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Growing Pains - The Complete First Season


TITLE: GROWING PAINS - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: February 7, 2006 (Warner Bros. Home Video)
Color/1985-86
MSRP: $29.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 527 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: 45 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: Closed-Captioned; English, French, and Spanish subtitles
Special Features: Original Pilot: Unaired Sscenes; Seaver Family Reunion: S'mores and More; Gag Reel


Introduction:

Show me that smile again, don't waste another minute on your cryin', we're nowhere near the end… the best is ready to begin! Those may just be the lyrics to one of my favorite family sitcoms of all time (and hopefully one of your favorites too), but those words are absolutely true. The best really IS ready to begin, with The Complete First Season of Growing Pains on DVD! Warner Bros. Home Video has put together a four-disc DVD set containing unedited versions of all 22 episodes of the former hit ABC sitcom that discovers what happens when the typical parental roles get reversed.

Growing Pains was one of the many sitcoms to run in the period between 1985 and 1992 (do a little research, and you'll find that there are several sitcoms that ran during this exact same time period, give or take a year or so). The sitcom, somewhat (though not exactly) like Who's the Boss? which had premiered a year earlier, focuses on role reversals and how they affect the family… as an ABC promo in 1985 put it, "dad's the shrink, who minds the children, mom's out workin' for fulfillment." In other words, Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) is a psychiatrist that decides to move his practice into his home and become a stay-at-home father while Maggie (Joanna Kerns) is a former news reporter that has been a stay-at-home mother for years, and is ready to go back to work as a news reporter. The show changed quite a bit in later seasons (such as when Maggie and Jason went back to the "traditional" mother and father roles in a later season, which contradicts the whole premise of the series), but the first season stays true to the premise of the series.

The biggest challenge in the Seaver family is dealing with the children, Mike (Kirk Cameron), Carol (Tracey Gold), and Ben (Jeremy Miller). Mike is the oldest one, and the most trouble, even being arrested in the very first episode! Carol is the "geeky" one (who becomes less geeky by the third season but becomes even geekier than she was in the earlier by the sixth season) that, despite what you may think of geeks, can get into her own trouble. Then there is little Ben, the young one that causes even more trouble, such as ripping off the neighbors under the guise of charity! But, despite all of this, as the ABC promo in 1985 said, "they'll pull together, wait and see."


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

The first season (and the series for that matter) begins with the "Pilot" episode, which starts off the series with Mike getting arrested. As an interesting side note, if you pay attention at the VERY beginning of this episode, you'll hear Maggie humming a familiar television tune -- the theme song to Who's the Boss?! Mike wants tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert, and the only person he can get a ticket from is a fellow Bruce Springsteen fan, his own father, in "Springsteen." Olivia d'Abo makes a guest appearance in "Superdad!" Other Disc 1 episodes include "Jealousy" and "Carol's Article."

Disc 2 begins with "Mike's Madonna Story," where Dana Plato plays a girl named Lisa (who looks like Madonna) who Maggie fears—and for good reason, because Mike may just lose his virginity to Lisa! Carol gets a crush (on one of her own extended family members!) in "Carol's Crush." Mike promises Maggie and Jason that he won't ride a dirt bike, but does it anyway and is forced to hide the fact that he was injured while riding it in "Dirt Bike." Other Disc 2 episodes include "Weekend Fantasy," "Slice of Life" and "Standardized Test."

Disc 3 begins with "A Christmas Story," an episode in which one of Jason's patients decides to play Santa at an orphanage, and when he is disliked at the orphanage, decides he is going to bring Christmas joy to the Seavers by diving down their chimney head first. An interesting note about this episode, Ben gets a dog for Christmas (that he decides to name Walter), which is never seen ever again in the entire series. Michael has to decide whether to choose his family or an intellectual girlfriend in "The Love Song of M. Aaron Seaver." Dan Lauria plays a youth hockey coach that Jason gets in a fight with because Jason is upset about the fact that the coach advocates violence on the ice in "First Blood." Maggie might just be pregnant with a fourth Seaver child in "Slice of Life II." Maggie and Jason are seen as unfit parents and rejected as dance chaperones by the PTA president (played by Annette Funicello) in "The Seavers vs. the Cleavers." Ben finds the perfect (though extremely unethical) way to make money to buy Jason an expensive birthday present in "Charity Begins at Home."

Finally, Disc 4 includes some guest stars from WKRP in Cincinnati—Richard Sanders in "The Anniversary that Never Was," and Gordon Jump making his first (of SEVERAL) appearances as Maggie's father in "Be a Man." And the first season ends with "Extra Lap," in which Mike "sees" his dead uncle coming in from running in the kitchen for several days. Other Disc 4 episodes include "Reputation" and "Career Decision."


Packaging:

The packaging is acceptable, but it could have been a little better. Basically, the entire color scheme is green, and the box art contains various individual snapshots of each of the characters individually (although Jason and Maggie are in the same pose together). On the inside is a typical Warner Bros. three-panel digipak, which is the type of digipak that I (and many other DVD fans) don't really like—the type where you have to remove one disc to get to another disc. In other words, Disc 1 has to be removed to get Disc 2 out, and Disc 3 has to be removed to get Disc 4 out. The first panel contains episodes listings for the episodes on Discs 1 and 2, the second panel contains the actual Discs 1 and 2, and the third panel contains Disc 3 and 4. To make things more confusing, episode listings for Discs 3 and 4 are on the back of the panel used to hold Discs 3 and 4. The rest of the digipak is filled with various snapshots from first season episodes.

The disc art on the set is adequately done, with a picture of Mike on Disc 1, Jason and Maggie on Disc 2, Carol on Disc 3, and Ben on Disc 4 (same pictures that are on the cover). Unlike some other companies who shall remain nameless, the episodes are spread evenly throughout the set, with episodes 1-5 on Disc 1, episodes 6-11 on Disc 2, episodes 12-17 on Disc 3, and episodes 19-22 on Disc 4. Additionally, Discs 1 and 4 contain some special features.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are very basic, but also very nice at the same time. The main menu on each disc contains options for Play (equivalent to Play All), Episodes, Features (on Discs 1 and 4 only), and Languages. The opening theme music (the longer version, not the truncated version) plays in the background on the main menu, and there is a shot of the family on the top of the screen. The submenus are all very basic, and do exactly what their names suggest. It should be noted that there is no scene selection for the episodes, but chapters are placed appropriately in each episode.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video quality on the set looks fine, about what one would expect for a show that is 20 years old. The audio quality, on the other hand, is not so great (though not bad either). The audio is somewhat low and there is some background noise on some of the episodes. With the show being as old as it is, the audio is presented in mono. For the hearing-impaired, closed-captioning and English subtitles are available, and additionally, for those that just love Spanish and French, subtitles for those languages are available.

Although there are not problems throughout the set, there is a problem with one episode that is worth bringing up. The episode "A Christmas Story" on Disc 3 has some SERIOUS compression problems, a problem that is severe enough that it really does become an issue. None of the other episodes seem to have this kind of problem, fortunately.

The episodes themselves all seem to be unedited, running at the expected 24 minutes per episodes.


Special Features:

The special features aren't plentiful, but the special features that are there are pretty good. They include "Original Pilot:­ Unaired Scenes," "Seaver Family Reunion: S'mores and More," and "Gag Reel." The first one is on Disc 1, and the other two are on Disc 4.

The "Original Pilot:­ Unaired Scenes" (11:06) special feature is, as its name implies, unaired scenes from the first episode. So why is it so long, you may wonder? Was there REALLY that much edited out from the first episode? Not at all—all of these deleted scenes were deleted because they had to be reshot. Originally, Elizabeth Ward (NOT Tracey Gold) was supposed to play the role of Carol, and when Tracey Gold ended up getting the role instead at the last minute, JUST the scenes that involved Carol were reshot. In this special feature, those scenes with Elizabeth Ward are shown. After watching those scenes, I can honestly say that they made the right choice by replacing Elizabeth Ward with Tracey Gold! The geekiness of Carol that is portrayed by Elizabeth Ward seems over the top, and besides that, she just seems COMPLETELY out of place with the rest of the cast. They even have on these unaired scenes an original (or original looking) version of the opening credits, with Elizabeth Ward's name credited and Elizabeth Ward appearing in the cast photo at the end of the opening credits. They even have original (or original looking) closing credits for the episode to, with Elizabeth Ward appearing in those! The reason I keep saying "original looking," though, is because I kind of believe these could have been made just for the DVD set, because the font looks slightly different and more modern—but in any case, it is a nice touch. I just wish they would have put the entire pilot together as it had originally aired.

The next special feature, "Seaver Family Reunion: S'mores and More" (29:02) is a VERY interesting special feature. Basically, this is an interviews special feature. HOWEVER, it is not your typical "lets find one cast member and ask them questions in a studio that has white walls and a plant" interview… instead, it is an interview with ALL of the cast members—Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller—getting together around a campfire to discuss the first season of the show and how the show began! Writer Tim O'Donnell also joins them in this campfire session. Basically, rather than the cast members just giving trivial answers to trivial questions, they all sit around the campfire (making S'mores, of course!) and discuss how the show began and how they go their respective roles. This is very nicely produced, with very nice camera angles and is even presented in widescreen—it almost looks like a feature film! They are very candid in the interviews, and converse very well with each other, and end by singing a campfire song—the theme song to the show!

Finally, there is a "Gag Reel" (5:25)… which includes many bloopers from the first season. These are very interesting to watch, and the audio and video quality on these bloopers is great, not the typical poor quality bloopers that you'd expect from a lot of other shows.

I think that they did a good job with special features on this set, and hopefully future seasons will be about the same—but I want commentaries next time!


Final Comments:

Hopefully, the best IS ready to begin, and more seasons of Growing Pains are on the way! In general, I think this set was very nicely done, though I think cast commentaries would have been nice touch (since the entire cast managed to get together for the special features anyway!). Some may be quick to dismiss Growing Pains as "just another lame 80s family sitcom" or another remark that I've heard often is that it is a "Family Ties rip-off," although the show doesn't remind me of Family Ties at all, but this show is a great show and for the price, is well-worth having in any DVD collection. So share the laughter and love with your family, and purchase this DVD set!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 01/30/06

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000C6NPHC/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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