Nov 13, 2012

The Beefcake Star of "Life Goes On"

I disliked most of the heterosexist "family friendly" comedies of the late 1980s  -- Home Improvement,Growing Pains, Family Ties, The Hogan Family --  but  Life Goes On was my least favorite of the lot.  It was depressing, with way more tears than laughs -- did they have to have someone dying every single week?  And besides,  the other channels offered  the bonding-heavy Parker Lewis Can't Lose (starring Billy Jayne), Eerie, Indiana, and Great Scott (starring Tobey Maguire).

Besides, the opening featured my least favorite Beatles song of all them, the execrable "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."

I only watched if I thought an episode might feature some beefcake. But I heard about it all the time.

The family consisted of Mom (singer Patty Lupone),  Dad (Bill Smitrovich), and three kids:  Paige, Becca, and Corky (Chris Burke), who had Down Syndrome.

Lots of movies and tv series, such as Shawn Cassidy's Like Normal People (1979),  involved mentally challenged teenagers proving that they could do everything a "normal" person could -- and more.  But never before had the character been portrayed by a mentally challenged person.  Chris Burke became a star, sought-after for interviews and speaking engagements.

Chris didn't get much teen idol attention, so the producers added Tyler Benchfield (Tommy Puett, previously of Aaron's Way), who bonded with Corky (but only as a big brother) and eventually began dating Becca.  The teen magazines went wild over him.

Unfortunately, during the third season the producers decided that Tyler wasn't depressing enough, so they killed him (in an auto accident) and gave Becca a new boyfriend, Jesse (Chad Lowe).  Corky didn't like him, Becca didn't like him, but he was HIV positive, and therefore could be gloriously depressing.

Jesse didn't die during the run of the show, but in the last episode, a 40-year old Becca informs us that he did die a few years later, and she married someone else. Life goes on, brah.

There were no gay characters on Life Goes On, though Jesse was occasionally the victim of a gay-bashing, so the producers could have their cake and eat it too, address homophobia while insisting that no gay people exist.

So all we had were Tommy Puett's muscles.  They weren't enough.