CLOSE
Growing Pains/Facebook
Growing Pains/Facebook

15 Things You Might Not Have Known About Growing Pains

Growing Pains/Facebook
Growing Pains/Facebook

One thing many of today's young adults have in common is the shared childhood memory of watching the Seaver family grow—in some cases by a few years over one summer hiatus (see: Chrissy). On the occasion of the series's 30th anniversary, here are some facts about Growing Pains, the ABC sitcom that was smart enough to give Leonardo DiCaprio a home before it, too, was kicked to the curb.

1. ALAN THICKE WAS KNOWN AS A FAILED LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST WHEN HE WAS ASKED TO AUDITION.

Thicke had concluded his run hosting Thicke of the Night and was pitching a new show at ABC. The network suggested trying out for the male lead of Growing Pains. Thicke beat out 150 other actors for the role.

2. THE SEAVER PARENTS WERE RECENTLY DIVORCED WHEN THE SHOW STARTED.

Thicke and Joanna Kerns were both either recently divorced or about to divorce from their significant others when they began playing Jason and Maggie Seaver. Thicke said the two flirted and considered dating, before realizing how potentially bad their working relationship could become if their romance fizzled.

3. DAN LAURIA WAS CAST IN THE WONDER YEARS BECAUSE OF GROWING PAINS.

Dan Lauria was dating Joanna Kerns when Neal Marlens, the creator of Growing Pains and the co-creator of The Wonder Years, was casting for the latter series. Kerns made a call to Marlens on her boyfriend’s behalf and got him the audition his agent couldn’t secure.

4. TRACEY GOLD WASN’T THE ORIGINAL CAROL.

Elizabeth Ward played Carol in Growing Pains's unaired original pilot. Gold’s family ended their vacation early in order to get Tracey back to audition once the show decided to go in a different direction with casting the Seavers' eldest daughter. Gold wasn't optimistic about her chances, since the producers had rejected her the first time around.

5. KIRK CAMERON GOT THE ROLE OF MIKE BECAUSE HE DIDN’T SEEM VERY SMART.

Once his audition was over, the 14-year-old actor asked the producers in the room if the show was a comedy. They laughed. Once Cameron was out of earshot one producer turned to the other and said, “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he sounds like Mike.”

6. CAMERON AND GOLD HAD PLAYED SIBLINGS BEFORE.

The two played brother and sister in a McDonald’s commercial. They also both appeared in the 1982 made-for-TV movie, Beyond Witch Mountain.

7. BEN SEAVER REALLY LOVED HIS TV FAMILY.

Jeremy Miller was only eight years old when Growing Pains began filming, and hated leaving his TV family when the first few seasons wrapped. "When the season was over, he'd cry," Kerns recalled to People.

8. MAURA TIERNEY WAS FIRED.

The future NewsRadio and ER star was fired on the second day of rehearsal for a season three episode. And she's not really sure why. "I think maybe I had a bad attitude," she told The A.V. Club. "I really don’t know. The director kept saying, 'Watch Kirk [Cameron]! Watch Kirk! Kirk knows what he’s doing! Watch Kirk!' And then I got fired. So that’s what I get for watching Kirk, I guess. Or maybe I didn’t watch him closely enough."

9. JULIE MCCULLOUGH CAUSED A LOT OF TROUBLE.

McCullough played Mike’s girlfriend, Julie Costello, during Growing Pains' fourth season, which ended with Mike proposing to her. Once season five got started, however, Julie was abruptly written off the show. It was reported that her pictures in Playboy bothered Cameron, and he demanded she be fired and told the network the three executive producers on the series were pornographers. At the time, an executive producer claimed there was never a plan for Mike's character to ever get married. Cameron himself denied getting McCullough fired.

10. CAMERON’S FUTURE WIFE PLAYED HIS GIRLFRIEND.

Cameron met Chelsea Noble on the set of Full House, where he was visiting his sister Candace (who, of course, played D.J. Tanner). Noble then landed a recurring role on Growing Pains, playing Kate MacDonald, Mike’s love interest after Julie. Mike proposed to Kate in the 1992 series finale, a year after Cameron and Noble married in real life.

11. MATTHEW PERRY’S DEATH WAS LONG PLANNED.

Future Friends star Matthew Perry played Carol’s boyfriend Sandy for three episodes during the show's fourth season. Sandy died from injuries sustained after drinking while driving in the episode “Second Chance.” The executive producers got the idea for the episode after one of their teenage daughters was caught drinking. They decided to sacrifice a character that had appeared in multiple episodes to have the death resonate with the show's young audience.

12. TOBEY MAGUIRE WAS A REGULAR VISITOR ON THE SET.

During the series' seventh and final season, Leonardo DiCaprio—then 16 years old—was brought in to play Luke Brower, a homeless teen who is taken in by the Seaver family. Maguire and DiCaprio were close friends who always looked to Kerns like they were in trouble, or had been in trouble.

13. TRACEY GOLD BATTLED WITH ANOREXIA.

While Gold's character was the frequent subject of fat jokes on the show, the actress dropped from 133 to 79 pounds over the course of the series. Her illness forced the producers to write her out of a chunk of the last season. "The last season of Growing Pains is like a blur to me," Gold told the Los Angeles Times. "I can't even remember the episodes. They said, 'We've been canceled. You can come back for the last episode,' but I was still very, very sick and an insurance risk."

14. "BONER" WAS THE SON OF STAR TREK'S CHEKOV.

Andrew Koenig played Mike’s best friend, Richard Milhous "Boner" Stabone, for four seasons. He was the son of Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on Star Trek. Sadly, Andrew Koenig took his own life in 2010.

15. THE SERIES WAS POPULAR IN CHINA.

Growing Pains was the first American sitcom to be shown in the country. Thicke recalls that when he visited China, reporters asked him about his parenting philosophy, such as how he would punish Mike if he didn’t complete his homework or how Carol would be disciplined if she came home late.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
iStock
iStock

People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Cost Plus World Market
arrow
Smart Shopping
18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
Cost Plus World Market
Cost Plus World Market

Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

Buy on Amazon.

2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

Buy on Amazon.

3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.

5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

Buy on Amazon.

7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
Cost Plus World Market

This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.

8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.

9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

Buy on Amazon.

10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

Buy on Amazon.

11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

Buy on Amazon.

12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

Buy on Amazon.

13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

Buy on Amazon.

14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios