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 byMichael Braverman
StarringBill Smitrovich
Chris Burke
Kellie Martin
Patti LuPone
Tracey Needham
Michele Matheson
Theme music composerLennon–McCartney
Opening theme"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
Performed by Patti LuPone and the cast of Life Goes On
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes83
Running timearound 40 minutes
Production companiesToots Productions
Warner Bros. Television
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Original releaseSeptember 12, 1989 (1989-09-12) –
May 23, 1993 (1993-05-23)

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 is played by Chris Burke, who has Down syndrome in real life.)

Cast and characters[edit]


Drew is the husband of Libby Thatcher and the father of Paige, Corky, and Becca Thatcher. He is a Special Olympics coach who formerly worked for a construction company before going into the restaurant business.

Drew's wife, Paige's stepmother, and Corky and Becca's mother, who has been a singer and actress. She is very supportive of Corky and proud that Corky and Becca take part in their church's drama group and that Becca is in her school's drama club. At the end of Season 2, she gives birth to her and Drew's third child, a son named Nicholas.

  • Monique Lanier (season 1); Tracey Needham (seasons 2-4), as Paige Thatcher:

Drew's daughter, Libby's stepdaughter, and Corky and Becca's older half-sister. Paige frequently dates men of whom her father does not approve. She is very caring of Corky but has a love-hate relationship with Becca.

Corky is the middle child: younger brother of Paige and older brother of Becca. Despite having Down Syndrome, he takes mostly regular classes in high school. He occasionally struggles, and indicated that mathematics was his hardest subject, but he improves through tutoring sessions.

Becca is the younger sister of Corky and Paige. She is nerdy but attractive; at school she is socially awkward, especially around her crushes, such as Tyler and Jesse.

  • Tommy Puett (recurring, season 1; main, seasons 2-3) as Tyler Benchfield: Corky's best friend and Becca's first boyfriend.
  • Chad Lowe (recurring, season 3; main, season 4) as Jesse McKenna: Becca's second boyfriend.


  • Ray Buktenica (guest, season 1; recurring, seasons 2-3) as Jerry Berkson, Libby's boss at Berkson & Berkson, an advertising agency. Jerry is eccentric and somehat egomaniacal; he never fails to show his temper, but Libby always stands up to him. Jerry later becomes a partner in Drew's restaurant, The Glen Brook Grill.
  • Tanya Fenmore (seasons 1-3) as Maxie, Becca's best friend. Maxie leaves early in season 3 for a study-abroad in Paris and is never seen again.
  • Michele Matheson (seasons 1-2) as Rona Lieberman, a popular girl at school who is Becca's rival and a love interest for Tyler.
  • David Byrd (guest, season 1; recurring, seasons 2-4) as Hans, a chef who works at the Glen Brook Grill. He is a German immigrant.
  • Mary Page Keller (season 2) as Gina Giordano, Libby's sister, who comes to live in the Thatcher household for a time.
  • Leigh Ann Orsi (season 2) as Zoe, Gina's daughter, who comes to live in the Thatcher household for a time.
  • Troy Evans (seasons 3-4) as Artie McDonald, a welding foreman and Paige's boss at Stollmark Industries. In season 4, Artie and Paige are laid off from the Stollmark factory and they launch a contracting business together.
  • Lance Guest (seasons 3-4) as Michael Romanov, a welder and artist. He is Paige's co-worker at Stollmark Industries and becomes her love interest.
  • Andrea Friedman (seasons 3-4) as Amanda Swanson, Corky's girlfriend, a college student. Like Corky, Amanda also has Down Syndrome. Early in season 4, Corky and Amanda elope, which comes as a shock to their families.
  • Kiersten Warren (season 4) as Kathy Goodman, Becca's friend and co-worker at a bookstore. She is usually referred to by her last name only. A recent high school dropout, Goodman is convinced by Becca to enroll at Marshall High, which she does during their senior year, after having quit a previous school.

Guest stars[edit]

  • Al Ruscio as Sal Giordano, Libby's father
  • Penny Santon as Teresa Giordano, Libby's mother
  • Gloria Gifford as Mrs. Kneffer, principal of Marshall High
  • Gina Hecht as Angela, Libby's cousin, an attorney
  • Rick Rosenthal as Richard Thatcher, Drew's brother
  • Peter Van Norden (seasons 1-3) as Coach Paintz Kutner, a former classmate of Drew's
  • Alan Blumenfeld (seasons 1-3) as John Khatchadourian, a former classmate of Drew's
  • Whip Hubley as Dr. Oliver Matthews (season 1), the veterinarian that Paige works for, and as Coach Eric Bradford (season 2), a gymnastics coach at Marshall High.
  • Michael Rankin as Donnie Benchfield, Tyler's younger brother who has Down Syndrome.
  • Michael Alldredge as Mr. Seedling
  • Alfred Dennis as Miller
  • Shannen Doherty (season 1) as Ginny Green, a new student in school whom Corky has a crush on
  • Adam Carl (season 1-2) as Matt Hardy, a friend of Becca's whom she briefly dates
  • Viveca Lindfors (season 1) as Mrs. Doubcha, Becca's dance instructor
  • Elyssa Davalos (season 2) as Doreen Gillespie, a waitress at the Glen Brook Grill
  • Barney Martin (seasons 3-4) as Stan Baker, owner of the movie theater where Corky works
  • Mitzi McCall (season 3) as Midge, a waitress at the Glen Brook Grill
  • Dorothy Lyman (seasons 3-4) as Mary McKenna, Jesse's mother
  • Steven Eckholdt (season 3) as Kenny Stollmark, Jr., son of the Stollmark Industries president. He becomes romantically involved with Paige and they nearly get married.
  • Drew Snyder (seasons 3-4) as Bill Swanson, Amanda's father
  • Charlotte Stewart (seasons 3-4) as Collette Swanson, Amanda's mother
  • Ned Vaughn (season 4) as Eric, manager of the bookstore where Becca works. He has romantic feelings for Becca.
  • Martin Milner (season 4) as Harris Cassidy, owner of the bookstore where Becca works
  • Michael Goorjian (season 4) as Ray Nelson, a classmate of Becca's
  • Christopher and Kevin Graves (season 4) as Nicholas Thatcher
  • Richard Frank (season 4) as Chester, a patient that Jesse meets while being hospitalized for the effects of AIDS


The drama featured the Thatcher 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 Thatcher 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 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. The need to integrate Corky into normal society was Season 1's main storyline, as the Thatchers opted to enroll Corky in a regular high school despite the principal's demand that he 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 began to expand the show's scope beyond Corky, and the third and fourth seasons centered on Becca and a new character, Jesse (Chad Lowe), a junior who met Becca through the school's theatre department. As they become friends, Jesse told Becca he was HIV-positive. Tyler became less prominent in Becca's life and was jealous of Becca's closeness with Jesse. His character was written out and he was given the memorable sendoff of dying in a car accident with Corky as passenger.

Much to the surprise of those around them, Becca and Jesse began a relationship despite his HIV. The writers explored 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 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 and 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.


Season 1 (1989–90)[edit]

No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
11"Pilot"TBAMichael Braverman[1]September 12, 1989 (1989-09-12)
22"Corky for President"Kim FriedmanPaul WolffSeptember 24, 1989 (1989-09-24)
33"The Baby-Sitter"Rick RosenthalJule SelboOctober 1, 1989 (1989-10-01)
44"Break a Leg, Mom"Rick RosenthalMichael BravermanOctober 8, 1989 (1989-10-08)
55"Becca's First Love"Rick RosenthalJule SelboOctober 15, 1989 (1989-10-15)
66"Paige's Date"Jerry JamesonJoe ShulkinOctober 22, 1989 (1989-10-22)
77"Paige's Mom"Gene ReynoldsRonald RubinNovember 5, 1989 (1989-11-05)
88"Call of the Wild"Georg FenadyLinda CowgillNovember 12, 1989 (1989-11-12)
99"Corky Witnesses a Crime"Kim FriedmanTom O'BrienNovember 26, 1989 (1989-11-26)
1010"Ordinary Heroes"Gene ReynoldsPaul WolffDecember 3, 1989 (1989-12-03)
1111"Pets, Guys and Videotape"Mel DamskiStar FrohmanDecember 10, 1989 (1989-12-10)
1212"Corky's Crush"Gene ReynoldsJule SelboJanuary 14, 1990 (1990-01-14)
1313"Thatcher and Henderson"Rick RosenthalMichael NankinJanuary 21, 1990 (1990-01-21)
1414"The Return of Uncle Richard"Kim FriedmanMichael BravermanFebruary 4, 1990 (1990-02-04)
1515"Brothers"Jerry JamesonRonald RubinFebruary 11, 1990 (1990-02-11)
1616"Corky Rebels"Gene ReynoldsPaul WolffFebruary 18, 1990 (1990-02-18)
1717"It Ain't All It's Cracked Up to Be"Kim FriedmanStar FrohmanMarch 4, 1990 (1990-03-04)
1818"Pig O' My Heart"Michael BravermanMichael NankinMarch 25, 1990 (1990-03-25)
1919"Becca and the Underground Newspaper"Rick RosenthalJule SelboApril 1, 1990 (1990-04-01)
2020"Save the Last Dance for Me"Larry ShawJudith FeinApril 15, 1990 (1990-04-15)
2121"With a Mighty Heart"Paul WolffPaul WolffApril 29, 1990 (1990-04-29)
2222"The Spring Fling"Larry ShawRonald RubinMay 13, 1990 (1990-05-13)

Season 2 (1990–91)[edit]

No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
231"Honeymoon from Hell"Rick RosenthalMichael BravermanSeptember 16, 1990 (1990-09-16)
242"Corky and the Dolphins"Rick RosenthalJule SelboSeptember 23, 1990 (1990-09-23)
253"The Visitor"Michael NankinMichael NankinSeptember 30, 1990 (1990-09-30)
264"Becca and the Band"Kim FriedmanSusan WaldOctober 7, 1990 (1990-10-07)
275"The Banquet Room Renovation"E.W. SwackhamerWesley BishopOctober 14, 1990 (1990-10-14)
286"Halloween"Kim FriedmanLiz CoeOctober 28, 1990 (1990-10-28)
297"Chicken Pox"Charles BravermanDavid M. WolfNovember 4, 1990 (1990-11-04)
308"La Dolce Becca"Miles WatkinsStar FrohmanNovember 11, 1990 (1990-11-11)
319"A Thatcher Thanksgiving"Charles BravermanMichael Nankin & Michael BravermanNovember 18, 1990 (1990-11-18)
3210"Libby's Sister"Rick RosenthalLiz CoeNovember 25, 1990 (1990-11-25)
3311"The Buddy"Roy Campanella IIBrad MarkowitzDecember 9, 1990 (1990-12-09)
3412"The Bicycle Thief"Mel DamskiDavid M. WolfDecember 16, 1990 (1990-12-16)
3513"Isn't It Romantic?"Michael LangeMichael NankinJanuary 6, 1991 (1991-01-06)
3614"The Bigger Picture"Jerry JamesonStar FrohmanJanuary 13, 1991 (1991-01-13)
3715"Last Stand in Glen Brook"Larry ShawMarti NoxonFebruary 3, 1991 (1991-02-03)
3816"Head Over Heels"Dick RogersLiz CoeFebruary 10, 1991 (1991-02-10)
3917"Corky's Travels"Rick RosenthalDavid M. WolfMarch 10, 1991 (1991-03-10)
4018"Thanks a Bunch, Dr. Lamaze"Michael LangeBrad MarkowitzMarch 17, 1991 (1991-03-17)
4119"Ghost of Grandpa Past"Kim FriedmanMichael BravermanMarch 31, 1991 (1991-03-31)
4220"Arthur"Michael NankinMichael NankinApril 7, 1991 (1991-04-07)
4321"Lighter Than Air"Michael BravermanDick LochteApril 28, 1991 (1991-04-28)
4422"Proms and Prams"Kim FriedmanLiz CoeMay 5, 1991 (1991-05-05)

Season 3 (1991–92)[edit]

No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
451"Toast"Michael LangeMichael NankinSeptember 22, 1991 (1991-09-22)
462"Hello, Goodbye"Jerry JamesonBryce ZabelSeptember 29, 1991 (1991-09-29)
473"Out of the Mainstream"Kim FriedmanBrad MarkowitzOctober 6, 1991 (1991-10-06)
484"Armageddon"Michael LangeCharles Pratt Jr.October 13, 1991 (1991-10-13)
495"Sweet 16"Michael LangeToni GraphiaOctober 20, 1991 (1991-10-20)
506"Life After Death"Larry ShawThania St. JohnNovember 3, 1991 (1991-11-03)
517"Dueling Divas"Kim FriedmanCharles Pratt Jr.November 10, 1991 (1991-11-10)
528"Invasion of the Thatcher Snatchers"Michael NankinMichael NankinNovember 17, 1991 (1991-11-17)
539"Loaded Question"David CarsonBrad MarkowitzNovember 24, 1991 (1991-11-24)
5410"Triangles"Kim FriedmanToni Graphia[1]December 1, 1991 (1991-12-01)
5511"The Smell of Fear"Michael LangeThania St. JohnDecember 15, 1991 (1991-12-15)
5612"Struck by Lighting"Larry ShawCharles Pratt Jr.January 5, 1992 (1992-01-05)
5713"Jerry's Deli"Larry ShawE.F. WallengrenJanuary 19, 1992 (1992-01-19)
5814"The Room"Michael LangeStory by : Michael Nankin & Toni Graphia
Teleplay by : Michael Nankin, Toni Graphia,
Thania St. John & Charles Pratt Jr.
February 9, 1992 (1992-02-09)
5915"The Wall"Michael LangeBrad MarkowitzFebruary 16, 1992 (1992-02-16)
6016"The Blues"Michael NankinToni GraphiaFebruary 23, 1992 (1992-02-23)
6117"The Fairy Tale"Michael LangeThania St. JohnMarch 1, 1992 (1992-03-01)
6218"Hearts and Flowers"Larry ShawCharles Pratt Jr.March 15, 1992 (1992-03-15)
6319"Corky's Romance"Kim FriedmanE.F. WallengrenMarch 29, 1992 (1992-03-29)
6420"More Than Friends"Bill SmitrovichBrad MarkowitzApril 26, 1992 (1992-04-26)
6521"Confessions"Michael LangeToni GraphiaMay 3, 1992 (1992-05-03)
6622"Consenting Adults"Michael NankinCharles Pratt Jr.May 10, 1992 (1992-05-10)

Season 4 (1992–93)[edit]

No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
671"Bec to the Future"Michael NankinThania St. John & Toni GraphiaSeptember 20, 1992 (1992-09-20)
682"Exposed"Michael LangeE F. WallengrenSeptember 27, 1992 (1992-09-27)
693"Premarital Syndrome"Michael BravermanToni Graphia & Thania St. John[1]October 4, 1992 (1992-10-04)
704"The Whole Truth"Michael LangeScott FrostOctober 18, 1992 (1992-10-18)
715"Love Letters"Georg FenadyMarshall GoldbergNovember 8, 1992 (1992-11-08)
726"Windows"Michael NankinToni GraphiaNovember 22, 1992 (1992-11-22)
737"Babes in the Woods"Sandy SmolanThania St. JohnNovember 29, 1992 (1992-11-29)
748"Udder Madness"Kim FriedmanE.F. WallengrenDecember 13, 1992 (1992-12-13)
759"Happy Holidays"Randall William CookMarshall GoldbergDecember 20, 1992 (1992-12-20)
7610"Choices"Michael LangeToni GraphiaJanuary 3, 1993 (1993-01-03)
7711"Incident on Main"R.W. GoodwinScott FrostJanuary 10, 1993 (1993-01-10)
7812"Lost Weekend"Lorenzo DestefanoThania St. JohnJanuary 24, 1993 (1993-01-24)
7913"Visions"TBAE.F. WallengrenFebruary 14, 1993 (1993-02-14)
8014"Five to Midnight"Michael NankinScott FrostFebruary 21, 1993 (1993-02-21)
8115"Bedfellows"Michael LangeMarshall GoldbergFebruary 28, 1993 (1993-02-28)
8216"Last Wish"Joe PennellaToni GraphiaMarch 7, 1993 (1993-03-07)
8317"Life Goes On (and On and On)"Michael LangeE.F. WallengrenMay 23, 1993 (1993-05-23)

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

Season Timeslot (ET) Season Premiere Season Finale TV Season Nielsen Ranking
1 Sunday 7:00 pm September 21, 1989 May 13, 1990 1989–1990 #75 (8.7 rating)[2]
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.

The Family Channel reran the series on weekdays from 1992 until 1993, at which point the show was relegated to weekends. In October 1993, the weekday telecasts were replaced with Punky Brewster.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
1993 American Television Awards[3][4] 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")
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")
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.

Possible sequel[edit]

In September 2021, it was reported that a possible sequel series with original cast member Kellie Martin, Chad Lowe and Nkechi Okoro Carroll is in the works.[5] In January 2022, it was announced that NBC had given a pilot commitment to a sequel series with Martin set to return as star. Carroll will write and executive produce under her production company Rocky My Soul Productions banner, Lindsay Dunn will also executive produce, while Martin and Lowe will produce.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "Life Goes On - WGA Directory". Archived from the original on October 3, 2021.
  2. ^ "The Best and Worst by the Numbers". TV Guide: 12–13. July 11, 1990.
  3. ^ Lowry, Brian (April 16, 1993). "CBS leads noms for Emmy rival". Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  4. ^ "American TV Awards to 'Seinfeld,' 'Fly Away'". May 24, 1993. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  5. ^ Ausiello, Michael (September 2, 2021). "Life Goes On Revival in Development; Kellie Martin to Star and Produce". TVLine. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  6. ^ White, Peter (January 12, 2022). "'Life Goes On': Sequel Series From Nkechi Okoro Carroll Lands Put Pilot Commitment At NBC". Deadline Hollywood.

External links[edit]