The hour-long series follows the life of a young Italian-American woman (Lydia DeLucca, played by Heather Paige Kent), loosely based on Ms. Ruggiero's life, and her family in suburban New Jersey. The show was set in fictional Bellefield, ostensibly a play on the combination of Belleville and Bloomfield, two adjacent older working class suburbs on the north side of Newark, New Jersey. The show premièred a year after The Sopranos, also about an Italian-American family set in the New Jersey suburbs. Whereas The Sopranos depicted an organized crime family, however, That's Life was a light-hearted depiction of a law-abiding family (headed by veteran motion picture actors Ellen Burstyn and Paul Sorvino).
In the first season, Frank DeLucca works as a toll collector on the New Jersey Turnpike, while Dolly is a housewife. In the second season, Frank retires after suffering a heart attack on the job, and he and Dolly opens a restaurant. Kevin Dillon played Paulie, Lydia's younger brother who was a young officer on the Bellefield Police Department who still lived at home. Debi Mazar played Jackie, Lydia's wise-cracking friend who owned a hair salon. The show mixed family situations with situations focusing on Lydia's life as a young single woman looking for both love and stable career, and for more out of life than simply raising children.
The first season revolved around the fallout from Lydia's breaking off her engagement to Lou (Sonny Marinelli, who was written out after a few episodes), enrolling at a local university somewhat resembling nearby Montclair State University, and moving away from home for the first time. Most of the situations were light-hearted, but plots occasionally delved into darker subjects, including Paulie's struggle to resist the temptation to fall into corruption as a police officer. In the second season, Lydia finally selects a major to pursue a career in sports medicine. Her mother Dolly successfully ran for city council of Bellefield. Paulie started dating Plum (Danielle Harris), a classmate whom Lydia befriends in the first season, and marries her.
The show developed a small fan base and received generally positive critical response, but languished in the ratings, despite the presence of well-known names in its cast, in part because it aired during the Friday night death slot for much of its run. It was cancelled at the end of the second season with numerous unresolved plot lines, including the budding romance between Lydia and one of her professors.
Heather Paige Kent as Lydia DeLucca
Debi Mazur as Jackie O'Grady
Ellen Burstyn as Dolly DeLucca
Paul Sorvino as Frank DeLucca
Kevin Dillon as Paulie DeLucca
Peter Firth as Dr. Victor Leski [ 1 ]
Danielle Harris as Plum Wilkinson DeLucca [ 2 ]
Titus Welliver as Dr. Eric Hackett [ 2 ]
Kristin Bauer as Candy Cooper [ eps 1-13 ]
Sonny Marinelli as Lou Buttafucco [ eps 1-10 ]
Never commerically released, transfered from HD Recording to DVD