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
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 language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes83
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Toots Productions
Warner Bros. Television
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Original releaseSeptember 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).

Cast and Characters[edit]


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

Corky is the middle child, and his siblings include older sister Paige, and younger sister Becca. Despite having Down Syndrome, he is high-functioning, and takes mostly regular classes in his school. He occasionally struggles, and indicated that mathematics was his hardest subject, but he improves through sessions with a tutor.

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

The wife of Drew, mother of Corky and Becca, and Paige's stepmother. She is very supportive of Corky, and has also sung and acted. She is proud that Corky and Becca take part in their church's drama group, and that Becca is in her school's Drama club.

Drew's daughter, and Libby's stepdaughter. The elder half-sister of both Corky and Becca, 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.


Tyler was the first boyfriend of Becca in the show, and was Corky's best friend and was one of the most popular Athletes at their School. Tyler had a brother with Downs which is why he looked out for Corky and never treated him as bad as the other Jocks would, and everytime one of his Jock buddies decided to bully Corky around him, he stood up for Corky. As the series goes on, Tyler became a Super senior for never passing certain classes in the past, and his relationship with Becca started to become a-bit more difficult. By then, Tyler stopped playing Sports and spent half of everyday at a College, which worrying about two things like High-School and College, just makes Life more complicated for him, and Becca starting to not talk to him that much any longer. When the new kid Jesse started to form a relationship with Becca and once Tyler took aware of this he was angered. Tyler started to fight Jesse for being a much more important to her then he is, and once Becca had no choice but to told Tyler and everyone else around them, including Corky, that Jesse has AIDS, he started to feel remorseful about the actions and understand why Jesse is much more of an concern to Becca instead of him. Because of all this, Tyler and Becca officially break-up, so Becca can start a more developing relationship with Jesse.

Tyler was seen occasionally in the following episodes, usually briefly. He didn't have a major story again until close by the end of Season three, it was then Tyler started to hang out with the wrong crew at his college, which were a bunch of young crazed alcoholic adults, and began drinking with them, and have just starting to goes back to failing classes. Once Becca and Corky's parents are going out of town and secretly starting a party, Tyler was given a wrong advice by his friends that they can all go there drunk. Once arriving with his buddies, Becca started to feel disappointed about Tyler's decision and during an intense conversation, Becca told Tyler what he thought she did at the beginning, which was throwing him out of her life which by then she decide. Tyler, now frustrated, drove off while still being intoxicated and brought along Corky who wants to talk to him, and eventually they crashed into a tree. Corky ends-up surviving but Tyler was pronounce dead later at the Hospital. Severely sadden by his death, Corky remains mute until a day after Tyler's funeral that Tyler didn't crashed because he was drunk but was finally sobered up and promised to Corky that he will makes life better again all right before he nearly hit a boy on a bike and decide to saves his life by crashing into a tree, Corky told everyone, including Tyler's parents, who all knows that Tyler was himself in his last minute of life, by saving someone else's.

Jesse was the second boyfriend of Becca. Jesse came to Grenville, Illinois from Pennsylvania with his mother. He started out shy and quite geeky and was in the School's drama club with Becca. Becca started to have a liking for Jesse and invites him to her family's dinner one night. During that same night, Jesse and Becca was walking back to Jesse's house, until Becca decide to kissed Jesse, this however angers Jesse and decide to start walking away, Becca wanders how it's even a big deal and Jesse refuses to tell her, but once Becca's request for an answer starts to irritate him, he finally reveals to her that he has HIV and now he might have AIDS because of that interaction and then left her alone. This brought more development to Becca's care for Jesse, and when Jesse wasn't at school nor showing up to Drama, she started to worry and soon visited him at his house. By then, Jesse told her that he was visiting his older sister in New York, and there he was at a Bar and met a girl named Allison who they both started a relationship with which eventually leads to them having sex, and it turned-out the girl was undiagnosed with AIDS, Allison then passed-away from the disease three mouths after Jesse moves. It was later revealed that back at his old High-school, people started to shunned him upon discovering his condition, and even the Step-father he have started to turned against him for having the disease and kicked him out of their house with his mother taking care of him, and soon Jesse and his mother thought it would be a good idea to moved-out of Pennsylvania to start a new life without anyone realizing of Jesse's disease. Becca promises she won't tell anyone about his condition, but during a fight with Tyler, she had no choice but to told him and everyone around them that he is infected with AIDS, and due to this incident Jesse started to attend school less and even wasn't home. Meanwhile, all the parents who were told by their kids about Jesse started to worried about them attending school with an AIDS infected student, and voted for Jesse to be kicked-out. Becca, now being worried that Jesse would thinks he's at a dying level, she started a look-out for him. During a school board meeting with all of the concerned parents, Becca's mother who have empathy for Becca's care about Jesse and agrees with Jesse's mother who was also at the meeting and gave-out a powerful speech about her son having such a disease but is no different from others without it, which changes some of the parents original opinions on Jesse attending the school and soon the request for Jesse's expel was eventually rejected. Soon Becca would finally found Jesse by a railroad and convinces him that even though he have AIDS there is still a chance of survival and soon she took Jesse back home.

Not long after, Jesse and Becca began dating more. Jesse wonders if Becca really do loves him, even if he suffering from such a fatal disease, especially after spotting her and Tyler kissing at her house, believing she cheating on him, but Becca told him that Tyler came to bother her and kiss her first. Jesse drove Becca all the way to New York to confront Allison, the girl who gave Jesse HIV, but Jesse soon feel sadden upon hearing the bad news of Allison's passing, as she was the only girl that Jesse believes feel true sympathy for as both suffers the same condition, but as he went out searching for her grave in a nearby cemetery, but Becca got her shot at convincing Jesse about her true feelings for him even when they spot an elderly lady coming to her former spouse's grave, which Jesse asked Becca would she comes visited him, in which she responses "Yes", and then the two went back home. As the upcoming Christmas came around, Jesse seemingly starts to lose balance at school, which starts to worries Becca about his suffering again, as she believes he close to being sick and requests him to tell his mother about the problems so he can see a doctor, but Jesse refuses because he doesn't wants to disappoint his mother as she would be the only person celebrating in their household while he might be Hospitalized, but this only angers Becca more and then she decide to take him to a Client after-school and if Jesse refuses, then she have to tell his mother. Once arriving at the Client, as Jesse spokes to the lady at the front office, he tries to answer some important questions like Insurance and group number, and when revealing his birthday to the lady, she realizes he's a minor which therefore needs to get a-hold of his family but Becca told her that he lives with his family, and as the questions gets more difficult for Jesse to answered, he had no choice but to tell her his problems that he is HIV-positive and soon the lady take some back-up, and as she did that, Jesse then fears he might have to stay at the place and attempts to leave but then loses balance once more, this time severely, in which the client's staff believes he have a high-fever and took him away from Becca. Jesse's mother then took awareness of Jesse's latest problems and let him stay at the Client to be treated.

It turned out Jesse and Becca's father, Drew, have a common interest in Blues Music and eventually Drew changes his original opinion on Jesse as he fears beforehand of Becca possibly getting HIV herself, and soon he hired him as a waiter at his restaurant, but things started to go worst again because of Jesse's health. Customers began to feared of the fact that Jesse is now a Waiter as they're aware of him being HIV-positive and refuses to eat the food so they won't get infected as they believe that what the disease might do with spreading. As fear of the Restaurant going low with income, and that his family wouldn't be in good shape of living, Drew have no choice but to fired Jesse, this upsets Jesse because during this period he looks at Drew as a "Father figure" as his real father dies when he was six years old and his step-father neglects him upon discovering his condition, and Jesse felt like Drew is another person who abandons him, but Drew convinces Jesse that he really does cares for him and looks at him like another son. As Junior year was almost coming to a close, Becca soon purposes to Jesse and the two decided a June Wedding.


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]