembly of people and thankfully the entire cast was able to make it. They all sit around a fire, eating s’mores as a camera circles around them capturing their candid conversation. It starts off a bit awkward at first but once these characters begin recounting their past experiences together, everything falls into place. They talk about how they were cast, what it was like working on the show and also some of the things that went on in front of and behind the camera.
This features different takes of various scenes, actors messing up a take, stagehands accidentally being captured in a scene and a host of other foibles. What heightens these scenes the most is that they are being done in front of a live audience, so this is essentially a gag reel set to a laugh track.
Standard Version presented in a format preserving the aspect ratio of it’s original television exhibition. I don’t know what it is but this show has always had what I can only describe as a very “overcast” look and feel to it. On DVD, maybe it’s because I can watch these shows at any time of day, I always felt that I was watching them at the wrong time. While I don’t think that there was anything that great about the way these episodes looked, for the most part they seemed to play the same as they did when they were originally on TV.
Dolby Digital - English: Mono. I had to turn my TV up a bit louder than I thought I would, but once I did everything (including the special features) was leveled fine. As these shows were on DVD (and I could watch them in quick succession), I felt I was also able to see the actors grow into their characters and become more comfortable in their roles. At first everyone seems set on being perfect, hitting their marks and making sure they get effective laughs. As the episodes wore on, the cast genuinely seemed to get much more comfortable with each other.
Green is the main color on this front cover and all around the packaging. All four members of the Seaver clan are featured with Kirk Cameron getting the biggest photo. The back features a group shot of the family and two shots from the show. There is a description of what Growing Pains is about, a “Special Features” listing and a technical specs list. The artwork inside folds out in one piece, with all four discs encased in dual trays. There is a listing of all the episodes but sadly no descriptions of them. Laid out all over this are various promo pictures and pictures from the show itself.
I have to think that the popularity and charisma of Kirk Cameron had to cause problems on the set of this show. I don’t know if it was as bad as when the creator’s of Happy Days tried to center the entire show around Fonzie, but I am sure that it had to have been close. Whatever the case, this show ran from 1985 to 1992 so things seemed to work themselves out alright. Growing Pains, while simplistic in it’s presentation and storytelling, works because it touches on very real aspects of the human experience but mixes it with humor. As such it is one of those shows that will always be remembered.
If you like the 1980s and shows from that time you can’t help but own Growing Pains: The Complete First Season on DVD.
Growing Pains was released .