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Family together through Thicke and thin

Reality sitcom shows funny, serious sides

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Carter Thicke (from left), Tanya Thicke and Alan Thicke appear in the new reality TV show Unusually Thicke.


Carter Thicke (from left), Tanya Thicke and Alan Thicke appear in the new reality TV show Unusually Thicke.

TORONTO -- Alan Thicke says his pop-star son, Robin Thicke, is handling the turmoil of his split with actress-wife Paula Patton "very effectively through his music right now."

"He is in the midst of a new album that is very emotional and dynamic and a lot of power and incredibly musical, and he's sounding great," Thicke said in a recent interview to promote his new reality/comedy series, Unusually Thicke.

"So the fact that he is pouring himself into this creative artistry is a great thing, I'm happy for that."

The Blurred Lines singer, who has cancelled a couple of shows due to vocal issues since announcing his separation from wife Patton in February, is among the stars who appear in Unusually Thicke.

Premièring Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Slice, the reality/sitcom hybrid follows Thicke, model-wife Tanya and their family -- which also includes sons Carter and Brennan, owner of a marijuana dispensary -- in Santa Barbara, Calif.

"I think my favourite side of Robin that a lot of people don't get to see is what a great dad he is," said Tanya. "He is such a good dad and he is such a disciplinarian to (son) Julian."

"I remember asking him, 'Robin, wow, you're always disciplining Julian, and Julian says 'thank you' and 'please' and everything, and it's like, 'Yeah, well you know Dad -- Dad didn't ever discipline me,' " she added with a laugh.

Thicke, 67, admits it's the truth.

"My kids will all tell you that I was way too liberal, too indulging, too casual with them.

Casual not in the sense that I didn't care or wasn't watching or wasn't there, but casual in that you always want to kind of trust them and hope that they're smarter than teenagers really are."

Meanwhile, Carter -- Thicke's youngest son from his marriage to second wife Gina Tolleson -- is "a pretty good boy, but occasionally there's a little correction necessary, some of that we see on the show," said Thicke.

Does Carter's participation on the series mean the 16-year-old wants to get into show business?

"I hope not," said Tanya, laughing. "I'm hoping he's going to become a lawyer."

"And represent troubled actors," added Thicke, whose recent TV credits have included How I Met Your Mother and The L.A. Complex.

Thicke brings plenty of self-deprecating humour to the 14-episode series, which also features guest appearances from Bob Saget, David Hasselhoff, Wayne Gretzky, John Stamos and Bill Maher.

In the première episode, for instance, his hoarding issues are exposed as Tanya forces him to have a garage sale to get rid of his clutter. When Saget shows up to help with the sale, neighbours flock to him for photo opportunities while ignoring Thicke.

"I got to a point, probably around the talk show Thicke of the Night that was on against Johnny Carson and then quickly off in a year against Johnny Carson, where you get so publicly spanked that your ego takes a bit of a beating, and whatever you thought you were or would be, there's a reality check that takes place," said the Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee.

"And once you deal with that and say, 'OK, they know me, they've got me, I'm just lucky to be here and I keep working hard and doing what I can,' I think that puts everything into perspective in terms of your iconocism."

The baritone-voiced native of Kirkland Lake, Ont., has had a varied career that's also seen him composing hit theme songs for TV series including Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life -- tunes he and Tanya "never" sing together, they admit.

"We don't sit around the campfire and go, 'Well you take the good, you take the bad,' partly because most of those kinds of things were before her time and also because Tanya is a pretty lousy singer, frankly," said Thicke.

Thicke then suggested to Tanya -- his third wife -- they combat that problem through Unusually Thicke if the series gets renewed for a second season.

"We do want to make an episode of trying to autotune Tanya and put her with somebody fabulous, like Pharrell or Barry Gibb or somebody we know, and see if they can make a singer out of Tanya."

Such dry humour permeates Unusually Thicke and has helped Tanya get through some difficult times, she admitted -- including a family tragedy that unfolded during taping for the series.

Tanya's 67-year-old mother, Miriam Ruth Callau, was recently arrested in Bolivia after police said a hitman had been hired to kill her spouse.

"It was the craziest nightmare that I've ever dealt with in my life," said Tanya, a native of Bolivia who is 28 years younger than Thicke.

Tanya speaks about the ordeal -- and about wanting a child with Thicke -- on the show, which came about after she fielded several offers to have her own reality series.

"It's quasi-reality, semi-comedic, pseudo-fantasy," said Thicke.

"And we are true to ourselves and our personalities and our character on the show," added Tanya.

"There are a lot of wonderful, real things that are there but also we have a little fun, a little tongue-in-cheek, because we can laugh at ourselves."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2014 C11

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