Alan Thicke: The TV dad beloved by a generation

The role of psychiatrist and father Jason Seaver on "Growing Pains" was the best gig Alan Thicke almost didn't get.

Thicke recounted the story of his casting on the sitcom in a 2011 interview.

When ABC sought out to fill roles on "Growing Pains," he explained, the network first looked at a few well-known actors they had been looking to place on TV shows. Thicke was one of actors. Another? Bruce Willis.

"So I guess there would've been a chance that I would have been in 'Moonlighting' and Bruce Willis would have been [the family's] dad," he said.

In hindsight, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Thicke, who died Tuesday, in Jason Seaver's shoes.

A mild-mannered man, Jason Seaver was a character who debuted just as it was becoming more common to see men on television breaking gender norms and being active in the household. On the show, Jason worked from home so his wife could return to her demanding job as a reporter.

"Growing Pains" premiered in 1985, a year after "Who's the Boss" and "Charles in Charge," two shows in which male characters were seen filling domestic roles previously only portrayed by female characters. TV was finally catching up with the real world.

Jason Seaver was hands-on at home and with his children.

When Mike (Kirk Cameron) came home after curfew and revealed to his dad that he'd turned down cocaine at a party, his dad expressed not anger but pride. When troubled teen Luke (Leonardo DiCaprio) disposed of the contents of the Seaver's liquor cabinet because he was afraid drinking would cause them to act like his alcoholic step-father, they didn't reprimand the young boy, they invited him to live with them.

And when his wife was going to turn down a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity in Washington D.C., Jason told her the job was too good for her to refuse.

The series ended with the family packing up their home and moving to the nation's capitol.

Jason Seaver was the TV dad of a new generation that ranked among the greats across all generations -- the Mike Bradys, the Ward Cleavers, and the Steven Keatons.

It wasn't just his advice, his understanding tone or his dad jokes. It was that he cared enough to be there for all of it -- rain or shine.

There's not a "Growing Pains" viewer who won't remember Thicke's work on the show with laughter and love.