Things That Bring Back Memories – “Life Goes On” #MondayMemories 1


Things That Bring Back Memories


life goes on
For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “TELEVISION” and go with ” Life Goes On “.  This was a series that really broke ground on getting people to understand that those with disabilities were just as “normal” as they were.

Have a television series focus on being able to live life fully and not be told that you would never amount to anything and should just be put in a “home” really brought on conversation!  Hey, there were people with no disabilities that were still told that they wouldn’t amount to anything, so this show hit on a part of a lot of people’s lives.  It brought on conversation and just a love for people in general, and teaching your kids to accept everyone, no matter what their issue.

 For those of you, who are either too young, or just don’t remember it, here’s a video of one of the best bits, and the reason that we enjoyed watching ” Life Goes On ” so much:

So, did you ever watch these commercials, or see the show when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV or the internet later in life?  Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!


More Info on the Show:

life goes onLife Goes On is an American television series that aired on ABC from September 12, 1989, to May 23, 1993. 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.  The drama featured 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 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.

life goes on

Early Seasons
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

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.


Some of the Stars:

life goes onBill Smitrovich (Drew Thatcher) was born on May 16, 1947 in Connecticut, and started his acting career rather late. A Masters degree holder from Smith College and a former acting teacher at the University of Massachusetts, the hefty actor earned his big break in an understudy role in the world premiere of Arthur Miller’s “The American Clock” at the Spoleto Festival, a production that went to Broadway. Other stage parts have included “Food from Trash,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “Far East” and “Frankie & Johnny at the Claire de Lune.” Bill was a founding member of the No Theatre Company, now in association with the Wooster Group, whose members included Willem Dafoe and the late Spalding Gray. Bill made his 1978 New York debut in the company’s production of “The Elephant Man.”  In the early 1980’s he started tackling film and TV roles, often playing cops and assorted villainous types. He made his film debut in a small role in A Little Sex (1982) and went on to play a prime part in the TV-movie pilot of Miami Vice (1984). A co-starring detective part on the series Crime Story (1986) led to more visibility. He finally became a household face (if not quite a name) as former construction worker-turned-restaurateur Drew Thatcher, the father of three on the critically acclaimed dramatic series Life Goes On (1989). Co-starring with Patti LuPone (of “Evita” fame), they played parents to a son born with Down Syndrome (portrayed by Chris Burke). The much-admired family-oriented show, which went on to deal with other topical themes such as AIDS, lasted four seasons. Since then Bill has involved himself in raising public consciousness and sensitivity of Down Syndrome. He has hosted the annual “Life Goes On Celebrity Golf Classic” for the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles. Following this TV success, Bill co-starred on the A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2000) with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin, had a recurring chief prosecutor role on The Practice (1997) and played a lieutenant in the Fox hit series Millennium (1996). His many film roles include Key Exchange (1985), Renegades (1989), The Trigger Effect (1996) with Dermot Mulroney, Independence Day (1996) with Will Smith, a strong role as a public defender in Rob Reiner’s Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), Air Force One (1997) and, more recently, as a general in Kevin Costner’s Cuban Missile Crisis drama Thirteen Days (2000). He also played Alexander Haig in the TV-movie biopic on Ronald Reagan starring James Brolin and Judy Davis. Bill is married with two children.

life goes onPatti LuPone (Libby Thatcher) was born on April 21, 1949, and is an American actress and singer, best known for her work in stage musicals. She is a two-time Grammy Award winner and a two-time Tony Award winner. She is also a 2006 American Theater Hall of Fame inductee.  LuPone began her professional career with The Acting Company in 1972 and made her Broadway debut in Three Sisters in 1973. She received the first of six (as of 2014) Tony Award nominations for the 1975 musical The Robber Bridegroom. She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Eva Perón in the 1979 original Broadway production of Evita. She played Fantine in the original London cast of Les Misérables and Moll in The Cradle Will Rock, winning the 1985 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her work in both.  Other stage musical performances include her Tony-nominated role as Reno Sweeney in the 1987 revival of Anything Goes, her Olivier-nominated role as Norma Desmond in the 1993 original production of Sunset Boulevard in London, her Tony-nominated role as Mrs. Lovett in the 2005 production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, her Tony Award-winning role as Mama Rose in the 2007 revival of Gypsy, and her Tony-nominated role as Lucia in the 2010 original production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.  She starred alongside Audra McDonald in the 2007 Los Angeles Opera production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and won two Grammy Awards for the 2008 recording, for Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording. On television, she starred in the drama series Life Goes On (1989-1993) and received Emmy Award nominations for the TV Movie The Song Spinner (1995) and for her guest role in the sitcom Frasier (1998). She also had a role in the third season of the FX thriller series American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014). Her films include Witness (1985), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), State and Main (2000) and Parker (2013).

life goes onChris Burke (Corky Thatcher) was born on August 26, 1965, and is an American actor and folk singer who has Down syndrome. He has become best known for his character Charles “Corky” Thacher on the television series Life Goes On.  Burke is the youngest of four children of Marian Burke, a retired trade-show manager, and Frank Burke, a retired NYPD inspector. Burke has Down syndrome, and his parents were told to institutionalize him when he was born.  Instead they decided to raise him at home and nurture his talents, with the help of his two older sisters and brother. From a young age, Burke enjoyed watching TV and movies and desperately wanted to be on television. He was encouraged by his supportive family to follow his career objectives no matter how unconventional they seemed, especially for a young man with Down syndrome.  In the early 1970’s, public schools were not yet mainstreaming students with disabilities into general education classes. Burke attended the Kennedy Child Studies Center in New York City, from age five until graduating shortly before his eighth birthday. At that time there were no suitable private education programs for students with disabilities in the area, so, in the fall of 1973, Burke was sent to board at the Cardinal Cushing School and Training Center in Hanover, Massachusetts. In 1978, Burke transferred to the Don Guanella School in Springfield, Pennsylvania, to be closer to his brother, J.R., who lived close by. Burke graduated from Don Guanella in 1986.  After graduation, he worked as an elevator operator and did volunteer work for programs for students with disabilities at New York City’s Public School 138.  Burke’s first acting performance was in a production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” at the Cardinal Cushing School. This role inspired him to participate in a talent show after he transferred to Don Guanella, in which he acted as a zombie in a reenactment of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. He continued to hone his talent by attending night classes, going to auditions, writing scripts, and voraciously reading books about his favorite actors.

life goes onKellie Martin (Becca Thatcher) was born October 16, 1975 in Riverside, CA and is an American television actress who is known for her roles as Rebecca “Becca” Thatcher in Life Goes On (1989–93), Christy Huddleston in Christy (1994–95), Lucy Knight on ER (1998–2000), and Samantha Kinsey in Mystery Woman (2003–07).  Martin is the daughter of Debbie, a kindergarten teacher, and Doug Martin, a department store buyer and retail executive.  Martin loved to perform for her close-knit family. She began her acting career at age seven, when her aunt, who was a nanny for actor Michael Landon’s children, helped her land a guest spot on the Landon produced series Father Murphy. At the age of eleven, she was a contestant during Young People’s Week on Card Sharks.  Martin graduated from Yale University in 2001 with a degree in art history. She was a member of Saybrook College. She married Keith Christian on May 15, 1999 in his hometown of Polson, Montana. The pair had their first child, a daughter named Margaret “Maggie” Heather Christian, in 2006, named after Martin’s sister Heather, who died due to lupus erythematosus at age 19.  Martin is currently expecting a baby girl due Spring 2016.  Martin owns and operates her own toy store ROMPstore.com and has authored a novel, MADAM: A Novel of New Orleans from Plume.

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Did You Know?

This was the first television series to have a major character with Down syndrome, “Corky” Thatcher played by Chris Burke who has Down syndrome in real life.

One of the first shows to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its social implications. In its later seasons the show depicted a relationship between Kellie Martin’s character Becca Thacher and Chad Lowe’s character Jesse McKenna. Becca and Jesse dated, and were often shown kissing. Jesse had HIV/AIDS and Becca did not. The show used this relationship and the character of Jesse to address issues of bigotry and unwarranted hysteria regarding the disease. Moreover, the show helped to inform its audience about the facts and myths surrounding HIV/AIDS (for example: the various ways one could or could not contract HIV/AIDS) and urged people to practice safe sex, avoid drug use involving needles, and to get tested

In her autobiography, Patti LuPone says she and her co-star Bill Smitrovich, who played her husband in the series, heartily disliked each other, so much so that by the fourth season that they weren’t even speaking to each other off the set and that she was amazed the series lasted as long as it did.

Some people were outraged that the dog seems to never receive it’s meal in the intro clip.  During the finale (as shown in the video above) they finally let some dog food pour out of the cupboard to show that they cared.

The theme song, The Beatles’ “Ob La Di,” which contains the line “Life goes on,” was sung on the show by the cast members.

life goes on


Thanks for stopping by today.  Please be sure to leave a comment, if this show meant something to you, too.  Or to just let me know what you think of the story in this post!   TigerStrypes claims no credit for any images used on this post, unless otherwise noted.  Images in this post are copyright to their respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please email us with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.  Thanks and have a great day!!

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Crystal Green
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I LOVED this show when it was on TV. I wish we had more shows like this on TV NOW!! It was a great wholesome family show to watch. I didn’t even think anything about the fact that was one of the first ones to point out people with disabilities were normal too until now. You’re right, though!