Actor, songwriter, producer and TV show host Alan Thicke, best known as one of the defining sitcom dads as family patriarch Jason Seaver on ABC’s hit 80s sitcom Growing Pains, has died. He was 69 and reportedly suffered a heart attack late this afternoon.
Though most strongly associated with his best-known role, Thicke was also an accomplished songwriter who composed iconic theme songs for several classic shows, including Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, and the original theme to Wheel of Fortune.
Born in 1947 in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada, Thicke began his career in 1969 as a regular on the short-lived variety show It’s Our Stuff. In the 70s he began working regularly in front of the camera as a game show and talk show host, and behind the camera as a producer and writer. Most notably, in 1977 he was tapped by Norman Lear to produce and serve as head writer on Fernwood 2 Night, a parody talk show starring Martin Mull, Fred Willard, Frank De Vol, and Tommy Tedesco.
Soon after, he became a frequent guest host on CTV’s The Alan Hamel Show and in 1980 was hired to host his own series, The Alan Thicke Show, which replaced Hamel. The Alan Thicke Show would run until 1983 when he left to create and host the syndicate night time talk show Thicke of the Night. Intended to compete with The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Thicke of the Night was ultimately not a hit and was cancelled just under a year after its debut.
The cancellation proved not to be a setback however, as the next year Thicke was hired to head up the cast of ABC’s family sitcom Growing Pains. Riding a wave of successful family comedies that would define the 80s and early 90s, Growing Pains also hinted at changing American families, starring Thicke as Psychiatrist Jason Seaver, who recently moved his practice into his home so his wife, played by Joanna Kerns, could return to her journalism career. The show was notable for making a teen idol of costar Kirk Cameron, who made a very public conversion to evangelical Christianity mid-way through the show’s run, for the public battle with anorexia by co-star Tracey Gold, and for casting a young Leonardo DiCaprio in the final season. A solid hit in its first five seasons, Growing Pains ended its run in 1992.
Thicke continued to work regularly after the end of Growing Pains. Among his roles on television were guest spots on Married… with Children, 7th Heaven, Joey, a seven-episode stint on The Bold and the Beautiful, and a five-episode stint as himself on How I Met Your Mother among many others. He also had numerous film roles, with appearances in Raising Helen, and the Nick Cassavetes-directed Alpha Dog among others.
In 2014, Thicke created and starred in the reality TV parody series Unusually Thicke for the Pop Network. The show’s second season aired in 2015. “We are deeply saddened to hear of Alan’s passing. He was a part of our Pop family and was a tremendous talent,” said Brad Schwartz, President of Pop TV in a statement. “He was also for all who knew him, an amazing father and a true gentleman. We had the privilege to work with America’s Favorite Dad and his loss is one that is deeply felt.”
Most recently, he guest-starred in the role of Mike, Crystal’s grandfather, on Netflix’s Fuller House, the second season of which premiered December 9 on the streaming service.
Thicke is survived by his wife of 11 years, Tanya Callau, and his sons Brennan, Carter, and singer-songwriter Robin Thicke.
Donations in Thicke’s name may be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: (http://www.jdrf.org/)