Growing Pains: Stop, Luke, and Listen

I don’t know who did it, but someone finally made all of my dreams come true. All seasons of Growing Pains are now on Amazon Instant Watch, which means I can finally review the Leonardo Dicaprio episodes and Carol’s multi-episode tragic-romance with Matthew Perry. But for now let’s talk about Leo.

We first met Leo, I mean “Luke” when Mike starts his student teaching job. At first he seems just like a regular teenage class clown, but then we get this very special episode:

Mike’s really getting into the swing of things with teaching remedial class. I’m sure it’s some kind of big statement on how he was once a remedial student. Anyways, his class is like a majorly watered-down version of Welcome Back, Kotter and Luke is the Vinny Barbarino of the class.

Mike’s busy collecting emergency contact cards before he has to rush of to a big dinner with Kate and his parents. So when the office tells him that Luke’s emergency contact card is missing and they have to have it by 5 pm, Mike sets out on a mission to track down the information.

Luckily, Luke arrived to class late that morning and had forgotten to remove the deli apron he had worn at work. Mike calls 555-DELI (as was written on Luke’s apron) and asks to speak to Luke. Unfortunately, the deli can’t let him talk to Luke. Actually, they’ve never heard of Luke. And it turns out the school has no record of his enrollment either.

For a moment, it might seem like this is totally implausible. But having previously worked with school administrations, I’d say this is a frighteningly possible reality. Mike remembers seeing a cot in the storage room so he heads down to check and out. Sure, enough Luke is lying on the cot because he lives in the storage room. He tries to explain this away by saying he is only staying there for a few nights due to an argument with his parents.

Mike is all like yeah man, I totally get it because he for whatever reason still thinks he was a cool, edgy kid even though he grew up in the suburban paradise that is Huntington, Long Island with Maggie and Jason Seaver. So please, Mike. You do NOT get it. But then Mike notices that Luke has for serious moved into this storage room. He’s even stealing cable.

But Luke continues to claim he isn’t homeless. So Mike hands him the emergency contact card to fill out. Luke lists his address as 725 W 48th Street, which Mike immediately recognizes as “in the middle of the river.” Now, this to me is much less plausible that Luke attending school without enrolling. Mike didn’t even grow up in the city and suddenly he’s the rain man of street numbers? Why does he know this?? What happened to him on the 700 block of 48th street??

Then Mike breaks some laws by not calling Child Protective Services. While he figures out what to do with Luke, his parents try to entertain Kate. She and Maggie happen to be wearing the same dress. It’s a really stupid gag. Oh, how the mighty have fallen in their final season. Kate makes another faux pas by turning down Maggie’s homemade bread because she doesn’t eat “anything with yeast.” Ugh. Then she turns down the slow-cooked roast beef because she doesn’t eat “anything with a face.” SO RUDE. Like fine, I’m sorry if it’s gross to you but you’re trying to impress these people because you “love” their son. Just give up and go home at this point, lady!

It turns out that Mike was not at dinner because he has been stalking Luke all night. He watches Luke use his deli apron to sneak into the deli that evening and steal food. Mike’s all like I want you to have a better life! And Luke is all like I had a good life before you ruined my shelter, food source, and education! And Mike is kind of like oh, whoops. So he takes Luke home to live with his family.

Very Special Lesson: Remember that time you saw a poor helpless soul? You should totally meddle in that persons life. And if that person is a child, you can adopt that child. And if you’re a Seaver, then you don’t even have to adopt that child. You can just start raising him as your son.

Growing Pains: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Don’t you just love it when TV Shows name themselves after grammatically correct versions of songs by Muppets? No? Well, maybe that’s just me. Leonardo-Dicaprio-growing-pains-cast

Anyway, this title works two ways. First, there’s an evergreen tree that Alan Thicke is really struggling with. Second, Kirk Cameron is super jealous that his girlfriend (and IRL future-wife) is going to be spending the holidays modeling bikinis in Jamaica. I find this offensive both within the show and in meta-terms. It’s offensive in the show because she is a model and this is a super great opportunity for her. It’s the equivalent of a fictional Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and this woman lives on Long Island. She obviously hasn’t done well enough for herself to transition to the city or LA or wherever, so like please celebrate that this is her break through moment and be a supportive boyfriend, okay???

dda169b6d2ab4f4c7dcbf24e68de0085_600x400It’s also meta-offensive because Kirk Cameron basically ruined a struggling actress’s Growing Pains career because he found out that she had once posed for Playboy. He seemed to cast her out of Growing Pains by throwing his weight around. I’m not sure of the exact details, but I know this has been widely reported, so Google away, people. Also the way they wrote her out of the show was terrible. The actress I am referring to is Julie McCullough and she played this wonderful love interest for Kirk/Mike Seaver. So great was their chemistry that the writers even had them engaged to one another, but right about this time Kirk discovered her “transgressions” and being the loving Christian that he is, decided to crucify her for them. So they wrote this woman out of the show by having her leave a beloved sitcom star at the alter with nothing but a Dear John letter. So basically the audience could think nothing other than “Wow. Julie is such a bitch.”

Honestly, I’m not trying to advocate for Playboy, but I am advocating against slut-shaming or forcing your own beliefs on another person. And the reason that I find this so particularly annoying in the context of this episode is that I remember from hearing boys talk in high school that the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition accomplished many of the same goals as Playboy.

But Kirk/Mike isn’t upset with Kate for showing off her assets, he’s upset because he’s worried that the photographer is a lech. It turns out that he’s right about that, but we only get to discover that he is correct in his suspicions because he gets a little stalkerish and shows up in Jamaica unannounced. At first, Kate is happy to see him because she thinks he’s come down to surprise her for the holidays. But when she learns that he showed up because he’s worried about the photographer trying to make out with her, she tells him off. So I like Kate is basically what I’ve learned from this episode. And I end up liking MIke too because he pretty much realizes that he has been a huge jerk, and that trusting someone also means accepting that you can’t control everyone who makes a pass at her.

In other news, Alan Thicke is a control freak about the Christmas tree, so his wife (Joanna Kerns) sets up an alternate tree for the kids to decorate. He realizes he’s been a total loser and forgotten that the meaning of Christmas is togetherness, not trees affixed in their stands with a level. So then adopted-Leo DiCaprio (yes it’s the Leo DiCaprio season, everybody!) and the rest of the children throw a ton of tinsel at this thing and we all learn to love again. 

And you’d think that like everything was great with the whole relations between genders and whatnot, except that Carol has been in a jealous spiral similar to Mike’s–and hers does not end in the same manner. She’s jealous of her boyfriend’s assistant for being too hot. And so she breaks up with him. Like an asshole. Then at the very end of the show, he sends her flowers and tells her that he fired his assistant because he loves Carol.

I really hope this assistant has a good lawyer because I would sue the pants off someone who fired me for being too hot on CHRISTMAS EVE of all nights. Also, I don’t like woman-on-woman violence, Carol Seaver, and I’m making a note of this. However, I will give you a pass because it’s so clear that you are in the throes of anorexia nervosa right now. It breaks my heart to see someone so malnourished and know in part it’s because a show that I grew up loving made her the brunt of fat jokes for years even though she was never overweight. And even if she was, it’s not only cruel but also lazy writing. And that’s not cool.

Very Special Lesson(s): Fat jokes are evil. It’s not nice to destroy your coworkers careers. Don’t sneak around checking up on your significant others. And calm down about the Christmas tree.