ABC Family tries to tackle life after a cancer diagnosis in Chasing Life. It’s not the worst show on television but we’re not quite convinced it’s a winner, either.
When commercials began airing for ABC Family’s Chasing Life, we were all kind of excited. Sure, cancer stories are usually a bummer. Yes, it’s ABC Family so we could expect melodrama to the infinite power. But it was a show that seemed so full of potential with its female lead and possible story of strength. Instead of strength, though, we’ve been given a confusing main character and a plot with less flavor than weak English breakfast tea.
We’ve watched a couple episodes now and we keep trying, but so far we’re just not in love. We have a few issues, like…
A less-than-original premise
If you’re going to do a show revolving around a character, it needs to be new. In Breaking Bad and The Big C, we saw different reactions to a terminal diagnosis. Those reactions propelled the main characters into new situations and far beyond their comfort zones. When NBC’s family drama Parenthood dealt with cancer, you saw a real, heartbreaking tale centered on a character you already loved and, again, you watched it propel her further in life after. In Chasing Life, we don’t actually see the main character, April, “chase” life at all. Instead, we see her shrug off a diagnosis and then proceed with the same monotonous work and family drama she dealt with before her diagnosis. We’re not going anywhere new, so why are we on this sinking ship, again?
A main character with no defining characteristics
What exactly do we know about April? She’s some sort of intern in the journalism world who seems incredibly too old to still be an intern. She has a rebellious sister, a dead father and a mother back in the dating game. We’re supposed to believe she’s a highly organized and procedural type A person, yet we don’t see much in the way of that personality when she’s dealing with nearly everything in her life, especially the cancer. Again, we’re supposed to be rooting for her, but we’re not even sure she’s worth rooting for.
Too much subplot
At this point, it feels like we know more about everyone else than we do about April. April’s little sister is some sort of perpetual and accidental rebel. April’s mom is going through some sort of late-life crisis after her husband’s death and is back on the dating scene. Oh, and her best friend tends to make poor decisions and show way too much fake emotion. (Though you might consider it a nice balance for April, who has the emotional range of a stick.) Are we supposed to care about these things? We don’t. It just seems like a bunch of smoke and mirrors to make up for, again, their incredibly uninteresting main character.
One ridiculous plot twist
During a recent episode, April visited her father’s grave (which included an insanely cliché speech about how she’d be joining him, but not too soon), she found out she may have a half-sister. What? ABC Family is setting up this exact same twist on The Fosters with their main character, Callie, who we’ve had a whole season to get to know and love. In Callie’s case, this new thing could change her entire life. For April, we weren’t even fully involved in her life or attached to her story before we learned about her illness and then this supposed half-sister. Aside from the sheer absurdity of it, we’re also just seeing this as another part of life April will “deal” with instead of chasing after something bigger or more meaningful.
And some seriously dumbed-down science
Everything the doctor explained to April during her initial diagnosis may be 100 percent truthful. However, did it seem a little fake? Even in the first season, the stars on Grey’s Anatomy new how to deliver medical dialogue with a sense of authority, and the writers knew how to write to make them sound like trained professionals while still letting readers know what was going on. April’s doctor sounded like he got his degree online.
We’re not writing off Chasing Life just yet. We’re doing our best to give April and her friends and family the benefit of the doubt. This show has the potential to be something decent, it just needs to get with it already. Check it out, if you want. But don’t expect to be sucked in.