He was a popular ‘80s sitcom dad who got his start as a writer on some very influential TV shows, was a notorious failed talk show host, and later in his career often functioned as a cultural shorthand for “Canadian goofiness.”
But there was a lot more to Alan Thicke than that. He spent several years as one of the most iconic 1980s sitcom dads on Growing Pains, and later emerged as one of the most prolific composers of TV theme songs in modern history. And he continued to enjoy regular work, on everything from movie acting to game shows, all the way up until now.
Thicke passed away Tuesday at the age of 69, TMZ reported, as later confirmed by Variety. Thicke reportedly had a heart attack while playing hockey with his 19-year-old son. Born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, in 1947, Thicke began his showbiz career in the 1970s, when legendary sitcom impresario Norman Lear hired him to work on the influential TV series Fernwood-2-Night. He parlayed that into work, north of the border, as both a game show host and host of a popular talk show called The Alan Thicke Show. However, his adaptation of that show to the U.S., the syndicated Thicke of the Night, was a high-profile failure in 1983-84.
Soon after Thicke took on his most famous acting role, as dad Jason Seaver on the popular sitcom Growing Pains, which ran from 1985-1992, plus a pair of reunion movies. Around the same time, Thicke began writing TV theme songs along with his then-wife Gloria Loring, authoring the themes of both sitcoms like Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, and game shows such as The Joker’s Wild and Wheel of Fortune.
Even after Growing Pains went off the air, and he likely earned plenty of money from those song royalties, Thicke remained a consistent and continuing presence on television, appearing on everything from beauty pageants to game shows to reality shows (he once swapped wives with Gilbert Gottfried on Wife Swap). Thicke had a handful of movie credits, such as a brief appearance in 2006’s Alpha Dog; but he mostly stuck to TV — he appeared on multiple episodes of How I Met Your Mother, whenever he was needed for Canada-specific jokes. Thicke continued working all the way up until the end, including an appearance as himself on the premiere episode of the popular NBC drama This is Us.
Thicke is survived by his wife, as well as three sons, including the pop singer Robin Thicke.
R.I.P. Alan Thicke: March 1, 1947 – December 13, 2016