Main cast: Barbara Kellerman (Laurie Morton), Gary Bond (Terence Morton), Norman Beaton (Mr Ngenko), Tariq Yunus (Charles Austin), Matthew Blakstad (James), and Christopher Reilly (William)
Director: Francis Megahy
Horror stories revolving around kids can be tricky, especially for a medium such as the small screen. Growing Pains is an episode about evil kids, but it is crippled by three kids: the kid actors are annoying and – don’t hate me, please, but it has to be said – quite an eyesore to look at, the director doesn’t seem to know how to get those kids to act, and the script doesn’t make much sense.
Terence Morton is a scientist who wants to create bigger rabbits – something about how bigger rabbits means more food for the people in this world, and if size really matters, I wonder why he doesn’t just start a whale breeding program to feed the world. Meanwhile, his wife Barbara is a diplomat. One day, their wide-eyed dazed-looking kid William sneaks into Terence’s lab and dies after ingesting some poisonous substance. Never mind, the Mortons adopt another brat, James, soon after. Both William and James share this confused look all the time, as if they are kiddie actors desperately wondering what to do but the director also doesn’t have a clue.
Really, the kids are horrible. That scene where William is running around in his death throes is one of the most unintentionally hilarious thing ever, and I hope that the actor has since found a more fulfilling career more suited to his capabilities after this show.
James soon apparently begin communing with William, and the next thing the poor parents know, those overgrown rabbits show up dead. Are the kids behind the bunny killing? Wait, isn’t William dead? And don’t hate me, but that kid James certainly has this bunny-thumper vibe around him, so I won’t be surprised if he soon graduates to sacrificing dogs and cats to Satan or something.
Okay, so the kid actors are awful and their combined wooden acting and stilted line delivery make sitting through the episode a painful one. But things could still be salvaged if the script is halfway decent. Say, maybe if it has “William” turn out to be just a manifestation of serial killer in the making James’s psychosis and he’s just being evil rather than being haunted by some dead glue-ingesting kid with horrific hair. But no, this one turns out to be one long, tedious, stupid morality tale of neglectful parents needing to reform – when there is little evidence upon to that point that the Mortons are in any way dreadfully negligent of their son. Careless, maybe – after all, that stupid boy managed to walk into the lab and ate some dangerous goo – but anything worse, not really.
Growing Pains is easily the addled relative stowed away in the attic where this series is concerned. Let’s all pretend that it never exists, and never speak of it again.