Oh-blah-dee, Oh-blie-dah, Life Goes On!
I grew up with many family shows such as Little House on the Praire, the Waltons, and so forth. But, Life Goes On will always be my favorite.
Life Goes On put realism and just a touch of grit into television as it attempted to broadcast to families the changing times, the new issues facing teenagers, and the plights of an American family constantly struggling to make do.
Life Goes On is the first television series to have a down-syndrome actor as one of its stars. Chris Burke (Charles "Corky" Thacher) is simply wonderful. You will see over the course of four seasons how his acting range really blossoms. He was originally going to be the focal point of the show.
Life Goes On is about the Thachers...a semi-middle class family living in Glenbrook Illinois which is a suburb of Chicago. It is the story of a hard-working family that faces one plight after another...just like life!
Drew Thacher (Bill Smitrovich) is the father who is working as a construction worker. He's tired of "just getting by" with the hard physical labor and the small checks. He plays a father who loves his children and is always trying to find a way to get ahead; to get on top of things. His life-long dream is to be the owner of a restaurant. Over the course of the first season we find out if he can achieve this dream or not...and if so, what are the costs?
Libby Thacher is wonderfully played by stage performer and Tony award winner, Patti Lupone. She works for an advertising agency run by Jerry (who becomes a favorite character played by Ray Butenika). Libby is tired of doing all of Jerry's dirty work...taking his clothes to the cleaners, washing his car, getting him coffee, etc. She feels she can do more than this, but Jerry is stingy and tries to cut financial costs and corners wherever he can.
Paige is Drew's daughter from his first marriage. She is out of high school, and a bit of a leaf blowing in the wind. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. The role of Paige is played first by Monique Lanier who has a softness and sweetness in the character. She is replaced from the second season on by Tracey Needham. Paige has a special relationship with Corky, and she has the usual big-sister/little-sister issues with Becca. She also begins the show with an estranged relationship with Libby.
Corky is the oldest son who is suddenly moved from attending a special school to a public school, as he is high-functioning, and the Thachers feel he is entitled to a "regular" education as they attempt to mainstream him. Corky finds himself the target of many high school taunts and practical jokes (particularly Russo). Tyler Benchfield is, at first, Corky's only friend. Tyler is a jock who has a special place in his heart for Corky, as we discover that Tyler has a brother with down-syndrome also. Tyler attempts to protect Corky and to help him fit in. Becca, the youngest daughter, is not thrilled at having Corky at her school, but quickly changes her tune.
Kellie Martin would soon take center stage in Life Goes On. Her acting ability is tremendous, and the writers quickly discover that the meat of their story is in the character of Becca (Rebecca) Thacher. She is a brilliant, straight "A" student with glasses and skinny legs who dreams of Tyler, her life-long crush. She's feisty and has a knack for throwing out intelligent comebacks or quips to her parents or to those who try to put her down. We quickly find that Becca is an intelligent girl with an even bigger heart. Subsequent seasons will demonstrate this fact when she meets Jesse (Chad Lowe), a boy she quickly falls in love with, but discovers he is HIV+, which sets up one of the most powerful relationship dynamics in television history.
This is a show about real values. This is a show about real problems...money, integrating into high school, issues facing the rearing of a down-syndrome child, broken dreams, etc. You find as a viewer that you relate with the Thachers. Their world is far from perfect, but the love is always there, and in the end, it's the most important glue to holding a family together.
The entire cast is wonderful. I loved this show when it was on. I was sorry to see it go. Chad Lowe would later win a much deserved Emmy for his performance as Jesse McKenna as Life Goes On would tackle one of the biggest issues in society...AIDS and how it affects a high school boy; how he deals with the prejudices of those around him, and why a "normal" girl would want to have anything to do with him.
Life Goes On will touch your heart, make you laugh, and make you cry because there is a tenderness and sweetness behind the realism. Life Goes On proved that family television can do both!