October 9th: Growing Pains

How many kids do they have this year?

I hope you've brought your Clearasil and your bad attitude, because we're about to go through some...

Growing Pains

Has any one sitcom been so loaded with off-camera scuttlebutt about its cast? You've got your Alan Thicke: Facts Of Life theme song writer, last name built for double-entendre headlines, model Canadian. He plays Jason Seaver, psychiatrist(?)-extraordinaire, and he kind of runs the show, which could just as easily be called Thicke Pains. Or Growing Thicke.

He is married to Mrs. Seaver, who is probably a Margo or a Deborah or something. I am 87% convinced the actress' name is Joanna Kerns, and while he looks like she might be a castoff from the same factory, she is definitely not Judith Light. I know it can be easy for the two to overlap and become one in the mind's-eye, but a mind's-eye view of anything is merely an analog remembrance of physical forms moving through space, so don't take it at face-value.

The Seavers - Becky! I think Mrs. Seaver is a "Becky," it just came to me - have a brood of wise-cracking kids (as was custom in the 1980s), starting with eldest son, Mike, played by mid-show born-again religio, Kirk Cameron, followed by the daughter, played by Tracey Gold, whose character's name is not nearly as memorable (Carol?) as the eating-disorder that plagued the actress during these trying, Seaver-ful times, and both are joined by that unloveable, wisecracking, youngest son, Ben, played by a Jeremy. I suspect his last name is Miller, but who knows, who cares, and who cares, wins. Oh, and in a twist no one saw coming, Leonardo DiCaprio shows up towards the end of the show's run as Luke, the troubled lad who is ushered into the family through some seemingly lax foster-regulations. Well, it's the late-80s/early-90s, what the hell you gonna do.

Space: Huntington, NY
Time: October 31st, 1990
Episode: "Happy Halloween (Parts 1 & 2)" Season 6, Episodes 7-8

Eh, I'd forgotten about Chrissy - I assume you all did as well? Which is unfortunate, because the show opens on her hopes and dreams of a decent Halloween, now threatened by genre-appropriate weather. We slap our heads and think, 'Ohhh, that's right, they had another kid at some point...'

Fortunately, she is relatively harmless, as far as TV children go - we've definitely encountered worse (looking at you, Nicky and Alex). The Seavers have done what they can do with their dump of a house (Chrissy makes reference to trick-or-treating in the "rich" neighborhood, and I'm like, "Kid, take a look at where you live..."), using the Lambert-method (perhaps it should be renamed the Seaver-method?) of hanging lanterns to create a mood.

And not only lanterns on the establishing interstitials - we're talking an entirely new credit sequence, cobbled together from various clips of this mammoth two-parter. Yes, there are two of them to sit through, I am so sorry. Anyway, remix the theme-song with some vaguely monster-mashed lyrics, do this extra-special crediting, and you're off to the races on your tricked-out Halloween ep.

But how does your garden-variety Long Island family celebrate? Sure, the paper products you've come to know and expect are there, but the Seavers have added chunks of something unique to their party-stew: autumn harvest.

Sure, this is mostly about dried and dead cornucopia plants being strapped to your banisters and picket fences, but it's also about so much more. Like pumpkins. Yes, as this family gathering gathers itself, we can take in the splendor of their pumpkin-fueled merriment. They're utilizing a method called "Pumpkin Planing," in which the dimensions of a space are demarcated by pumpkins carefully arranged to represent the boundaries of these different vertical planes. It keeps everything from looking like one of the portraits seen in the "traditional" opening credits, and is not - I repeat, not - just a matter of pumpkins being scattered around the set at random.

We can even see this in the kitchen, but what of the foreground pumpkin, all partially-carved, but not fully jack o' lanterned.

Why leave it half-done like that, were you really so busy that you couldn't finish popping out the second eye triangle? Oh, if only that's what Thicke was busy fretting about - if only. No, the reality is, Mike (played by television's Kirk Cameron) is missing, and who knows or cares where he is. Ah, did I not mention that it's now officially storming outside and that Clan Seaver has attempted to quiet the screaming of oft-forgotten Chrissy by staying in and telling ghost tales from in front of and behind some calculated midground-planed pumpkins? Because that's what's happening.

We're getting an anthology-style telling of scary stories, each one less-scary than the one before, so I won't waste your time here any more than it's already being wasted. Just know that by the time we get to Mike's story (yeah, yeah, for whatever reason it turns out he's still alive, goddammit), it's all such a snoozefest that we almost hope Halloween is cancelled from that point forward so we'll never have to listen to it again. But, notice the heavy dead harvest/pumpkin planing at work here:

If this was my Halloween ep, this is how it would end - with the family gathered 'round the roaring fireplace, and young Chrissy staring out the window, waiting for some sign that her brother survives. She waits all night, but the sign never comes. The end.

Also, everyone please note, Ben has taken the Halloween toilet paper-gag to its natural conclusion:

And Jason and Maggie can't fucking believe it.