This Warner Archive release is a Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) DVD. It is made to be played in “play only” DVD devices, and may not play in some DVD recorders or PC drives. This disc, however, played fine in the Toshiba DVD recorder used for this review. This title is available directly from WBShop.com by clicking here.
The Seaver family faces the trials and tribulations of suburban life in the 1980s. This DVD set includes all 26 episodes of season three (1987-1988). Included are the following episodes: “Aloha (Parts 1 and 2),” “Taking Care of Business,” “Not Necessarily the News,” “Michaelgate,” “Big Brother is not Watching,” “A Star Is Born,” “Gone but Not Forgotten,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” “This Is Your Life,” “Broadway Bound,” “The Scarlet Letter,” “A Reason to Live,” “Nasty Habits,” “The Marrying Kind,” “State of the Union,” “The Mom Who Knew Too Much,” “Great Expectations,” Dance Fever (Parts 1 and 2),” “Bringing Up Baby,” “The Obscure Objects of Our Desire (Parts 1 and 2),” “How the West was Won (Parts 1 and 2),” and “Graduation Day.”
Growing Pains, the hit ABC sitcom that ran for seven seasons, can best be described as an acquired taste. If you are like me, and you watched these when they originally aired, there is a certain amount of nostalgia that washes over the shortcomings and makes the show an entertaining watch.
For everyone else, especially today’s kids with their new fangled smartphones and interwebs, the show doesn’t age as well. The best way to describe Growing Pains is to say it has a really bad case of the 80s, which, depending on who you are, is either a great thing or a bad thing.
One of the first things you notice about Growing Pains (and many 80s sitcoms), is the portrayal of the parents as decent people with brains. By the 90s, parents had become either the overbearing, repressive type or the idiotic butt of jokes. Here, Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns were sensible voices of reason, but just goofy enough to inject a little humor and humanity.
Kirk Cameron is especially likeable as Mike, the egotistical slacker whose conscience always set him straight in the end. The show made Cameron a huge star, although his popularity faded after the show ended. He has seen a resurgence thanks to his performance in family films like Fireproof, and he’s one of the few actors today who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believes in. I’ll give him extra credit for that. Tracey Gold is very good as brainy sister Carol, and Jeremy Miller is a bit hammy as Ben, the youngest Seaver. Considering how young Miller was at the time and terribly bad jokes he had to deliver, I can’t fault his performance too much.
Season three had much of the standard fare of family sitcoms, including first jobs, school plays, dating problems, and the on-location vacation episode. There is also Mike’s graduation (which ends the season) and a pregnancy to spice up the cast.
Season three is also notable because it helped lauch a spin-off called Just The Ten of Us, which focused on Mike Seaver’s gym coach Graham Lubbock taking a new job as a coach at a Catholic boy’s school in California, which caused problems when his four teenage daughters are allowed to attend. It ran for three seasons.
Also of note are the many current and future celebrities who appeared in various season three episodes. They include Kelly Hu (as Mike’s Hawaiian love interest), Dennis Haysbert (as a cop), Heather Graham (as a ditzy blonde supporting Mike’s run for class president), Gilligan’s Island’s Skipper Alan Hale Jr. (as a cabbie, in one of his final roles), and Brad Pitt. Yes, ladies, season three contains the infamous Brad Pitt episode, and he plays a real douchebag. It’s hilarious.
Sure, Growing Pains may be too corny for its own good, and the humor is far too scripted and doesn’t flow naturally. Still, if you were a fan back in the day, you can’t argue with the haters. Just sit back and enjoy.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Since the show was filmed on video, the source material isn’t fantastic, and the video on the DVD set lacks sharpness and fine detail. The image overall seems a bit muddled, but the colors are bright. The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, and while it isn’t particularly active, it does have excellent claritity.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall grade: 5
It’s great to see Warner Archive putting out the classic 80s shows on DVD, especially a series like Growing Pains, which had such a big following. The video image is a bit average, but the sound is excellent. At a retail price of $35.99, it’s a bit pricey, but it can often be found for less. Even so, for fans of the show, picking up the DVD set is a no-brainer.
Release date: May 21, 2013
Running time: 624 minutes
Rating: Not rated
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Special features: None
Label: Warner Archive