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Life Goes On is a ABC network drama TV series created by Michael Braverman, starring Chris Burke and became the first TV series to have a major character with Down Syndrome (actor Chris Burke, who portrayed the role of Corky, has Down syndrome in real life).
The show premiered on September 12, 1989. The rest of the cast consisted of Patti LuPone, Kellie Martin, Bill Smitrovich and Monique Lanier (who would be replaced by Tracey Needham in 1990).
"Life Goes On" has been nominated & won various awards such as the Primetime Emmy Award, the Golden Globe Award, the Viewers for Quality Television Award, the American Television Awards and the Young Artist Awards.
On May 23, 1993, the show ended after 4 seasons and 86 episodes.
"Life Goes On" was about 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 (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.
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.
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 and they married by the series' end.
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.
- Bill Smitrovich as Drew Thatcher
- Patti LuPone as Libby Thacther
- Kellie Martin as Becca Thatcher
- Chris Burke as Charles "Corky" Thatcher
- Monique Lanier as Paige Thatcher #1 [season 1]
- Tracey Needham as Paige Thatcher #2 [season 2-4]
- Tommy Puett as Tyler Benchfield [seasons 1-2]
- Chad Lowe as Jesse McKenna [seasons 3-4]
- Lance Guest as Michael [seasons 3-4]
- Andrea Friedman as Amanda Swanson [seasons 3-4]
- Tanya Fenmore as Maxie [seasons 1-2]
- Mary Page Keller as Gina [season 2]
- Leigh Ann Orsi as Zoe [season 2]
- David Byrd as Hans [season 2]
- Ray Buktenica as Jerry Berkson [season 3]
- Michael A. Goorjian as Ray Nelson [season 3]
- Kiersten Warren as Goodman [season 4]