Sam: Hey, I recognize you.
Andrew: Oh, did you go to Columbia High?
Sam: No, not from high school, from TV. Didn’t you play the retarded quarterback?
Sam: Are you really retarded?
Sam: Ooh, great job man! I really thought you were retarded. I mean, you’re better than that Corky kid and he’s actually retarded. If there was a retarded Oscar you would win, hands down, kick his ass!
– G…rden State
Such is the problem with this program. For those that may not remember, Life Goes On was a sickly-sweet show that aired in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and was a precursor to such equally saccharine shows as One Tree Hill and 7th Heaven. It’s one of those “trials of growing up” shows whose popularity I will never be able to understand. Here’s the thing; this particular waste of an hour features a character named Corky who has Down Syndrome. Actor Chris Burke, who plays Corky, actually does have Down Syndrome in real life. While the fact that he can successfully play this role is undoubtedly an amazing and admirable accomplishment by the young actor, it puts viewers in an uncomfortable spot. The show flat out sucks, but to make fun of it is to make fun of the achievements of a kid with Down Syndrome.
For me, that’s not only a cheap trick to pull on an unsuspecting viewing public, but it is kind-of a crappy thing to do to the actor as well. Granted, the only roles that he would be able to play are Down Syndrome roles, but to me the whole thing feels like the show is riding the coat tails of a disabled kid. The fact is, the only thing this show had going for it was the story behind the story. Take the kid out of the show, and it wouldn’t have lasted three episodes. With the kid in the show, it is a human interest story, and nothing else.
Maybe you’re one of these people who feels a certain connection to this program for whatever reason. Maybe it reminds you of a simpler time in your youth. Maybe you are still amazed by Burke’s acting chops. Whatever it is, if you are a fan of this show, you’re probably going to pick it up no matter what I have to say. If you have never seen the program before, however, I would strongly suggest you catch a few episodes at your local rental store before you make a blind purchase.
In a word, “poor”. The audio is not only of poor quality, but it is mixed very low. The track is cloudy, with no spatial dynamics to speak of. I would even go so far to say that I would be disappointed if I found this track on a VHS tape, much less on a DVD. There is no low end, ambient sounds are fuzzy… really, the only good thing about this soundtrack is that it makes the show’s cheesy dialog just a bit harder to hear.
Surprisingly, the video quality is actually pretty good. It is certainly much better than I was expecting it to be. Sure, there are some scratches here and there, but the majority of the shots are quite clean and grain free. Many of the colors are also vibrant, though the black levels are a bit dull. They’re not gray, mind you, they just appear to have dulled and washed out with age.
In reality, this disc is even lighter on extras than it appears at first glance. The supplemental features kick off with a Commentary on the pilot episode by actor Chris Burke (“Corky”) and series creator Michael Braverman. The track mainly consists of Braverman talking about the show, with Burke interjecting “that’s right” or “yes” every minute or so. While Braverman’s comments are surprisingly interesting, Burke is clearly only on this track because of his name recognition.
Next up is Bill Smitrovich and Patti Lupone’s screen test. This featurette is actually a dual-screen production, with the finished scene in one window, and the screen test version in another. The thing is, there is no reason to look at these two things at the same time. Rehearsal footage would logically match up, or even the table read, but the point of a screen test is to test how the actors and their wardrobes/hairstyles/makeup translate to film. This really has nothing to do with the finished scenes, but there it is, nonetheless.
Finally, there is a gag reel that runs complete with a bed of zany clown music. Think America’s Funniest Home Videos without the funny, and you are on the right track.
If it’s not abundantly clear by this point, I’m not a fan of either this show or the DVD set. The show is a lame attempt at being groundbreaking, while the audio quality and the extras leave a lot to be desired. True, the video quality is better than I expected, but it is absolutely not anything that you will want to use to show off your HDTV setup. Listen, if you are into this show, that’s fine… pick it up. For the rest of the sane world, however, this is definitely a “must pass” title.
Special Features List
- Commentary on the pilot episode by actor Chris Burke (“Corky”) and series creator Michael Braverman
- Bill Smitrovich and Patti Lupone’s screen test
- Laughs Go On: a mini gag reel