Alan Thicke: The RD Interview
Alan Thicke, star of HGTV Canada’s Unusually Thicke, talks family values, reality TV and why America can’t get enough of Canadians.
Photo: HGTV Canada
Q&A With Alan Thicke
The new season of Unusually Thicke, the reality show and sitcom hybrid built around your family life, is airing on HGTV Canada. Would you say it’s closer to I Love Lucy or Keeping Up With the Kardashians?
We fall kind of in the middle-like a cross between Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Though it owes a debt to classic sitcoms like, well, Growing Pains.
Familiar sitcom devices were crucial to our concept: tell two stories in a single episode and have them intersect, peak in certain places and include elements of conflict and resolution. It was important that one of us [on the writing staff] had paid his dues in sitcoms.
Your cred in that area is unimpeachable: you worked with Norman Lear.
I produced two Norman Lear series, I worked with him on a screenplay that never got made, and I wrote the theme songs for his shows The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes. When my son Carter was applying to university, the most impactful letter of recommendation he sent in was written by Norman. All these years later, good relationships pay off.
You’re both a star and an executive producer on the show. What’s it like to produce your day-to-day life?
The biggest challenge is to be real, by definition of being a reality show, and to be amusing, by definition of being a sitcom. Beyond that, the toughest thing has been protecting the family. I don’t want to embarrass my wife or my son or myself.
You grew up in Kirkland Lake, Ont.-not exactly a showbiz capital. How did you cultivate your taste for entertainment?
My grandmother, my mother and my father were interesting, funny people. They appreciated the entertainment business and had their favourite performers. So I was surrounded by that kind of laughter and fun. I think enjoyment of entertainment in your environment is important-it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Kirkland Lake or West Hollywood.
Over the years, you’ve become one of Canada’s most recognizable exports. Why are Americans so fascinated with our culture?
One thing that makes us unique is the fact that, a generation ago, we were influenced not only by American sitcoms and movies but by British comedy. We saw Monty Python and Marty Feldman and Benny Hill long before the Americans did. There’s a sense of absurd performance art we bring to comedy, to the great fascination of Americans.
You’re also known as America’s favourite dad. What lessons have you tried to impart to your three sons?
I don’t have deep dark secrets or crazy behaviour patterns. The Jason Seaver character from Growing Pains and the Unusually Thicke character are pretty close to each other. If I could sum up what I hope they’ve learned: kindness, a work ethic, sincerity, love. I’m a pretty corny guy. Work hard and be nice. That would be on my gravestone. That would be my epitaph.
The third season of Unusually Thicke airs on HGTV Canada.