Life Goes On (TV series)

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Life Goes On
Life Goes On.png
The cast of Life Goes On. Clockwise from left: Kellie Martin, Patti LuPone, Bill Smitrovich, Chris Burke, and Arnold the Semi-Wonder Dog.
Created by Michael Braverman
Starring Bill Smitrovich
Chris Burke
Kellie Martin
Patti LuPone
Tracey Needham
Theme music composer Lennon–McCartney
Opening theme "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Performed by Patti LuPone and the cast of Life Goes On
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 83
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) Toots Productions
Warner Bros. Television
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network ABC
Original release September 12, 1989 – May 23, 1993

Life Goes On is an American television series that aired on ABC from September 12, 1989 to May 23, 1993. Reruns aired on The Family Channel from 1992 until about 1995, FX from about 1995 until about 1998, and PAX (now Ion Television) from 1998 until about 1999. The show centers on the Thatcher family living in suburban Chicago: Drew, his wife Elizabeth, and their children Paige, Rebecca, and Charles, who is known as Corky. Life Goes On was the first television series to have a major character with Down syndrome (Corky, played by Chris Burke, who himself has Down syndrome in real life).



The drama featured the Thacher family, whose son, Charles "Corky" Thatcher (played by Chris Burke), has Down syndrome, while their daughter Becca (played by Kellie Martin) did well at school but was socially awkward. Tony Award-winning stage actress Patti LuPone played the mother Elizabeth ("Libby") and Bill Smitrovich played the father Drew. Eldest sister Paige Thacher was played by Monique Lanier during the 1989–1990 seasons and by Tracey Needham during the 1990–1993 seasons. Becca's boyfriend and Corky's buddy, Tyler Benchfield, was played by Tommy Puett. Jerry Berkson (Ray Buktenica) was Libby's quirky boss. In the last two seasons, Becca's boyfriend Jesse McKenna was played by Chad Lowe.

Executive Producer Michael Braverman first cast Chris Burke in the 1987 television movie Desperate, based on Braverman's favorite book, Lord Jim. After seeing Burke's work, ABC executives asked Braverman to create a show around Burke.

The show is set in the Chicago suburb Glenbrook, Illinois, which is named after the high school which one of Braverman's children attended at the time. The name itself is a blend of the real suburbs served by the school, Glenview and Northbrook.

Each episode's opening credits end with a shot of Arnold, the family dog (billed as "Arnold the Semi-Wonder Dog"). Apparently forgotten by the family in their rush to get ready for the day, he sits forlornly in the kitchen with his empty food bowl in his mouth and lets it drop to the floor. The show's producers received a constant trickle of letters each week from viewers who thought this was cruel, so in the final episode's opening credits, a bag of dog food spills out of a nearby cabinet.

Early seasons[edit]

During the show's first year, the main focus was on Corky. Much of the show examined the challenges of a family whose son had Down Syndrome. The Thatchers sought to have Corky interact with regular society after spending years socializing him amongst other kids with Down syndrome in "special" classes. Indeed, this need to integrate Corky into "normal" society was the main storyline in Season 1, as the Thatcher family opted to enroll Corky in a regular high school despite the principal's demand that Corky be placed in an alternative program for those with Down syndrome.

In addition, during the first three seasons, episodes included Tyler Benchfield (Tommy Puett), Becca's high school crush, who also had a brother with Down syndrome.

Corky eventually got a job as an usher at a local movie theater. He later found a girlfriend, Amanda Swanson (Andrea Friedman), who also had Down Syndrome; they married by the series' end.

Later seasons[edit]

By the second season, the writers had begun to expand the show's scope beyond Corky, and the third and fourth seasons centered on Becca and a new character named Jesse (Chad Lowe). Jesse, a junior, met Becca through the school's theatre department. As the two became friends, Jesse told Becca he was HIV-positive. Tyler became a less prominent figure in Becca's life, and was jealous of Becca's closeness with Jesse. The character of Tyler was soon written out of the show; he was given the memorable sendoff of dying in a car accident with Corky as a passenger.

Much to the surprise of those around them, Becca and Jesse began a relationship despite his HIV. The writers began to explore life with HIV through Jesse's character, and the difficulties the disease causes with romantic relationships. The relationship between Corky and Becca, previously portrayed as close, was also explored, as Corky briefly turned his back on his sister for dumping a mutual friend in order to date Jesse.

The fourth season's first episode, in which a 40-something Becca (Pamela Bellwood) tours the house she grew up in while remembering the events of 25 years earlier, establishes that Jesse would ultimately die from AIDS and that Becca would move on to marry a man named David. The series itself ended ambiguously but on an upbeat note, showing Becca five years later, married with a son, named Jesse.

Broadcast history and U.S. television ratings[edit]

Season Timeslot (EDT) Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season Nielsen Ranking
1 Sunday 7:00 pm September 21, 1989 May 13, 1990 1989–1990 N/A
2 Sunday 7:00 pm September 16, 1990 May 5, 1991 1990–1991 #68 (8.92 rating)
3 Sunday 7:00 pm September 22, 1991 May 10, 1992 1991–1992 #68 (9.21 rating)
4 Sunday 7:00 pm September 20, 1992 May 23, 1993 1992–1993 #66 (9.11 rating)

In Canada, the show aired on Crossroads Television System.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
1993 American Television Awards[1][2] Best Supporting Actress, Dramatic Series Kellie Martin Won
1990 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Chris Burke Nominated
1993 Humanitas Prize 60 Minute Category Marshall Goldberg (For episode "Bedfellows") Nominated
1990 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Viveca Lindfors Won
1991 Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics Mark Mueller and Craig Safan (For episode "Corky's Travels") Nominated
1993 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Chad Lowe Won
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Kellie Martin Nominated
1990 Viewers for Quality Television Award Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series Patti LuPone Nominated
1991 Nominated
1992 Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Drama Series Kellie Martin Won
Founder's Award Won
1993 Best Quality Drama Series Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series Chad Lowe Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Drama Series Kellie Martin Nominated
1994 Writers Guild of America Award Episodic Drama Toni Graphia (For episode "Last Wish") Nominated
1990 Young Artist Award Best Young Actor Supporting Role in a Television Series Tommy Puett Nominated
Kevin Telles Nominated
Best Young Actress Supporting Role in a Television Series Kellie Martin Nominated
Best Young Actor Guest Starring in a Television Series Michael Bays Nominated
Ryan Bollman Nominated
Best New Television Series Nominated
Inspiration to Youth Chris Burke Won
1991 Best Young Actor Starring in a Television Series Nominated
Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Series Kellie Martin Won
Best Young Actress Supporting or Recurring Role For a TV Series Tanya Fenmore Nominated
Leigh Ann Orsi Nominated
1992 Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Series Kellie Martin Won
1993 Best Young Actress Starring in a Television Series Nominated
Best Young Actress Recurring in a Television Series Kiersten Warren Nominated

Home media[edit]

On May 9, 2006, Warner Home Video released Season 1 of Life Goes On on DVD in Region 1. It is unknown if the remaining three seasons will be released. The DVD release has a replacement theme song at the beginning of each episode, with the exception of the show's pilot. The replacement was due to high licensing costs for the Beatles' song "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." The new song aptly titled "Life Goes On" was written by composer Marc Jackson of MoonLab Music and sung by singer/songwriter Tara Johnston. The song was written specifically for the DVD release.


  1. ^ Lowry, Brian (1993-04-16). "CBS leads noms for Emmy rival". Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "American TV Awards to 'Seinfeld,' 'Fly Away'". 1993-05-24. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 

External links[edit]