STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $39.98
RUNNING TIME: 1078 Minutes
• Commentary on the pilot episode
• Bill Smitrovich and Patti Lupone’s screen test
• Laughs Go On: a mini gag reel

The Pitch

"A nice family that solves all problems in one hour."

The Humans

Bill Smitrovich, Patti LuPone, Chris Burke, Kellie Martin, Monique Lanier

The Nutshell

Life goes On ran from 1989 – 1993 and covers the daily lives of the Thatcher family. Drew (Bill Smitrovich) and Libby Thatcher (Patti LuPone) have three children, Paige (Tracey Needham) from Drew’s previous marriage, Becca (Kellie Martin) and Corky (Chris Burke). The series centers on Corky who has Downs Syndrome and has been mainstreamed into regular high school much to the disappointment of his baby sister Becca who has to share the same class with him. Besides following Corky’s story of fitting in at school the series also focuses on the other family members daily situations such as Drew getting out of the construction business and opening up a restaurant, Libby struggling with her music/stage career, the usual teenage girl travails of Becca (crushes, acceptance) and finally Paige whose life is  all about her various boyfriends.

The Lowdown

Although Life Goes On received a lot of attention due to having a character with Downs Syndrome (by an actor with the same condition) that is not the sole reason this series made for decent family viewing. Yes, the series centered on Corky and Chris Burke was superb in his performance but it is a couple of the other characters that provided, at least for me, the most enjoyable moments. In fact, there is not a weak character in this series and the way the actors who made up the Thatcher family interacted and dealt with various situations is one of the most enjoyable I have seen on television. Sure there are several story lines that get closure too soon and manage to end on a happy note (especially when it involves Corky) but then there are other moments that raise the drama a notch or two and offer no closure which helped to keep this series from being too good to be true, especially the stories involving Drew and Libby. My favorite character by far was Becca, the youngest of the Thatcher family and a high school freshman. With Becca there was always something going on and it usually involved boys but it was played out to where one could chuckle at the situations she always got herself in.

The first season offered 22 episodes and there are several that stand out while a few could have been fleshed out more or, to be blunt, should not have been made at all.

The Pilot episode offers a nice introduction to the Thather family and also gives us a glimpse of some other characters at Corky and Becca’s high school who will reappear during the season. This episode focuses on Corky’s integration into a regular school and Chris Burke is wonderful at showing fear and anxiety over whether he will be accepted. Break a Leg, Mom is by far my favorite episode as it deals with Corky feeling he is to blame for his mother not pursuing a singing/stage career further. This episode also offers a backstory into how Drew and Libby met and covers the birth of Corky and how those two dealt with having a child with Downs Syndrome. The funny part of this episode was watching Corky trying to drive a car which always turned into a disaster.

The Return of Uncle Richard is about Drew’s older brother stopping by for a visit and he is everything Drew is not. Flashy, glib and a rascal, so it is no surprise that the kids immediately take to him. This was a great episode that spotlighted on Drew and even though Bill Smitrovich is solid in this role it is this particular story that made him stand him out for me. Paige’s Date works good because it finally gives Tracey Needham something to do with her character (before all that was seen of her was coming from upstairs and running out the door to get on her boyfriends motorcycle). Drew and Libby attend the marriage of a co-workers daughter and Drew’s disappointment in the losers Paige has been dating is too much for him to take. He finally meets someone at the reception and sets up what he thinks is a great catch for Paige. Of course this guy is also a loser and Paige falls head over heels for him. Corky’s Crush is a solid episode in which Corky falls for the new girl in his class and to say the least the poor guy is a mess. Throughout the first season I always enjoyed watching Corky interact with new people and this one really showcases Burke’s talent.

Now to some of the duds. The second episode The Baby Sitter had all the right elements including Corky experiencing his first serious responsibility in which he is going to babysit for the first time (Paul Gleason was the dad). The episode also showcases how others outside the Thatcher family view a person with Downs Syndrome. The problem with this episode is they took it too far by having Corky saving the boy he was babysitting that had slid down a hill and could not get back up. They added too much drama when it was not needed as just having Corky doing something important outside his family was enough to establish that he is a responsible person. In Corky witnesses a crime the main problem was everything played out too smoothly. Corky and other football players see the coach slap a former player and at first Corky is the only one who will tell what actually happened. The other players will not in order to protect their coach and even though this part makes sense it is how the other players eventually come forward that was hard to believe.

Another aspect of this series that was hard to take was there were too many dream sequences. It was fine when Corky was dreaming of various things like becoming the prom king or winning a football game but when they started having other characters fantasizing it just got to the point where I was rolling my eyes and hoping for the sequence to end quickly. This aspect of the show was not needed and only weighed down the characters and the story.

Overall I would recommend Life Goes On for those who appreciate family centered television.

The Package

The cover is annoying as it shows the Thatcher family posing together which is nice but then they had to add a head shot of the same people at the top! This should have been given to other cast members or better still have no head shots at all. The mini gag reel is not funny and just shows, mostly Burke, flubbing up a few lines. The screen tests are decent but not worth a second viewing. Finally, the pilot episode commentary by Chris Burke and series creator Michael Braverman makes for a good listen and it was nice to hear these two discussing the series with enthusiasm after all these years.  

6.8 out of 10