You know what word of which I apparently no longer know the meaning? "Classic". I came to realize that this week when reading obituaries and stories about the death of actor Alan Thicke. "Star of the 'classic' '80's TV sitcom Growing Pains" they all said. I recall watching Growing Pains as a kid--but I had to refer to the internet to remember what the premise was--as nothing about the series stuck out in my mind. Now I remember that it was the "break-out" vehicle for teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron (who has since been ostracized from Hollywood for his devout Christian faith) and to a lesser extent for Tracey Gold--who seems to be in several of the Hallmark Movie Channel Christmas films that my wife watches continuously at this time of year.
Anyways, "classic" is in no way the term I would use for Growing Pains. If anything, I would describe the show as "formulaic". There was hardly anything unique about the middle class white family with three kids all of whom had widely divergent personalities "learning to live with one another" under the guidance of Wise Old Dad and Loving Mom. That was half the shows on TV in the 1980's. As I recall there was the required "one teen experiments with drugs or alcohol episode" that "scared everyone straight". There was the "Mom has a surprise baby midway through the series" plot twist. And they even went down the path of "Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch" by bringing a homeless teenager into the house (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in the final season as a last ditch effort to boost ratings.
If you want to talk about a "classic" family comedy that ran at the very same time--you might want to check out Married With Children--which was actually cutting-edge with its portrayal of family dysfunction and disillusionment with middle class life. Or The Simpsons--which has lasted three times as long as Growing Pains.
Like grade inflation on college campuses, our subjective ratings for pedestrian things from the past seem to be creeping up. I'm writing this on a computer that sits below a "Classic Car Calendar" from our sister station that includes a Gremlin and a Mustang II in it. Yes, they are old vehicles that someone has kept or restored to very nice condition--but they are in no way, shape or form "classic". Unless you are using the term in the phrase a "classic example of a piece of junk".
Plus, it leaves us with no adjectives to use when someone like Mary Tyler Moore, Jerry Seinfeld or Matt Stone dies. I dislike "legendary"--as that should really apply to Paul Bunyan or Tarzan--you know, actual "legends".
Enough of my complaining. I'll let you get back to another "classic" episode of The Love Boat, starring the "legendary" Fred Grandy.