Chinese fans pay tribute to Alan Thicke
Virtual candles were lit on Chinese social media platforms on Wednesday for Canadian actor Alan Thicke, as fans of the U.S. sitcom Growing Pains in China bid farewell to the actor they will remember as "the most loving Dad ever on TV."
Thicke, who passed away in the U.S. on Tuesday, is best known by Chinese audiences for the role he played on Growing Pains - Dr Jason Roland Seaver, a dad of four who gave all his love and patience to his family. The 166-episode ABC hit aired from 1990 to 1994 in the Chinese mainland.
Since news of the actor's death hit, Chinese fans of the show have been commemorating Thicke in a series of articles and posts on Sina Weibo, WeChat and other Chinese social media platforms, triggering a wave of nostalgia among those born in the 1970s and 1980s, before the age of Internet and smartphones.
Introduced into the Chinese mainland by Shanghai Television, Growing Pains is definitely a classic worth remembering. One of the earliest U.S. sitcoms watched by Chinese audiences, the show at the time was "a must-watch program for students during summer vacations, and for those who didn't watch it at that time, their childhoods are incomplete," writes the most-liked answer to the question "when was the U.S. drama introduced and when did it flourish in China?" on Zhihu, China's version of online question-and-answer platform Quora.
For many, Growing Pains was more than just their first U.S. TV show, it was an important pal during their teenage years. Countless viewers wished they too could have a dad that was as nice and funny as Dr Seaver, who treated his children like they were buddies.
"Thanks Alan for your company during my teenage years. Growing Pains was my first U.S. show," Xiang Huaxiang, an award-winning Chinese advertisement director, posted to Sina Weibo on Wednesday.
"I waited every night by the television to witness your family's happy life, and that made me happy, too."
"I bet the younger generation today doesn't even know who he is," Sina Weibo user Acute Schizophrenic Qigongzi posted on Wednesday.
"But he is the coolest and the most gentle, loving and sensible dad that I've ever seen on television! Farewell, Dr Seaver!"
First glimpse of the U.S.
Growing Pains wasn't just fun viewing, it also brought along with it a set of U.S. values that were totally new to Chinese audiences at the time. Many saw a different type of relationship in which children could talk to their parents as if they were friends, unlike in conventional Chinese families where children are often required to obey their elders and show respect by strictly falling in line.
"The education of love that Jason Daddy gave to his children in the TV show, their friend-like relationship and the free and democratic atmosphere inside the family - that was many Chinese audiences' first impression of U.S. family education," Zhejiang Online, a provincial news portal, posted on Sina Weibo.
Some fans recalled how the show had once stirred up heated discussions over the differences between and the benefits of Chinese and U.S. family education after it was broadcast, while others mentioned how the U.S. sitcom influenced their own values.
"After watching the show, I always wondered why I had never joked or talked honestly with my parents," commented WeChat user Xiaoxiaoxin under an article titled "Mourning Thicke, the 'Dad' of Growing Pains" posted on WeChat.
"I told myself in my heart that I would treat my own children like friends. The most ideal family life for me is the one in Growing Pains - with everyone speaking their love out loud and working and laughing together!"
Man From Atlantis (the first U.S. drama introduced to the Chinese mainland ), 1980
Beauty and the Beast
Return to Eden
Sex and the City
The Big Bang Theory
The Walking Dead
House of Cards
Game of Thrones