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Screen: ABC Family

Is Chasing Life Worth Catching?

ABC Family has a new cancer drama. What's its prognosis?

What Is This Thing?

Other than the fact that her beloved father passed away relatively recently, April is having a pretty great life: she's finally gotten noticed as a journalist at the Boston newspaper where she works; a dreamboat colleague asked her out and seems really into her; her sweet mom is getting back out into the dating world. There's just one problem: she has cancer.

When Is It On?

Tuesdays at 9 PM on ABC Family.

Why Was It Made Now?

Though it revolves around a slightly older character, Chasing Life is débuting at kind of the perfect time: on the heels of The Fault In Our Stars earning $48 million in its opening weekend. If teenaged girls' moms refuse to take them to see TFIOS again on a school night, this cancer story could be TV methadone.

What's Its Pedigree?

The writing team of Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz don't have a great deal of experience -- the Washingtonienne pilot that didn't go, and a feature film called Life Partners that features Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs. But the project is based on a Mexican telenovela called Terminales, so there's a road map to success that they can follow.


April has a prickliness that makes her compelling: even as we see her being a good daughter to her tentative mom and a good big sister to teenaged Brenna, she also acts like a real person; when a hostile exchange with a barista ends up being a bit between April and her best friend and former co-worker Beth, it's cute because it's relatable...but by that early point in the show I would have already bought that she would be crabby and impatient enough to get behind a coffee shop counter and pour her own beverage. April seems smart and interesting and just a tiny bit mean in a way that makes me want to spend more time with her, especially now that we get to see how this personality reshapes itself in reaction to her illness.


I guess I respect the fact that the show acknowledged the romantic chemistry between April and Steven Weber by having Dominic, April's dreamy co-worker, mistake an emotionally charged conversation between them -- about her disease, which he's just diagnosed -- for sweet nothings between a couple having a secret affair. But the fact remains that Weber is kind of playing his oncologist George like he's into April and not like he's HER DEAD DAD'S BROTHER. Maybe now that they've done the Three's Company gag about it, he can simmer down and start being more avuncular. Also, I already thought the younger sister could lift right out of the show before the last-second reveal about April's dead dad possibly having another secret family, like the protagonist's cancer might not be dramatic enough on its own.


A considerable chunk of the pilot found April being juuuuuuuust about to tell her loved ones about her illness and then losing her nerve at the last second; unless she gets past this in a hurry, watching her try to keep this secret is going to get old in a hurry. But Italia Ricci's April is very watchable, and given that I got on board with the somewhat scandalous Switched At Birth, I guess I can hang with a love child here too.

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