Life Goes On was an earnest family drama with an unusual plot hook: it was the first television series to revolve around a mentally handicapped character, Corky (portrayed by Christopher Burke, who had Down’s Syndrome in real life). The show chronicled the lives of Corky and his family as he tried to make the transition from special education classes to become a freshman at a traditional high school.
Corky’s parents were restaurant owner Drew and ad exec/former singer Libby (Broadway star Patti LuPone). Corky also had a sister, 14 year-old Becca, and a stepsister, Paige, who returned home after dropping out of college.
Stories focused on the travails of the family’s daily life such as Corky’s ongoing struggle to be accepted as normal by his new classmates, Becca’s attempts to resolve her desire to popular with her responsibility to look out for Corky, and Libby’s discovering she was pregnant at the age of 41.
Later additions to the show would include Gina, Libby’s younger sister, who arrived to help run the house when Libby became pregnant, and Zoe, Gina’s daughter. Another important addition to the show arrived in the form of Jesse McKenna, an HIV-positive student who became good friends with Becca.
The show was telecast for four seasons on ABC and ended its run in August of 1993 after 83 episodes. It was successful with families and critics alike for its emphasis on positive family values and its responsible handling of social issues like AIDS. It also won several awards, including an Emmy for Christopher Burke’s portrayal of Corky.
The show’s theme song was the classic Beatles tune “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (whose lyrics lent the show its title) and was performed by Patti LuPone and the cast. Their family singalong over the opening credits was a perfect encapsulation of the show and the lives it portrayed—energetic, free-spirited, imperfect but filled with the joy in knowing that life does, indeed go on.
USA / ABC – Warner Bros. TV – The Toots Company / 83×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 12 September 1989 – 29 August 1993
Bill Smitrovich as Drew Thatcher
Patti LuPone as Elizabeth “Libby” Thatcher
Chris Burke as Charles “Corky” Thatcher
Kellie Martin as Rebecca “Becca” Thatcher
Monique Lanier as Paige Thatcher (1989-90)
Tracey Needham as Paige Thatcher (1990-93)
Chad Lowe as Jesse McKenna (1991-93)
Tommy Puett as Tyler Benchfield (1989-91)
David Byrd as Hans (1990-91)
Tanya Fenmore as Maxie (1989-91)
Mary Page Keller as Gina (1990-91)
Leigh Ann Orsi as Zoe (1990-91)
Kiersten Warren as Goodman (1992-93)
Ray Buktenica as Jerry Berkson