Of modern "family friendly" sitcoms, GROWING PAINS is a personal favorite, or at the very least, one of the few that I actually enjoyed watching. Personally, I find the majority of "family friendly" sitcoms to be fairly nauseating and completely unwatchable. The sickeningly sweet or saccharine nature of the majority of "family friendly" sitcoms is the killer elements that either left me screaming in horror anytime they came on, or diving for the remote control to get that unbearable drivel off my television set. Now, I’ll admit there are times the GROWING PAINS is a bit too cutesy for its own good, but the sweetness factor of this show never comes close to putting its audience into a diabetic coma.
GROWING PAINS revolves around an upper middle class family residing in a suburb in Long Island, New York. Alan Thicke stars as family patriarch and psychiatrist Dr. Jason Seaver, who moves his practice into his home after his wife decides to resume her career. Joanna Kerns portrays Maggie Seaver, the mother of three and journalist, who returns to the working world after taking a fifteen-year hiatus to raise her children. 1980’s teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron is eldest son Mike Seaver, a good kid at heart, but with a penchant for scheming and getting into a bit trouble- of the variety that could generally be resolved at the end of a half hour episode. Tracey Gold portrays brainy, sensible daughter Carol Seaver, who takes her share of good-natured ribbing from her brothers for being a bit nerdy. Finally, there is Jeremy Miller as youngest brother Ben Seaver, who is a bit smart alecky, as well as being something of clever schemer, just like his older brother.
GROWING PAINS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON ($30) comes to DVD in a four disc boxed set that features the following twenty-two episodes that were broadcast during the show’s freshman year: Pilot, Springsteen, Jealousy, Carol's Article, Superdad!, Mike's Madonna Story, Weekend Fantasy, Slice Of Life, Carol's Crush, Dirt Bike, Standardized Test, A Christmas Story, The Love Song Of M. Aaron Seaver, First Blood, Slice Of Life II, The Seavers Vs. The Cleavers, Charity Begins At Home, Reputation, The Anniversary That Never Was, Be A Man, Career Decision and Extra Lap.
Warner Home Video has made all the episodes that comprise GROWING PAINS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available on DVD in the proper 4:3 full screen aspect ratios of their original television broadcasts. Shot on videotape more than twenty years ago, GROWING PAINS doesn’t look quite as good as film based sitcoms of the same era. The image sometimes looks reasonably crisp and at other times a little bit soft and foggy. Colors look pretty decent, but occasionally come across as a bit fuzzy and sallow. Contrast is adequate, but shadow detail is pretty muddy. There are no major defects in the videotape source material, but the image does appear noisy in places. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
All of the episodes that constitute GROWING PAINS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON feature Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. Sound quality is just fine; there are no signs of distortion and the fidelity is perfectly adequate. Dialogue is crisply rendered and remains totally understandable. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard episode selection and set up features, as well as a couple of nice extras. Original Pilot: Unaired Scenes features actress Elizabeth Ward in the role of Carol Seaver (instead of Tracey Gold). Seaver Family Reunion: S'mores And More runs twenty-eight minutes and features the cast of GROWING PAINS sitting around a fire and reminiscing about the show. Finally, a five-minute Gag Reel closes out the extras.
Sitting down to watch GROWING PAINS again, the show is just the way I remember it- a likable "family friendly" sitcom that doesn’t overdose its audience in sugar coated stories. The DVDs look and sound nice, but are limited by the mid 1980’s videotape source material. Warner’s extras are a really nice inclusion. So, if you are a fan, you’ll want to add GROWING PAINS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON to your DVD library.
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