The year was 1983 and as far as late night TV programming went, "Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show" was, by and large, the only game in town. Sure, other networks had launched their own talk shows in hopes of challenging Carson's late night TV reign and all had died a variety of silent merciless ratings deaths, but now Carson was about to get some real competition in the form of a Canadian game show host Alan Thicke.
Keep in mind that, for however famous he may have been in Canada, Thicke was a complete nobody in the United States. Even so, MGM Studios, the studio bankrolling his show, was absolutely convinced that the U.S. would fall head over heels for Thicke's hipper, more gregarious approach.
When "Thicke of the Night" first debuted on my local ABC affiliate on September 5, 1983, I would most certainly have tuned in if I'd had my own TV set. As this was, "Dad's house, where Dad's rules were strictly enforced" meant we watched "The Tonight Show" instead.
A month later, though, all bets were off because I somehow found out in advance that Cheap Trick was going to be the musical guest on "Thicke Of The Night". My dad was a Cheap Trick fan, so it wasn't hard to convince him to flip the channel on Johnny for one night.
Unlike today's world where you might see a band make the rounds of a dozen or so national TV shows to promote their new album, seeing Cheap Trick on national TV in 1983 was kind of like catching Halley's Comet. After all, it had been three long years since their last late night sighting (on "Saturday Night Live", no less).
This Alan Thicke fellow seemed to be going after a "younger audience".
While this newcomer to the late night scene battled to keep his banter hip, often coming across as somebody's dad trying to be cool in front of his son's girlfriend, Thicke truly came to life the moment he introduced Cheap Trick, who played three songs that night - two from their new album Next Position Please and one version of "I Want You To Want Me" as the credits rolled just in case anybody in the country had forgotten that was them who sang that song.
As Thicke jammed with the band using one of Rick Nielsen's guitars, it became evident that beneath that TV jingle exterior lurked the heart of a rocker.
Of course, Next Position Please would stiff and "Thicke of The Night" would fall victim to low ratings a year later, but if not for the failure of this endeavor, he'd have never been available to accept the role as unsuccessful hip stay-at-home psychologist Jason Seaver on the ABC sitcom "Growing Pains".