Alan Thicke’s most famous role is definitely as Jason Seaver, the stay-at-home dad from Growing Pains. But the Canadian actor has had one of the most diverse careers in television, and continues to make small appearances on TV and in film. Now 68, Thicke’s professional career has slowed down, but certainly isn’t over. With Unusually Thicke, he uses reality TV format to present a fictionalized portrayal of his family life. But how close does the show, openly a mockumentary, come to Thicke’s real life?
Alan Thicke: All-American Canadian
In my head, I think of Alan Thicke as your stereotypical all-American kid, only from Canada. Born in a suburb of Ontario in 1947, Thicke is the son of a nurse and stockbroker. He was elected homecoming king in high school, and when he was enrolled at the University of Western Ontario, he joined Delta Upsilon, the seventh oldest fraternity in North America.
In 1969, Thicke had his first regular role on television, in It’s Our Stuff. Produced by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the show was a variety show in an era of television that had moved on already, and was cancelled after only one season. In 1970, Alan Thicke married Gloria Loring, from NBC’s Days of Our Lives, who also was a composer.
Together, they helped compose the theme for multiple game shows, including The Wizard of Odds (a Canadian precursor to Wheel of Fortune, hosted by Alex Trebek), Wheel of Fortune itself, The Joker’s Wild, Celebrity Sweepstakes, The Diamond Head Game, Blank Check, Stumpers!, and Whew!. He also co-wrote “Sara”, which became a solo hit for Bill Champlin, known for fronting the band Chicago.
By 1977, Thicke was working as a producer in American television, earning his first Emmy nomination for his work producing The Barry Manilow Special. Gloria Loring also gave birth to their second son, Robin Thicke, in 1977. (Their first, Brennan, had been born in 1974.) Later that year he was hired as the producer for Fernwood 2Night, a satirical talk show that replaced Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The show earned him two more Emmy nominations, and in 1978, was reformatted as America 2-Night.
When America 2-Night ended in the summer of 1978, Alan Thicke moved back to Canadian television with The Alan Thicke Show, a talk show which aired from 1980 to 1983. In 1983 he moved the show to America, renaming it Thicke of the Night. The series was intended as a rival to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, but formatting differences led to harsh reviews that led to an almost immediate reformatting of the program, and by the end of the season, the show was cancelled.
Alan Thicke on Growing Pains
In 1985, shortly after divorcing Gloria Loring, Alan Thicke was cast in ABC’s Growing Pains. On the show he played Jason Seaver, a psychiatrist who moves his practice into his home, so his wife Maggie (Joanna Kerns) could resume her career as a reporter. Other notable actors on the show were Kirk Cameron, who played Mike Seaver, one of the Seavers’ three children, along with Tracey Gold and Jeremy Miller. Leonardo DiCaprio also joined the cast for the last two seasons.
The show was instantly well received by both audience and critics, with Kirk Cameron winning a Young Artist Award for each of the first three seasons, as well as the show receiving numerous Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe nominations through its seven season run. The series sparked a spin-off, Just the Ten of Us, as well as two reunion movies, The Growing Pains Movie in 2000 and Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers in 2004.
However, behind the scenes, Growing Pains represented the epitome of the dangers of using child stars. Kirk Cameron had identified as atheist prior to the first two seasons of the show, but in between filming of the third and fourth season, he became a born-again Christian. This led to Cameron insisting that anything that went against his new-found values be removed from the show.
This resulted in the show firing Julie McCullough, who joined the show in 1989. McCullough had posed for Playboy, and Kirk Cameron, 19 at the time, accused the producers of encouraging pornography. While Cameron publicly apologized ten years later, McCullough’s career had already been permanently damaged by her leaving the show.
Tracey Gold, who played Alan’s daughter Carol, was scripted to have her weight made fun of repeatedly through season four. This prompted Gold to, in real life, begin a severe weight loss program, guide by her doctors. Even though her weight loss was evident, writers continued to use her weight for humor. By 1990, Gold was in losing weight rapidly, and in therapy for an eating disorder. In 1992, she was admitted to the hospital, with her lowest weight estimated to be near 80 pounds. She became the focus of tabloids, and was briefly taken off the show.
None of this stopped Growing Pains from being one of the hallmark sitcoms of its era, winning multiple Emmys, Young Artist Awards, and consistently placing in the top 25 in Nielsen ratings. The show ended in 1992, leaving Thicke well-known in America and his home country of Canada. Over the next two years, Alan Thicke’s professional life was quiet; he appeared in an episode of Murder She Wrote, but that was the most notable thing. In 1994, Thicke married Miss World 1990 Gina Tolleson. Together they had what was Thicke’s third child, Carter William Thicke.
Alan Thicke in the 90s
Thicke’s next recurring role, on Warner Bros.’s Hope and Gloria, was very different than his role as Jason Seaver. The show, which premiered in 1995, cast him as Dennis Dupree, a narcissistic local TV celebrity. The show lasted two seasons, and Alan Thicke transitioned to hosting Pictionary.
Pictionary was Alan Thicke’s first involvement with a game show in a decade, and aired on CBS for a year. The format of the show involved celebrities being on each team, which led to Erik Estrada accidentally punching Bill Maher in the face, not knowing Maher was behind him.
After Pictionary, Thicke didn’t have a regular appearance on television for just over a decade. In the interim, he divorced Gina Tolleson and met Tanya Calluo, who he would later marry in 2005.
People are talking about Steve Harvey’s gaffe at the Miss Universe competition, where he mistakenly named Miss Colombia as the winner. But that mistake was corrected within a few seconds. In 2006, Alan Thicke had his own gaffe, where the clumsy phrasing of his cue cards caused Mrs. Costa Rica to be crowned Miss World. The entire fanfare is directed at her, before the producers run on the stage screaming, and the ceremony is redone from the point of announcement.
In 2008, Alan Thicke returned to Canadian television for jPod, based on the Douglas Coupland novel by the same name. Coupland, the Canadian author who coined the term “Generation X,” was one of the creators, and was a writer for many of the show’s 13 episodes. On the show, Thicke plays Jim Jarlewski, the father of the show’s main character. Jim Jarlewski is a ballroom dancing champion who cheats on his wife and is a failed actor; a standard Coupland character.
The show was praised by Canadian critics, but watched by almost no one, leading to its cancellation after its first episode. jPod has slowly grown into a cult favorite of office sitcoms, and was Thicke’s first foray into off-beat comedy.
After jPod‘s ending, Thicke appeared in a couple episodes of How I Met Your Mother, and starred in the 2008 comedy RoboDoc. Distributed by National Lampoon, the film was poorly received, though it also didn’t seem like it was trying to win anyone over.
In 2010, Alan Thicke appeared in five episodes of I’m in the Band, a Disney sitcom, where he played the manager of an old-school rock band. In 2012, he was in several episodes of The L.A. Complex, and in 2013, was on an episode of Celebrity Wife Swap. There, he swapped wives with Gilbert Gottfried.
What is Alan Thicke Doing Now in 2017?
In 2014, Alan Thicke created a mockumentary for Peacock Alley Entertainment, Unusually Thicke. The show was a reality-sitcom hybird. It used the reality TV format, now familiar from shows like The Kardashians, to portray a fictionalized version of his family. His son Carter, now a teenager, was a regular cast member, and older brother Robin Thicke, controversial pop singer made several appearances.
Unusually Thicke secured a second season, which documented the renovation of the Thicke’s home, while taking the show’s plot to new extremes. Dave Foley comes in to help the family become pot farmers, now that it’s legal where they live. The second season is currently airing on HGTV Canada, under the name Unusually Thicke: Under Construction. The first season is available on their website.
Alan Thicke Passes Away From Heart Attack
On December 13th, 2016 it was reported that Alan Thicke passed away from a heart attack while playing hockey. He was skating with one of his sons and was transported to a local LA hospital however he was pronouced dead shortly after. Our thoughts and wishes and with him and his family.