Another Sitcom face-off, where I take two similar sitcoms and decide which one is better than the other. Today we have:

vs

Ah, the 80’s. Great time for family comedies. Family Ties debuted in 1982, and a few years later ABC premiered Growing Pains. What you may not know is that ABC intended Growing Pains to be their version of Family Ties; in fact the first few episodes of Growing Pains closely mirrored the format on Family Ties. Thankfully, the creators of Growing pains figured out that would never last and gave the show its own unique format. But which one is superior?

 

ROUND 1, Let’s start with the main leads.

Steven Keaton vs. Jason Seaver

           

These are two nice guys who work hard to keep their families happy and healthy. Steven works at a PBS TV station while Jason is a respected Psychiatrist. They are both good fathers, always there for their kids. They are also stern when the situation calls for it, although Steven may a little better than Jason in terms of discipline. When Steven is pissed off, he isn’t fooling around. Jason usually tries to remain calm no matter the circumstance. They are both also good husbands, supporting whatever their wives are doing. If they are so close, then who wins? Steven tends to get a little too silly, sometimes to the point of being plain nuts. It’s in these times no one can take him seriously, and so I have say Jason wins because he is rational and more open minded.

WINNER=JASON SEAVER

 

 

ROUND 2, Female leads=

Elyse Keaton vs. Maggie Seaver

Elyse and Maggie are to women trying to have a career while they also raise their kids and keep a home. Maggie is a reporter while Elyse is an architect. Elyse is a very sensible person, always willing to listen and help. It takes a lot to get her angry, but when you do she isn’t joking around anymore. Maggie is much more emotional, she tends to overreact and worry a lot. She needs her rational husband to keep her from going off the handle. This is the opposite of Steven and Elyse, where Elyse is the cool one while Steven goes nuts. While it is clear Maggie loves her husband and children, she lacks direction in her life whereas Elyse is an established and respected professional. She does easily what Maggie can’t. So, the winner is easy….

WINNER=ELYSE KEATON

 

 

ROUND 3, The kids=

Keaton kids vs. Seaver kids

This is a real hard choice. The Keaton kids and Seaver kids are very similar. First, we have the oldest son. The heartthrob. Alex Keaton was an intellectual snob, a Republican who didn’t hide it. Mike Seaver was a good off, he would rather be out having fun than be in school. Of course, Michael J.Fox and Kirk Cameron made their shows hits. The middle child is also opposites, where Carol Seaver was a brain who always got good grades, Mallory Keaton was an underachiever always stuck in the shadow of her smart older brother. Then we have the awkward youngest child, but where Ben Seaver lost his charm as he got older Jennifer Keaton just got cooler and cooler. Finally, both shows added children and then accelerated their ages. Chrissy Seaver was cute and funny, while Andy Keaton was cute but…. Who wins? These shows are neck to neck, the kids of Family Ties were fresh and fun right through the end of the series but on Growing Pains they got boring, and at least Family Ties didn’t have to bring a character in because their regular was unappealing like Growing Pains did with Luke.

WINNER=THE KEATON KIDS

 

 

 

ROUND 4-SUPPORTING CAST

 

Neither of these shows had strong supporting casts. In the early days of Family Ties we had the neighbor, Skippy, and then as the show went on we had Alex’s girlfriends including a young Courtney Cox as Lauren, and of course Mallory’s boyfriend, Nick. On Growing Pains Mike has his best friends Eddie and Boner and his girlfriend Kate, and while Carol and Ben also had friends they were not on very much. How similar are these shows? Both Kirk Cameron and Michael J.Fox married the girls who played their girlfriends on the show. Weird. Growing Pains also had Couch Lubbock, who became a popular recurring cast member. Both shows had spin-off’s from their supporting cast. Coach Lubbock went on to Just the Ten of Us, while Nick got his one very short lived show called The Art of Being Nick. It sucked. I have to say, I think the winner is Family Ties, because their supporting cast was more memorable.

WINNER=FAMILY TIES

 

 

ROUND 5-THEME SONG

 

I have to say, “Without Us” by Johnny Mathis is a great song but it doesn’t compare to “As Long as We Got Each Other” by B.J.Thomas.  Better song, better opening

 

 

 

 

 

WINNER=GROWING PAINS

 

 

ROUND 6-PREMISE

Well, this is where it gets difficult. As I said, Growing Pains was very similar to Family Ties in its early days. As Growing Pains evolved, it came up with its own style. Family Ties was big with “special” episodes. It seemed like nearly episode was “special”. Of course the prime example was the famous “A My Name is Alex” episode. That episode was amazing, though I don’t think it holds up so well. Growing Pains had the cocaine episode where Mike is offered drugs, and ended with a heavy handed speech by Kirk Cameron. Family Ties tackled Speed, while Growing Pains tackled drinking and driving and actually killed Carol’s boyfriend. Both these shows are good, but I think that the Growing Pains episodes were almost more fun. Family Ties was so, I don’t know, serious. Every episode ended with two characters having a heart to heart, usually in the kitchen. Same formula, again and again. Family Ties also drove the clip-show format into the ground, they did so many Justine Bateman even satired it on Saturday Night Life. Growing Pains took itself a little less seriously. So, for daring to shake up the format and be a little more creative, I am going to give the award to Growing Pains.

WINNER=GROWING PAINS

 

Alright, how are are we going to pick a winner? The final category will be to decide which show stayed the course more for its entire run.

 

ROUND 7-JUMPING THE SHARK

 

This isn’t much of a contest, let’s be honest. Growing Pains got so bad the last year or two. They tried to bring in Leonardo DiCaprio in a desperate attempt to boost ratings. It failed. Then the show was plagued by the controversy of Tracy Gold having anorexia, and from what I have read Kirk Cameron was a jerk. Family Ties stayed the course better; its last year had a moving arc with Steven Keaton suffering a heart attack. Growing Pains got silly, and frankly was almost unwatchable. The final episodes of both shows are decent, but I think Family Ties was better. Growing Pains pulled out a clip show and had the family move, all Family Ties did was send Alex off to a real job in New York. It was more for a traditional episode, and a sweet end to the series.

 

Growing Pains really tried, but as usual the copycat can’t beat the original. The winner is………

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts-Both these shows have their strengths and weaknesses. They are both good shows which don’t get the appreciation they deserve these days. Hope you enjoyed this, ’till next time!

By richb

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