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Series / Growing Pains

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"As long as we got each other, we got the world spinning right in our hands, baby rain or shine, all the time, we've got each other, sharing the laughter and love."

Growing Pains is a Dom Com which ran on ABC from 1985 to 1992.

Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns are Jason and Maggie Seaver, a Happily Married couple living on Long Island with their three children: mischievous teenager Mike, brainy Carol, and precocious Ben. Maggie has decided to return to her pre-motherhood career as a journalist, and Jason has moved his psychiatric practice into the family home.

Early focus on the parents shifted quickly as Kirk Cameron's Mike became the face of the series.

Behind-the-scenes turmoil shaped the series' later years. In early seasons, Mike and Ben had often teased Carol for being overweight, which was cited as a factor when Carol's portrayer, Tracey Gold, left the show to get treatment for anorexia. Another source of controversy emerged when Kirk Cameron became a born-again Christian. He started requesting script changes to eliminate risqué content, and insisted that fellow cast member Julie McCullough, who played the family's nanny (and Mike's fiancee), Julie, be fired due to her past appearances in Playboy. In 1991, executive producers Dan Guntzelman, Mike Sullivan, and Steve Marshall quit after Cameron telephoned Bob Iger, who was then president of ABC Entertainment, and accused them of being "pornographers". The show was cancelled the following year.

Growing Pains was also notable for its use of both Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome and Cousin Oliver to combat the aging of the series regulars. Jeremy Miller, who played Ben, outgrew the role of precocious child, but didn't seem able to replace now-adult Kirk Cameron as a teen heartthrob. Chrissy, the baby the Seavers had in 1988, went from infant to school-age over the summer of 1990. In the show's last season, Mike went into teaching and brought orphaned teen Luke (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) home for the Seavers to adopt.

The series spawned one Spin-Off, Just the Ten of Us, launched by Poorly-Disguised Pilot.

This series provides examples of:

  • 30 Minutes, or It's Free!: In the episode "The Home Show," the Seavers are having to set up a party at the last minute, because Jason used an old calendar to set the date. When a pizza is accidentally delivered to their house instead of the neighbors, Jason starts to tell the delivery guy his mistake, until Mike reminds him they need the food for the party. Jason thinks for a second then says, "We ordered five pizzas, not one, and that was 31 minutes ago, so they're free."
  • '80s Hair: Look at the women in the picture on top of this page. Yeah. And between's Kirk Cameron's perm and Alan Thicke's not-quite mullet the first couple of seasons, it's safe to say the guys weren't immune either.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Not the Seavers. When Luke joins the family, Jason thinks he's drunk the alcohol from the wine cabinet. Turns out he dumped it down the sink because his alcoholic stepfather used to beat him after his mother died, which is why he ran away from home.
  • All Just a Dream: Episodes "This is Your Life" (season 3, episode 10) and "Meet the Seavers" (season 6, episode 21).
  • And Then What?: When Jason talks to Carol about her plans for after high school. Carol said she was going to go to college, get her bachelor's degree, then her master's, then her doctorate, with Jason asking the question each step of the way. When she asked, "Isn't a doctorate good enough for you?", he pointed out that she needed to leave school and go out into "the real world" to get a job at some point.
  • Anti-Alcohol Aesop: The show had a Very Special Episode where Carol's boyfriend Sandy (played by Matthew Perry) is in a drunk driving accident. Mike later has to tell his sister, who initially doesn't believe him, that Sandy died as a result of his injuries.
  • Artistic Title: The show's intro was basically a slideshow of the characters growing up.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: A likely reason for Mike's poor scholastic habits in the early seasons, and the focus of several episodes. The petulant episode focusing on Mike's inability to study is probably Season 3's "Nasty Habits," where he mightily struggles to focus on writing a term paper for his composition class, one the high school senior needs to help him stay on track to graduate on time.
  • Back for the Finale: After having been absent for most of the final season, Carol comes back from London in the series finale.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In "Ben Cheats", Jason punishes Ben for getting a poor grade on a test, even after refusing to cheat, then declines to relent on his punishment when they learn his classmates cheated, passed and were lauded for their accomplishments. Jason uses this as a teaching example that sometimes the bad guys win and get away with it. "Sometimes, they even win the White House."
  • Beach Episode: The majority of "Aloha" is set on a beach.
  • Beauty Is Bad: In "Thank God It's Friday", Mike and his friends Boner and Eddie get invited to a college party, meet some hot girls and get pressured to take drugs so they can become as popular as the girls. Cue the aesop.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: In a Halloween episode, Mike claims he had met a beautiful teen-aged ghost named Kara, who had died 17 years earlier in a car accident. An in-joke in the episode is that, along the way, Mike and Kara stop at a roadside bar, where a talent show — featuring all of the guests dressed as dead celebrities — is taking place. Of course, Mike's making up the entire tale.
  • The B Grade: Played in an interesting way. Carol makes out with her boyfriend instead of reading a book assigned for English class. She takes a pop quiz the next day and still gets an "A". The anguish begins after Mike looks over her test and points out she used a lot of big, intellectual sounding words and essentially confused the teacher into giving her an "A".
  • Birthday Buddies: Played with in the episode "Birth of a Seaver". Maggie goes into labor with Chrissy on Ben's birthday, leaving Ben upset about being ignored until he has a heart-to-heart talk with a dying elderly man in the hospital named Chris. But the labor takes so long that by the time the baby is finally born, it's past midnight, and Ben is relieved that he won't have to share his birthday with his new sister after all. He even names his sister after the dying man.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: Ben's birthday celebration gets interrupted by Maggie going into labor. The whole family proceeds to basically forget that it's Ben's birthday (not without reason) until after the delivery is finished. Ben is relieved to find that his new baby sister managed to delay entering the world long enough for it to be past midnight, meaning that they don't have to share a birthday. It's never clarified if his party gets a do-over, though.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Several extreme examples. One of which involved actual drawing on the TV screen. Also averted (or perhaps completely turned on its head) by actually showing a fourth wall in the "Meet the Seavers" episode.
  • Breakout Character: Mike Seaver became the fan favorite early on similar to Alex from Family Ties.
  • Boxing Lesson: "The Fiver Fingers of Ben" from season 7 has Ben learn karate after encountering school bully Razor.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Carol returns for the series finale after spending part of the final season in London, and therefore not on the show.
    • There's a small scene where Mike calls Luke, who was written out a few episodes earlier.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Usually played straight, although occasionally subverted by Mike.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper:
    • In one episode, Mike prepared cheat notes on the soles of his shoes for an important test. However when doing the test, Mike found that he was able to do the test honestly since he legitimately knew the answers. However, Mike's notes are discovered at the end and the teacher logically assumes he used them to cheat and it takes the rest of the episode for Mike to convince his parents and teacher of the truth. Both to allow him to prove that he knows the material and for his parents and teacher to drive home the point that preparing to cheat is wrong in itself, Mike retakes the test, on top of the desks, barefoot and his underwear to make sure he is using no unauthorized materials.
    • In another episode, this philosophy is subverted. Ben has the opportunity to cheat on a test, but does not; he ends up getting a bad grade, and is scolded by his parents. His friends do cheat, get excellent grades, and are rewarded by their parents. Ben's father is forced to concede that, in reality, cheaters prosper and win very often (saying that "in some cases, they even win the White House", an obvious reference to Watergate), although he does say that being honest can be far more rewarding in the long run.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The family gets a dog in a Christmas episode, but then he's never seen again.
  • Class Princess:
    • In "Long Day’s Journey into Night", Carol is befriended by a popular girl named Annie who is a cheerleader and drama club member with a good sense of humor and nice car. She is disappointed to learn Annie first began hanging out with her as an excuse to date Mike, but Annie also has fun with Carol, wants to stay friends with her, and apologizes for her mixed motives.
    • In "Homecoming Queen", Formerly Fat straight-A student and Extracurricular Enthusiast Carol's fellow nominees (including two cheerleaders) are all pretty and popular people who make Carol feel hopeless and out of place. However, it turns out that all four of them respect Carol for how many clubs she's part of, and feel that they aren't important and popular enough to be Homecoming Queen nominees. The five girls quickly bond and Carol isn't upset about losing to one of them.
  • Clip Show: At least one every season, including the series finale.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In one episode, Carol becomes popular when she reveals to her soap opera-obsessed roommated that her brother is on a soap opera. When other members of her roommate's soap opera fan club think she might be lying, she tells them she knows who shot Mike's character (because Mike had been practicing the line over-and-over around her). Carol brings them to the studio, right after Mike left the show. Due to leaving before the filming of that episode, the producer decides "There is no Mike Seaver, just air!" They then look at that episodes script to prove she was right about the episodes killer, only for the script to change who the killer was (due to it being leaked in a soap opera newsletter).
  • Coordinated Clothes: In "Michaelgate", the Schwartz Twins, a pair of cheerleaders who volunteer to help Mike with his campaign, always wear identical sweaters, boots, skirts, earrings, and hair accessories.
  • Couch Gag: Starting in the fourth season, the show taped several different versions of the shot in the main title where the family goes into the house. Whoever was the last to go into the house would usually be the focus of that week's episode.
    • A variation was used in the final season. The previous year, the theme song was revamped as an acapella version. Fans did not approve, so while retaining the opening titles of the previous season (with Leo DiCaprio added in), the familiar BJ Thomas/Jennifer Warnes version of the theme returned, last used in 1990. However, for somber episodes, as well as the series finale, the acapella theme was used.
    • Also, special openings and closing themes were used for special episodes (the Hawaii and Halloween episodes, for example).
    • The episode where Maggie goes into labor, the opening sequence comes to halt at the final scene.
      Maggie: Hold on here! (clutches her belly as the theme music stops) Oh! This is it!
  • Cousin Oliver: Both Chrissy (born in Season 4) and Luke (Adopted by the Seavers in Season 7).
  • Credits Jukebox: At least nine different versions of the theme were used at one point or another during the series' run. Most of those were performed by country-pop singer B.J. Thomas, either solo or with one of two duet partners, Dusty Springfield or Jennifer Warnes. In addition, an a capella version was played during the sixth and part of the seventh season, with the original B.J. Thomas-Jennifer Warnes duet version rotating with the a capella version during the seventh year. And then there was a special Halloween version for the show's 1990 Halloween special.
    • For the closing credits, a synthesized-heavy instrumental version of the theme was played most often. However, during special episodes, different music was played. For instance, a "sad" ending score was used for the episode "Second Chance" (over a nighttime shot of the house) in lieu of the regular theme. And during the Halloween episode, a Halloween-version was played.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Mike sees an extremely hot girl at a school dance. When he talks to her he's alarmed at her annoying high and squeaky voice, on top of not being very bright. Mike tries to put up with it because she's so gorgeous but finally can't take it after a while.
  • Dark Horse Victory: In "Michaelgate", a class election between Mike and the Big Jerk on Campus gets both candidates (and the vice-President of Mike’s rival) disqualified for cheating. This causes Boner (the perpetually dumb sidekick who won a coin toss to be Mike’s Vice-President) to be the only eligible person on either ticket left to win the election.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing:
    • Mike traumatized by the death of his favorite uncle, whom we'd never seen before.
    • Infamously in the 1989 episode "Second Chance," where Carol's boyfriend succumbs to internal injuries he suffered in a drunk driving accident.
  • Deconstruction: While most of the series had the sort of plots one would expect from an 80's sitcom, many an episode took those plots and did a 180 on them, most notably the Drunk Driver episode described below.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: In the episode "All The World is a Stage", Mike takes a secret job as a singing waiter alongside his girlfriend, Kate. The second song we see them perform is the theme song. The sequence features the actor's names under certain people who are clearly not said actors, including composer Steve Dorff at the piano. He's marked as "Ashley Johnson (not even close)".
  • Dream Sequence: "Meet The Seavers", where Ben has a dream that he's the star of a sitcom.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Played for Laughs in one episode. It's Chrissy's first day of school, and teenaged Ben warns her about doing things that will make her unpopular, like sitting in the front of the class and eating green Jello. Except the rules for teenagers are different from those of little kids, and, in following Ben's rules, Chrissy finds herself ostracized. Made worse when a series of circumstances force Ben to do the very things he warned Chrissy against; when he complains of this, Chrissy accuses him of lying to her.
  • Drunk Driver: Carol's boyfriend Sandy was in an accident while driving drunk. Viewers were bracing for the climatic Aesop (Sandy would recover, lesson learned, let's move on)... until Sandy bit it.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe in "Second Chance" (the drunk driving episode), when Carol initially refuses to believe that Mike had gotten a phone call saying that Sandy had died from his injuries. In previous episodes where Sandy was featured, Mike (and Ben) had made cruel jokes about Sandy, and in "Second Chance" they were relentlessly taunting Carol when he was late (without explanation) for their date ... until they got a phone call saying Sandy had been in an accident. So when Carol (and Jason and Maggie) are told the news, Carol screams at Mike, tells him he just pulled off his worst joke ever and begins to tell him she never wants to speak to him again ... but a somber, clearly shaken Mike presses on with the details and it is clear that he is telling the truth.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Both boys and girls in the early seasons have few qualms about ogling attractive members of the opposite sex, although some memorable examples are only described secondhand and not shown.
    • In multiple episodes, Carol's friends Debbie and Shelly are unapologetic about how they like to lustfully watch members of the boys swim and basketball teams practicing for their sports.
    • In "A Star is Born", Carol refers to the leading lady in the School Play as "Monica 'Draws a Crowd in her Gym Shorts' Shackleford" while explaining Mike's eagerness to play the male lead in the play.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Subverted when Jason and Maggie go on a second honeymoon in Paris. She comes down with appendicitis and has to be hospitalized. Jason tries to cheer her up by reminding her they're still in Paris by opening the curtains to her window but instead of a view of the Eiffel Tower it's the brick wall of a building a few feet away.
  • El Spanish "-o": During the European vacation episode, Mike tries to bluff his way into a Spanish wedding by saying, "We are amigos of el groomo."
  • F--: Subverted when Mike is telling his parents what grade he got on a test. He begins with "I..." and Ben blurts out, "An 'I'?! That's worse than an F!" (it turns out it was a more typical grade (a C or a D).)
  • Fan Disillusionment: Ben catches his favorite rock star, played by Brad Pitt, cheating on his wife.
  • Fired Teacher: Coach Graham T. Lubbock, in the backdoor pilot to Just the Ten of Us.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Season 5's "Teach Me," set five months after Sandy's death, where Jason's parents make a well-intentioned attempt to set Carol up with a new boyfriend. The date itself seems to be your typical Bad Date ... until Jason and Maggie see clear signs about how Carol is behaving. At home, Carol breaks down and admits she is still in grief and shock over Sandy's death and that her accepting her grandparents' offer to date was a way to mask her denial.
  • Flashback Effects: Parodied when Maggie and Jason demand that Ben explain himself. When they ask why he's hesitating, he declares, "I'm waiting for the ripple."
  • Foreshadowing: In "How the West Was Won Part 1", Mike and Boner find a resumé on Coach Lubbock's desk shortly before they visit his house. During that visit, they learn that Lubbock is about to lose his job, which is the reason he has a resumé lying around.
  • Gainax Ending: "Happy Halloween" ends with Carol dating the Grim Reaper.
  • Halloween Episode: Season 6's "Happy Halloween" two-parter. When a thunderstorm hits on Halloween night and trashes their plans, the Seavers stay in to tell ghost stories, including a Invasion of the Body Snatchers spoof and a Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts tale.
  • Happily Married: Jason and Maggie go through the whole series with no problems in their marriage.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: In one episode, Ben learns that the morality of celebrities should not be a factor in whether or not we enjoy the art they produce. It wasn't why we became their fans in the first place.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Boner. At the time, it was just a nickname, but nowadays the word is more associated with a penis erection.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": A negative example in one episode:
    Maggie: [After Mike and Jason get into an argument] That's it! I'm not going to stand here and watch you two butt heads!
    Mike: You hear what she just called us?
  • House Husband: Subverted. Jason is the stay-at-home parent, but he runs his psychiatric practice out of a home office.
  • I Got Bigger: An episode revolved around Ben being afraid to go back to school because on the last day before the summer break, a bully threatened to beat him up when school started back up. By the end of the episode, he's forced to face the bully only for the bully to realize that Ben had a growth spurt over the summer and was now a head taller than he was. Realizing he doesn't have a chance, the bully runs off.
    Bully: You grew!
    Ben: You didn't.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: In "Ben's Movie", Ben gives himself top billing for everything, writing, directing, producing and starring. He does give the rest of the cast credit, in tiny writing squeezed onto one title card.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: In "How the West Was Won Part 1", after Mike and Boner meet Coach Lubbock's daughter Cindy, they ask if he has any other daughters that look like her. Her sister Wendy walks into the room seconds later.
  • Inter-Service Rivalry: The Seaver kids' paternal grandfather is an ex-MP and their maternal grandmother's boyfriend is ex-Army. The two only take about ten seconds to smugly insult each other's branch of the military during their first meeting.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Carol started attending Columbia University.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Spin-off Just the Ten of Us aired its final episode in May 1990, having been abruptly cancelled and then yanked off the schedule after the summer hiatus ended. The following October in the "Happy Halloween" two-parter, Ben (while telling a ghost story) claims the Lubbock family just disappeared without a trace.
  • Long Last Look: In the final episode, the family is splitting up; Maggie's new job is relocating her, Jason, Ben, and Chrissy to Washington, DC, while Mike and Carol are staying in the New York area. With their furniture on the moving truck, they have a picnic on the floor of the living room to indulge in a Bottle Episode before leaving. As they make their final exit from the house, Carol looks back at the empty rooms and calls, "...goodbye."
  • Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: Carol's boyfriend Sandy only existed to die and let Carol learn the effects of death on her.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: As shown in "How The West Was Won", Coach Lubbock has seven kids, with an eighth on the way. He and his family would later star in a spinoff, Just the Ten of Us.
  • Medium Awareness: Mike was explaining something through Flashbacks. When he doesn't immediately continue his story at one point, Maggie asks him what's wrong, and he replies, "I'm waiting for the ripple!"
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The opening of one episode has a subversion of the "husband goes to check out a strange noise in the night while the wife stays safely in the room" scenario, where both Jason and Maggie Seaver carefully investigate a potential robber while brandishing a hockey stick and ice skate respectively as makeshift weapons, which turns out to be their son Mike sneaking back into the house after staying out past curfew.
  • Morton's Fork: In one episode, Jason tells Mike that if he tells the truth about something he did, he'll be severely punished. And if he lies, Jason will find out the truth, and then he'll severely punish Mike. Lampshaded when Mike says he doesn't see any advantage in telling the truth, until Jason gives him a death glare, at which point he says it's obviously clear to him.
  • Moving Away Ending: The show ends with Maggie, Jason, Ben, and Chrissy moving to Washington, D.C. because Maggie's been offered a top-notch job as a journalist there. Mike and Carol decide to remain in New York. After the cars are loaded and the family shares one final picnic on the empty floor, they make their way out, with Carol looking back and tearfully telling the house, "Goodbye."
  • Multi-Part Episode: Numerous; There's "Aloha", "Dance Fever", "The Obscure Objects Of Our Desire", "How The West Was Won", "Family Ties", "The Looooove Boat", "The New Deal", "Happy Halloween", "Let's Go To Europe", "Stop, Luke and Listen/In Vino Veritas" and "The Last Picture Show". All of them are two-part episodes (except "Let's Go To Europe", which has three parts) and all of them (except "Stop, Luke and Listen/In Vino Veritas") have the Part 1/Part 2 naming scheme.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: In "Long Day's Journey Into Night", a popular girl befriends Carol just so she can get close to her brother, Mike. Carol feels hurt about being used.
    • In another episode, Mike's friend Boner wanted to take Carol to a dance. Mike was upset at first but later accepted the pairing.
    • Yet another episode saw Mike coming home from school and explaining to his father that he beat up one of his friends. It seemed that his friend told Mike a rumor that Carol and her boyfriend were sleeping together. Mike didn't understand why he got so upset until his father explained this trope to him.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "How The West Was Won", Michael discovers that the school is going to fire Coach Lubbock due to budget cuts. After failing at every legal move to prevent this, Mike organizes a sit-in. This results in the protesters all getting arrested and the school fires Coach Lubbock immediately due to the negative attention. Michael ended up accelerating the very thing he was trying to prevent.
  • Noodle Incident: We never find out what was in the trunk of Mike's car, which he was worried the police would find.
  • No Periods, Period: Aside from the possible "crap" example above, never mentioned, despite two grown women in the house. (Chrissy was too young to have started.)
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Used in one episode, where Dr. Seaver has to help a young girl give birth. When she hears his title, he admits that he is a Psychiatrist, not a Medical Doctor, but assures her that he is still trained in basic medicine. This is Truth in Television, given that you have to earn an M.D. to be a psychiatrist.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Maggie's father is unbelievably rude and nasty to Jason, despite Jason being the kind of son-in-law one would pick out of a catalogue (a doctor, well-off, etc). It appears he's still angry at the two for running off and eloping, but given how long ago that was and that the two are clearly happy together, he just comes off like a jerk. It's especially bad given that Maggie's mother, while The Ditz, adores Jason, and Maggie and Jason's mother get along fine.
  • On the Money: In "Carol In Jail", Mike is in traffic court, facing a $500 fine for various violations. The presiding judge muses that his granddaughter is looking for a car and he'd be willing to buy Mike's - for $500.
    Mike: [starts to protest]
    Mike: SOLD!
  • One Crazy Night: One episode starts out as a supply run for a class project and turns into a night on the town chasing girls.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gordon Jump's fresh off the boat Irish accent as Maggie's father has to be heard to believed.
  • Opening Credits Cast Party: The beginning and ending of the opening credits showed the Seavers standing together outside their house for a family portrait. The reprise changed every year, as the characters went back into the house leaving one of them to mug for the camera. In the last two seasons, we stay inside and focus on the family mantle, where the family portrait stands.
  • Or Was It a Dream?:
    • In "This Was Your Life", Ben dreads the idea of having his tonsils removed - leading Ben to state that he doesn't "want to be a Seaver". After a cab driver brings him home, he discovers that his life was replaced with that of another boy. After waking up from his surgery, he sees the boy who replaced him on a gurney.
    • In "Meet The Seavers", Ben is upset that his parents don't remove his punishment - even after hugging them, and saying that he loves them. As a result, he wishes that he could be in a TV show. He then finds himself on the set of Meet the Seavers - which is very similar to, well, Growing Pains. After he wakes up, he's relieved to be home. However, after turning on the television set, Mike/Kirk begs Ben to let him out.
  • Parents as People: Ben has a literal realization of this after Mike and Carol inform him what's really happening when Jason and Maggie stay in bed late on Saturday mornings. Mike himself has a similar realization in the same episode after witnessing Jason flirting with an attractive woman at the gym.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Zigzagged in the episode "Jason Flirts, Maggie Hurts". Mike and Carol are pretty matter-of-fact about what Jason and Maggie are doing on their late Saturday mornings. Ben is more stunned than disgusted and eventually accepts it to the point of cheering Jason when he mentions, "Your mother and I are heading to bed."
  • Phoney Call: Mike once had a phone conversation with a friend where he mentions that he wants to quit school and become an actor. Carol overhears this and Mike presses the hang-up switch with his thumb and tells the friend he was kidding. Carol isn't convinced, though.
  • Photo Montage: The opening sequence goes through how the characters grew up.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: Most of the cheerleaders in the show (Annie from, "Long Day’s Journey into Night", the Cute, but Cacophonic girl Mike pursues in the season 3 prom two-parter, two of the girls who compete with Carol for homecoming Queen in season 4, three girls who support Mike when he runs for class President, etc.) are portrayed as energetic and friendly, although some of them also fit the unintelligent cheerleader cliche.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: "How The West Was Won", for Just the Ten of Us. Coach Lubbock, the central character of Just the Ten of Us, was an established recurring character on the show, although his domestic life — a rather large family, with another baby on the way — was not seen or even alluded to until the episode which was used to spawn the spinoff.
  • Post-Robbery Trauma: In "Gone But Not Forgotten", the Seavers come home to find that a burglar had been there and spend the episode preparing themselves in case the burglar ever returns.
  • Professional Maiden Name: While having legally taken her husband's name, Maggie Seaver uses her maiden name of Malone in her professional life. It was even lampshaded in the first reunion movie.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Carol left to go to London in the final season, although she did return for the Series Finale.
    • Also Boner, who was shipped off to join the Marines in the fourth season.
    • Luke decides to go live with his father a few episodes before the series finale.
  • Razor Apples: In a Halloween Episode in which the Seavers tell each other scary stories, Maggie tells an overly Anvilicious story involving trick-or-treaters being given apples with fuses on them (as in bomb fuses.)
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Mike's character saw drastic changes in the last few seasons because of Kirk Cameron's religious conversion.
    • Carol was Put on a Bus because actress Tracey Gold entered treatment for anorexia after Joanna Kearns brought the issue to the attention of the producers and Gold's family.
  • Real-World Episode: Ben wishes his life were more like TV, and wakes up to discover his entire life is a television show called Meet the Seavers. All the actors are referred to by their real names, and members of the production crew feature prominently. At one point Kirk Cameron, who usually plays Ben's older brother Mike, confides to Ben that he actually is Mike, and has been trapped in the real world for years.
  • Reunion Show: Two of them were made in the early 2000s:
    • "The Growing Pains Movie" (2000) is about Maggie campaigning for Senate against her former boss, with the rest of the family helping her to win.
    • "Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers" (2004) is about Jason and Maggie trying to sell their old house, causing friction between them and their children.
  • Revenge of the Nerd: Gender flipped; Mike asks out a hot girl, only to discover he used to tease her for being "Bucktooth Becky".
  • Ridiculous Procrastinator: "Nasty Habits," sees Mike put off writing an important term paper until the night before it is due. Everything distracts him – even the then-brand-new song "Could've Been" by teen pop singer Tiffany.
  • Scantron Picture: Mike scores high on an IQ test after drawing a picture of a tree on the answer sheet.
  • School Play: Mike plays George in Our Town.
  • Series Continuity Error: The first Reunion Show mentions that the Seavers bought a new house a few blocks from the old one, and has Carol marrying a man with a son. In the second one, Carol and her now differently-surnamed husband are expecting their first child, and the plot revolves around what is supposedly the house from the series, though given the conversion from a stagey sitcom to a realistic TV-movie, you'd be hard pressed to recognize it.
  • Serious Business: Carol missing the perfect attendance record by a day is treated with almost as much seriousness as Coach Lubbock's firing from the same episode.
  • Service Sector Stereotypes: The "bartender" variant is played with when Maggie is about to have a baby. While in the hospital, Ben worries about being replaced as the baby in the family, and laments to another patient in the hospital named Chris who happens to work as a bartender. Towards the end of the episode however, Ben begins to realize that Chris is dying. After his new sister is born, the family goes with his suggestion to name her "Chrissy".
  • She Is All Grown Up: Essentially the focus of the episode where Carol is nominated for homecoming queen. Even big brother Mike reluctantly admits that she's pretty.
  • Shell Game: An old friend of Luke's comes by and starts doing a "find the queen" card game variant. Luke beats him by pretending to deduce how the queen definitely isn't the card on the left or the right (flipping them over in turn), but leaving the middle card face down while claiming it's the queen. His friend obviously can't flip it over and prove him wrong, so he wins.
  • Shout-Out: In the finale, Jason comments that if they move to Washington, D.C., he might get to meet Joan Lunden. Word of God stated that this line was specifically included because at the time, tabloids were speculating that Alan Thicke and Joan Lunden were romantically involved.
  • Side Bet: When Mike graduates from high school, Carol finds a note in her purse reminding her of an ancient bet they made as children that he would never graduate. Cue a Flash Back to the conversation.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Chrissy somehow manages to go from newborn to kindergarten in less than two years.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: Jason's widowed mother's new boyfriend is a retired soldier who implies that he spent most of his service stateside.
    Ben: Did you kill anybody?
    Wally: Let me put it this way, Ben. They never found one single Vietcong in Cincinnati.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: In Name Only. Ben insists on naming his new baby sister Chris, after an old man he befriended in the hospital who is implied to be dying.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying: Show Within a Show-style. Mike's big acting break (or so he thinks) is when he gets a gig on a Police Procedural as a cop who gets shot in a shootout, saying something like "I guess I'll never get to [something]." But when it's shown on TV his one line gets cut.
  • Special Aesop Victim: In "Second Chance", Carol's boyfriend Sandy gets into a car accident caused by his drunk driving. While at first it seems like everything was going to be ok after Carol talked Sandy out of drinking after visiting him in the hospital, the last few minutes has Mike telling Carol at home that Sandy ended up dying from internal injuries.
  • Spin-Off: Just the Ten of Us.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: "Second Chance". Carol's boyfriend Sandy gets in a car accident due to him drinking and driving and winds up in the hospital. When Carol visits him, Sandy looks like he's okay and we're to believe that he'll be out in no time. Carol then comes home and Mike tells her that the hospital just called and said that Sandy had just died from internal bleeding. The last shot shows Carol in tears as Mike and their parents try to comfort her.
  • Sweater Girl: One episode had Ben excited for his class field trip to the planetarium, which he intended to spend "picking fuzzballs off of Sasha Sorecki's sweater."
  • Teachers Out of School: "Ben and Mike's Excellent Adventure" has Mike, Ben and Eddie in a car when they see Principal Dewitt coming out of a store. Mike and Eddie duck out of sight before Ben points out "You guys graduated two years ago!" They pop back up.
    Principal Dewitt: Well, well, well. Seaver. Zeff. How wonderful it is not to see you two anymore.
  • Tempting Fate: In "Happy Halloween", Jason and Maggie were about to take Chrissy trick-or-treating when they noticed a storm coming. Chrissy assures them it's only a little storm, then a lightning bolt hit a tree right next to them.
  • This Explains So Much: When Carol complains about her nomination for Homecoming Queen in the eponymous episode, she says that Homecoming Queens never do anything consequential with their lives. Maggie argues that she was Homecoming Queen, and Carol says "that explains so much."
  • Through-the-Years Credits: The opening sequence shows real photos of the actors at various stages in their life.
  • Truncated Theme Tune: If you hear B.J. Thomas and his partner at the time harmonizing on "Don't waste another minute on your crying", odds are good it's from the syndicated package. More noticeable with Jennifer Warnes than with Dusty Springfield.
  • Trapped in TV Land: Ben goes through this in "Meet The Seavers", where he becomes an actor on the show.
  • Unconfessed Unemployment: In "Taking Care Of Business", Mike is given a car as a gift from his parents. Shortly afterwards, Mike loses his job at World Of Burgers because he took the fall for a co-worker's mistake. Not wanting to tell his parents out of fear of losing the car, Mike got a job at a car wash but continued to pretend he still worked at World Of Burgers, including wearing his WOB uniform when he left/came home, and dumping grease on himself before he came home to really make it look like he'd been working there.
  • Unexpected Positive:
    • Maggie is doing a series of news reports about regular medical checkups, and thus undergoes all the usual tests. This is how she discovers she's pregnant.
    • In another episode, Jason allows a pediatrician to examine him to show a teenage boy it's no big deal. This is how his hernia is discovered.
  • Unperson: In-Universe example: In one episode, Mike needs to leave the set of a soap opera he's on shortly before the filming of an important episode involving his character. The producer decides "there is no Mike Seaver, just air!"
  • Vacation Episode: The two-part Season 3 premiere, "Aloha", where Jason makes the family go on vacation, and it doesn't go well.
  • Very Special Episode: "Thank God It's Friday" has a rather blatant message against drugs, and it even ends with Kirk Cameron breaking character to talk to the viewers about drug abuse.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: In one episode, Mike's buddy Boner gives a highly offensive report in a public speaking class about female anatomy. So offensive (the report included a poster of a bikini-clad model) that, at the end of the report, one of the girls is seen holding her mouth while she rushes out of the classroom.
  • Wacky Waterbed: When Mike moves out of his parents' house to an apartment over their garage, one of the first purchases that demonstrates his "independence" is a waterbed, which is used in assorted comedic ways for the remainder of the series.
  • What Are You in For?: The pilot had Mike in jail for crashing into a police car. One of his cellmates asks this question to which he replied, "I shot a man just to watch him die."
  • Who Writes This Crap?!: In "Ed, We hardly Knew Ye", after Maggie's father dies, his spirit is sent back to earth to say all the things to his loved ones that he didn't say while he was alive. He has a list in his hands, and a nice touching scene where he apologizes to his daughter for never taking her fishing like he promised. He then turns to his son-in-law Jason and starts to express his regret that they never had a good relationship. Mid-apology, however, he stops himself, saying that he does not feel this way and wondering who the heck wrote the list for him.
  • Work Out Fanservice: In "How the West Was Won Part 2", Coach Lubbock's daughter Cindy (who Zack and Boner have big crushes on) is seen working out in a yoga outfit.
  • You Are Fat: Mike and Ben used to joke about Carol's weight, which infamously didn't go over well in real life.


Video Example(s):


WandaVision- 80s Intros

WandaVision's 80s episode intro includes homages to the Family Ties and Growing Pains intro sequences.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / Homage

Media sources: