Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Alan Thicke: Versatile entertainer

If there was ever a person who typified every aspect of television in the 1980s, it was Alan Thicke. Daytime talk show, night-time host, sitcom actor, TV theme writer, Canadian, and American network television. Alan Thicke did it all, and he just got elected to Canada's Walk of Fame for all his contributions.

As the decade opened, Alan Thicke debuted on CTV with a daytime talk show entitled, fittingly "The Alan Thicke Show" weekdays at 1 p.m. It had replaced another daytime show entitled "The Alan Hamel Show", which actually led me to believe it was a typo at first. It would run from 1980 to 1983.

I only got to see it when I was home from school, namely during holidays and during summer holidays. It was good though, with tons of interesting guests. Oddly, the first time I ever saw "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson", I thought it looked an awful lot like a night-time version of the "Alan Thicke Show".

That's very strange because of what transpired.

…Becomes nighttime
Networks were always in search of programming that could challenge "The Tonight Show" which seemed to be impossible to beat in the ratings.

So, based on his success on Canadian daytime television, Alan Thicke got an offer he couldn't refuse. He was heading south to take his shot at unseating Johnny Carson as the champion of nighttime talk shows.

"Thicke of the Night" debuted in 1983, but turned out to be just another sacrificial lamb. The show was excessively hyped, but never lived up to the billing. Johnny Carson was just too big and too strong. His Goliath was just too much for Thicke's David. "Thicke of the Night" was cancelled in June of 1984.

A year later, Alan Thicke was back on TV to stay, portraying father figure Jason Seaver on the popular sitcom "Growing Pains". It was a role he would become best known for, as the show ran from 1985 to 1992.

It debuted when I was in Grade 11, paired on CFCN Channel 13 with another sitcom, "Who's The Boss", which was in its second season, and would also run until 1992. I religiously watched it every Tuesday night, if memory serves.

Thicke played a psychiatrist who decided to work from home. He and his wife Maggie (played by Joanna Kerns who had played "Greedy Gretchen" on "Three's Company"), had three children: Mike (played by Kirk Cameron, who would go on to be a teen heart throb); Carol (played by Tracey Gold, who at the time was best known as the sister of Missy Gold, a child actor on "Benson"); and Ben (played by Jeremy Miller).

When I first heard about the show, some critics had written it off as another cheap imitation of "The Cosby Show", which was the reigning sitcom champion. It really was not the case, and its seven-year run proved it.

Recognize that voice?
Meanwhile, he also fashioned a career writing and performing TV theme songs, often with his wife Gloria Loring, who starred as Liz Chandler on the daytime drama "Days Of Our Lives". If you listen really closely, you can recognize his voice in the opening credits of "Diffrent Strokes" and "The Facts Of Life".

How is this for irony? Thicke and Loring were voted celebrity parents of the year by a family-oriented magazine, months before they separated and eventually divorced.

Parting thoughts
Alan Thicke was another one of those actors who always seemed to be around in the '80s. The difference was that he was Canadian, and got his start on Canadian television. That gave me that extra pride that one of ours had made it big in Hollywood. He was also just so versatile. Not just an actor or host, he was both, and a composer and performer. Canada has not produced anyone else quite like Alan Thicke.

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