He produced cult TV comedy shows.
The loopy soap opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was an unlikely TV smash in 1977. When it took a summer break in July 1977 (they needed one—it ran five times a week, like a real soap), the replacement was Fernwood 2 Night, a talk show parody set in the same fictional small town as Mary Hartman. TV juggernaut Norman Lear created it, but he hired Alan Thicke to be the show’s producer and head writer. At the time, Thicke had just one credit to his name: producing the game show The Wizard of Odds.
He wrote classic TV theme songs.
In addition to hosting and producing all kinds of TV, Thicke was a songwriter. Thicke specialized in jaunt game show theme songs: he penned songs for The Joker’s Wild, The Diamond Head Game, and Stumpers! You’ve more likely heard his songwriting work for the themes to Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.
He was the Johnny Carson of Canada
In 1980, longtime Canadian talk show host Alan Hamel left his show, and Thicke replaced him. The newly renamed The Alan Thicke Show was a massive hit, the most popular talk show in Canada. In short, Thicke was the Johnny Carson of Canada (or at least Merv Griffin—the show aired in the daytime). Thicke was so popular that highlights were culled into a weekly primetime TV show called Prime Cuts. The show ended abruptly when Thicke was hired by MGM Television to move his show to American TV.
He tried to take on Johnny Carson
In 1983, Thicke of the Night debuted in syndication, the first major competitor in over a decade to Carson’s dominant The Tonight Show. The blend of talk show and sketch comedy (similar to what Conan O’Brien would do years later with his show) did not make a dent in Carson’s ratings, and the show was gone after just nine months. Two notable guests, however: John Javna and Gordon Javna, talking about their 1960s nostalgia book ’60s! The Javnas would later go on to start some book series called Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.