This year’s inductees to Canada’s Walk of Fame include the iconic athlete and cancer-research activist Terry Fox, music producer Bob Ezrin, pianist Oscar Peterson and Alan Thicke, a seven-time Emmy nominee fondly remembered for his seven-year stint as the patriarch Jason Seaver on the series Growing Pains. The writer, producer, actor and favourite son of Kirkland Lake, Ont., spoke to The Globe about his career and real-life family.
When anyone gets an award, whether it’s a Governor-General’s award or, in your case, a star on the Walk of Fame, it’s usually accompanied by a brief description of the honoree’s contributions. What’s your own description of your accomplishments?
I think I have an exemplary work ethic – one which has given me a pleasantly varied career, and one propelled by a healthy insecurity. It makes you proactive, in terms of projects and writing. You don’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring. I’ve also always been very faithful and supportive of Canadian talent, and I assume that that’s part of this recognition.
The breadth and the work ethic makes me think of Paul Anka.
He’s a good example of that, yes. Maybe there’s something in our Canadian and Ontario upbringing.
You’re still keeping busy. I read about an ABC comedy pilot Bad Management, where your character is described as a “tough old buzzard who hates failure, likes lunches, and dotes on his son.” Does any of that apply to you personally?
That was probably a character description that went out before I was even cast, or my ego would have railed at the description of “old.” I’ll take the tough buzzard though, and I’m terribly proud of my sons. I probably dote on them more than I should, but I try to hold them to a certain standard, personally and professionally.
Let’s talk about standards. You’re most associated with your role as a sitcom dad, on Growing Pains. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on Seth MacFarlane’s controversial new series Dads , which was described by Slate.com as “racist and belittling and obnoxious to everyone and everything.” Have the sitcom standards changed since Growing Pains?
Well, things have changed. First of all, you’re talking about the guy who did the boobies song on the Oscars, which is the ultimate reverence of Hollywood. So, if you know anything about Seth MacFarlane, why would you be surprised? That’s exactly why the networks hire guys like that, to produce that kind of stuff and hope that it sticks.
And what about the changing values?
They have changed dramatically in the 20-something years since Growing Pains went off the air. Anything in prime time now is dramatically broader in terms of what they can say. Watch 2 Broke Girls and see how many times they say vagina.
Would you bring back something like Growing Pains?
No. I prefer today’s programming, in terms of the things I choose to watch. Growing Pains belongs in the time capsule with the reverence and affection that it has and deserves. But to make that show today, it would be corny and dated.
Speaking of standards, can you comment on the controversy caused by your son Robin’s Blurred Lines video?
I think the controversy is much to do about nothing. We’ve been looking at bums for years, and suddenly to take off your top it’s a big deal. I find it to be more humourous than sexual. There are no sex acts taking place. No genitals were damaged in the production of that video. If it is true that women like a sense of humour, there’s a video about a couple of guys just trying to get lucky, to quote Pharrell Williams.
You have a song-writing credit on the album. How much will that be worth to you?
I honestly have no idea, because I have never been included in a big hit record. I have had album filler on records made by people like Al Jarreau, Lou Rawls and the Spinners. But I’ve never had anything like this thing. Nothing that opened up at No. 1 worldwide.
It’s not like he hasn’t sold albums before, but do you have an opinion on why this record has broken so big for him?
I think he has been a unique fusion of R&B, hip-hop and rock, and that fusion has resulted in pop status. You won’t see anything on any of his albums that is a sellout to a particular genre. There are people in the industry who would have drawn him one way or another over the years to subscribe to whatever was trending in that particular year.
Well, he did bring in some pretty fashionable producers for this record.
He’s a good collaborator. But he’s had a concept for himself. He thought he could bring a little bit of those different worlds together, and I think that’s what we’re seeing.
Maybe Robin Thicke is one of Alan Thicke’s accomplishments we talked about earlier.
Well, he has stayed true to his vision over the years. What he’s done is transcend generations and genres, obviously with Blurred Lines. So, I’m proud of him, yes.