Life Goes On ran for four seasons on ABC, from 1989 until 1993. The TV show was never a hit program and didn’t even crack the list of 30 top-rated shows. Still, it is well-remembered as a program about family relationships and was the first series to feature a character with Down syndrome as a main character.
The TV show revolves around the Thatcher family. Drew and Libby (Bill Smitrovich and Patti LuPone) struggle with typical family issues, as well as help their first son, “Corky” (Chris Burke), integrate into the rest of the world. He eventually moves out, gets a job, and marries Amanda (Andrea Friedman) who also has Down’s.
Paige (Monique Lanier, then Tracey Needham) is Drew’s daughter from a first marriage and, after searching for a career, becomes a builder.
Teenager Becca (Kellie Martin) is the youngest Thatcher (until baby Nick is born) and sometimes too intelligent and emotional for her own good. After a relationship with jock Tyler (Tommy Puett), she falls in love with Jesse (Chad Lowe). A fellow high school student, Jesse contracted HIV after a chance one-night stand at a frat party.
Much of the latter episodes of Life Goes On revolve around Becca and Jesse’s relationship and the social and physical challenges of HIV and AIDS. The last episode is no exception but also gives ample time to Paige and Corky storylines as well.
The 83rd and last episode of Life Goes On, titled “Life Goes On (And On and On),” was first broadcast on May 23, 1993. Here’s what happened…
The episode takes place in flashbacks as a 10-years-older Becca recounts how she, Jesse, and surprise valedictorian Ray (Michael A. Goorjian) graduated from high school. Appeals to the school board by the Thatchers and the principal are denied and Corky does not graduate with his class due to low math grades. Ironically, had he not entered the mainstream program, he wouldn’t have had a problem. He decides not to attend graduation. Later, his family presents him with a special diploma in recognition of his accomplishments and for being a great son, sibling, and husband. After cleaning out his school locker, Corky vows to return to high school.
Paige and Artie (Troy Evans) have been struggling in their construction business. They’ve been working for two months on renovating an old house. Now, the owner can’t afford to pay them and is headed into bankruptcy. They end up taking over the house as payment and Artie proposes that they live there together, in a romantic relationship. Paige isn’t comfortable and he promises never to bring it up again.
When it comes time to list the house with a realtor, Paige is hesitant because of all the time and personal touches she’s put into the place. She eventually agrees to put it up for sale. Artie later surprises her by declaring that they should keep the house. Paige needs a place to live and they need an office for their company. He’ll continue to live in his trailer which she doesn’t think is fair. He explains that, without her, he’d still be sitting in a bar, spending his unemployment check. She agrees to the partnership.
Jesse breaks up with Becca so that she can go on to college and he can go to Europe to try experimental treatments and figure out what to do with whatever’s left of his life. They’re both upset but he says he’s doing it because he loves her. After Jesse leaves, Becca runs after him but he’s already out of sight. She goes to his apartment and finds it empty, save for her portrait, his bracelet, and some other things he’s left for her.
Four years later, towards the end of her time at college, Becca returns home to tell her parents that she’s engaged — to Jesse. He tracked her down after four years apart. His AIDS is in remission and he’s been traveling through Europe, writing articles for art journals. Drew and Libby aren’t thrilled but Jesse and Becca aren’t asking for permission. The wedding takes place in the Thatcher home, with Corky as best man and Paige as matron of honor. Those in attendance include Drew, Libby, Nick, Amanda, and Ray and his new family.
In bed later, Becca tells Jesse that she wants to have his baby. He’s shocked that Becca, as a medical student, would even suggest such a thing. She doesn’t want to be left alone and he tells her that she’ll never be alone, that she’ll have children with someone else some day. Jesse suggests that she’ll tell her children how much they loved each other and couldn’t stay apart. “When you remember me, I’ll always be right there with you. I will never leave you alone, Becca. I promise.”
Back in the future, we see that Becca has been telling the story to a young boy in bed. The boy comments that he wished that he’d known him. She says, “I wish everybody had known him. He was a kind, gentle, beautiful man.” “Just like Daddy?” “Yeah, just like Dad.” The boy pleads with her to tell him another tale but she says, “I have no more stories to tell.” The little boy says, “I love you, Mommy.” And Becca replies, “I love you, Jesse.” and kisses him. Fade to black, end of series.
For some additional information about the last episode, go here.
What do you think? Do you think the last episode of Life Goes On was a suitable ending to this groundbreaking show? Would you like to see the cast reunite someday for a new project?