When Growing Pains debuted in 1985, few could have predicted that its theme song, “As Long As We Got Each Other,” would become arguably the best and most beloved television theme song of all time. Thirty-five years later, the people who were there to witness the magic reflect on the song and its impact on the show’s success.
NEAL MARLENS (executive producer): I knew right away that I wanted Alan [Thicke] to play Jason Seaver. Once we got Joanna [Kerns] as Maggie, I said to myself, okay, now this show has real potential.
DAN GUNTZELMAN (producer): To get that much talent in the same room was really something special. Alan and Joanna were already established names, of course. But I knew Tracey [Gold] and Kirk [Cameron] were going to be stars, too — you could see it from Day 1. I remember telling Neal, “Okay, we’ve got all the pieces we need, so if this goes sideways, we have nobody to blame but ourselves!” He laughed. Neal laughs at everything.
Sure, actors are important, but creating a hit in Hollywood requires more than just acting chops. It also requires a great theme song. Thankfully, “As Long As We Got Each Other” — or “ALAWGEO,” as it’s known on multiple message boards — was there to almost single-handedly carry the show from also-ran status to ratings juggernaut.
JEREMY MILLER (Ben Seaver): I basically grew up on the set of Growing Pains. And everyone was always so nice to me, even though I was just a punk kid! But no, to answer your question, I don’t remember anyone talking about the theme song.
TRACEY GOLD (Carol Seaver): I honestly don’t remember the show having a theme song at all.
JAMIE ABBOTT (Stinky Sullivan): No, I never met the guy who wrote the theme song, and I don’t recall him being on set, either. But the show itself was a great experience, both [Editor’s note: redacted for relevance].
It’s pretty surprising that some of the actors don’t recall the guy who wrote the theme song, because he was on set multiple times, and definitely met all of them, and even specifically made a point of wishing Jeremy Miller a happy 13th birthday when the songwriter’s annual allotted studio visit happened to coincide with Miller’s big day. But okay, whatever you say, you don’t remember him. Alan Thicke sure did.
GUNTZELMAN: Alan was a big music guy. But I don’t think I ever heard him mention anything about the theme song for the show, or the guy who wrote it. You know what he did like, though, was that Full House theme song. I remember him humming that song to himself all the time.
[Editor’s note: In fact, “As Long As We Got Each Other” is far better musically and remains more beloved than every other television theme song of that era, including the Full House and Family Matters theme songs (which are, let’s be honest, essentially the same song), as well as any other song by the not-actually-that-talented-and-actually-pretty-condescending Jesse Frederick. Also, Alan Thicke died in 2016, so there’s basically no way to conclude anything other than Dan Guntzelman is a liar.]
MILLER: Wait, was it like, “duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh, DUH-nuh-nuh”…nope, nevermind, that’s Family Ties.
JOANNA KERNS (Maggie Seaver): I’m really not sure why you keep asking about the theme song. There was so much more going on behind the scenes of that show. There was this one time, a drifter wandered onto the set and threatened to eat Kirk Cameron’s shoes if we didn’t give him the role of Chrissy Seaver, who, as you might recall, was a baby. Dan Guntzelman, our brilliant producer, told the drifter that there was no way we were casting an older man as Chrissy the baby. Before the drifter could even respond to Dan, Kirk Cameron cracked him over the head with his Young Artist Award for Best Young Superstar in Television — Kirk kept all his awards with him everywhere he went — and the drifter collapsed, right there in the middle of the Seavers’ kitchen. Nobody did anything to help. In retrospect, I guess we were all in shock that Kirk could do something like that, and that a Young Artist Award was that heavy — I assumed they were hollow. But Kirk was always screaming on set, “Nobody touches Kirk Cameron’s shoes!” so maybe we should have seen it coming. Eventually, the drifter bled out. At that point, it wasn’t just about protecting Kirk — we were all implicated. What we did next still haunts me. We couldn’t let something like that ruin a hit television show [Editor’s note: with a timeless theme song], so I reached out to a pyrotechnics guy I knew who owed me a favor. We took the body way out back on the Warner lot, where he loaded it up with an ungodly amount of dynamite. Alan was there. He was always so strong — it wasn’t just in front of the cameras, he was really like that. Anyway, we blew that drifter to hell. I just stood out there and cried. That was thirty years ago.
Fast forward to last summer. A man visited me at my home. He said his name was Craig Davies, and that his father, a veteran, Sergeant William Davies, had disappeared decades ago in the Los Angeles area, probably after going off his antipsychotic medication. It’s hard to know for sure because they were estranged at the time, but Craig thinks his father must have gotten lost and wandered onto the Warner Brothers lot, where he was murdered by Kirk Cameron with a Young Artist Award after threatening to eat Kirk’s shoes. He wondered if I ever heard about anything like that. Of course I told him no. But it was clear to me that day that Craig won’t stop trying to find out what happened to his father. And when he does, he’ll come knocking again. But me and Mr. Smith & Wesson… we’ll be ready. We’ve always been ready.
Despite the fact that “As Long As We Got Each Other” continued its reign as television’s best ever theme song, ratings for Growing Pains tanked at the end of season 6. Looking to spice things up, the supposedly brilliant producer Dan Guntzelman brought on a young Leonardo DiCaprio to play a homeless teenager taken in by the Seaver family.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO (Luke Brower): Oh, sure, Growing Pains. Good show.
But even DiCaprio recognized that the show was nothing without its theme song, and that the falling ratings couldn’t be solved by some gimmicky new character. In fact, what they needed was for the producers to grant the songwriter’s request to extend the theme song for an additional 26 seconds — that’s really nothing in the grand scheme of things — in order to accommodate a new verse the songwriter had just come up with, that would have perfectly encapsulated the Seaver family at that precise moment in time. But they didn’t. They didn’t. I’ll never understand why.
GUNTZELMAN: I vaguely remember the guy who wrote the theme song coming to me and asking for an additional 30 seconds or something on the intro. [Editor’s note: it was 26 seconds.] When your show is only 22, 23 minutes per episode, that’s an eternity. [ Editor’s note: it’s not, particularly when the theme song is the only reason anyone watches the show.] I mean, come on. Who did this guy think he was, Jesse Frederick? [Editor’s note: ummmmm, how about FUCK YOU, Dan!]
MILLER: Duh-nuh-NUH, duh-nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh-nuh-nuh, nuh-NUH — is that anything?
CLAIRE (Jesse Frederick’s assistant): Don’t ever call this number again.
KIRK CAMERON (Mike Seaver): Were you just looking at my shoes, you son of a bitch?
Growing Pains was eventually canceled.