Heavy on the Hugs: Family Ties vs. Growing Pains
It goes without saying that The Cosby Show was the high water mark for ’80s family sitcoms. Any parallel to one of its contemporaries would be misplaced. Two other notable shows from that era, however, Family Ties and Growing Pains are ripe for comparison. We run the numbers to see who comes out on top in a segment we’re calling (cue trumpet): uhmm …ok, Family Ties vs. Growing Pains: Heavy on the Hugs and Life Lessons, Light on the Steel Cage Quality You’re Probably Looking for in a Match-Up of this Variety.TOTAL NUMBER OF SEASONS Family Ties: 7 Growing Pains: 7 Winner: It’s a push (You can’t really count those Growing Pains movies, because … well, they were dumb.) . .
TOTAL NUMBER OF KIDS Family Ties: 4(Alex, Mallory, Jennifer, and obligatory ratings booster, Andy) Growing Pains: 41/2 (Mike, Carol, Ben, obligatory ratings booster, Chrissy, as well as further heart-string tugger and live in waif, Luke) Winner: Growing Pains (They had an extra kid running around the house and I think Eddie was squatting in Mike’s apartment for a while too.) . .
MOST NOTABLE GUEST STARS Family Ties: Tom Hanks(as vanilla extract drinking, Uncle Ned), Geena Davis Growing Pains: Brad Pitt (Twice! Each time as a different character.), Leonardo DiCAprio (A cast member for one season) Winner: Family Ties ( Tom Hanks was already makin’ it happen on Bosom Buddies during his Family Ties days. No one could have banked on the Pitt becoming Mr. Aniston/Jolie) . .
DORKIEST SIDE-KICK Family Ties: Skippy Handleman Growing Pains: Boner Stabone Winner: Growing Pains (Skippy’s preoccupation with Mallory wore pretty thin after a while and Boner consistently mined comedy gold simply by uttering, “Gee, Mikey. I don’t know.”) .
EARLY APPEARANCE BY SOMEONE ON FRIENDS Family Ties: Courtney Cox as Alex’s long suffering girlfriend, Lauren Growing Pains: Matthew Perry as Carol’s soon to be dead boyfriend, Sandy Winner: The Cox … errr… Family Ties! Hands down. (C’mon “Sandy/Chandler?” Odd that they wound up together on Friends though.) .
CHEESIEST OPEN THEME Family Ties: “Without Us” sung by Johnny Mathis (Sha-la-la-la) Growing Pains:”As Long as We’ve Got Each Other” sung by B.J. Thomas (So, don’t waste another minute on your cryin’) Winner: We all lose when absentmindedly singing one of these ditties within earshot of those who will undoubtedly mock us. .
MOST VERY SPECIAL “VERY SPECIAL EPISODE” Family Ties: Season 2: “Speed Trap” – Alex gets hooked on amphetamines so he can stay up late to study, putting Mallory in a dilemma -betray her brother’s trust or get him the help he needs. Growing Pains: Season 2: “Thank God it’s Friday”- Mike, along with Eddie and Boner, attend a college party and are offered cocaine in the bathroom. Mike is adamantly against drugs, but his friends are eager to fit in with the older crowd. Can he convince them to “just say no” before it ruins their lives or their friendship? Winner: Family Ties (Alex actually ingests the drugs, while Mike is only politely offered them.)
THE OLDEST SON AND THE LADIES
Family Ties: High schooler, Alex loses his virginity in Season 1:”summer of ’82″ to a college Economy major who breaks his heart the next day. Michael J. Fox later goes on to marry on-screen girlfriend, Tracy Pollan.
Growing Pains: Mike can’t quite seal the deal with an aggressive Dana Plato (dressed as a teenage Madonna clone) in his parents’ bed during Season 1: “Mike’s Madonna Story.” Kirk Cameron later goes on to marry on-screen girlfriend, Chelsea Noble.
Winner: Family Ties (Alex discusses the matter with his father afterward. A bold and awkward move since you can’t un-ring that bell. Mike on the other hand, spoke with his mom, “She wanted to sleep with me and I didn’t do it! I’m probably gay! Are you happy now?” It just got creepy after that.)
Family Ties (Although your series of equally ridiculous criteria may vary the outcome, please feel obligated to use the “comments” field for that purpose. Sha-la-la-la.)
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