Chasing Life

TV Series Review

"Fight cancer" should never worm its way onto anyone's to-do list. And April Carver's list was quite full already, thanks very much.

She was a fledgling reporter for a big-city daily in Boston (yes, apparently newspapers do still exist) looking to climb the journalistic ladder. Instead, she got married to Leo, a guy battling cancer. Alas, he died just a couple of episodes after their nuptials, so she's back living at home with her mother and younger sister—both of whom have their own issues to sort through. She's got friendships to cultivate, more men to smooch, gravesites to visit, her unexpected half-sister to chat with and family secrets to unravel.

She doesn't have time to battle leukemia, too.

Sickness never comes when it's convenient, though, and April must tackle this life-threatening disease head-on. If her time is limited—and it very well may be—she's got to make the most of the moments she has.

Of Motives and Morals

Chasing Life is a soap-riven drama that tries to stuff every possible crisis in every episode. When Beth, April's best friend, mentions that there's a "weird energy" in the Carver house one snowy evening, Brenna responds, "There's a weird energy in this house every night." And, yeah, that's pretty much true.

Still, the series offers up some very nice messages about family and getting one's priorities right. Quirky though they may be, April's relatives are loving and supportive. April, at 24, is the clan's stabilizing rock—a calming presence for her kinda flaky mom and a surrogate mother to the teenage (and bisexual-minded) Brenna. April sometimes sacrifices her own happiness and even well-being to make sure everyone else is doing OK. And you gotta like that, right?

But while April's motives are in the right place, her morals can stray. She slept around a bit before she got married, and went out for the occasional boozy night on the town, too. She's been known to lie, both off and on her old journalism job. She'll string together some terribly inappropriate and sometimes crass jokes (a trait she says she got from her father).

And remember, April's thought of as the familial good girl here. While Brenna has certainly stabilized, she nearly flunked out of school the year before April got sick. She drank heavily, flirted with boys with no honorable intention and generally fell under whatever bad influence might walk past the house.

Then there's one other element that I'm not quite sure what to do with: Chasing Life's potential to romanticize a deeply unromantic disease.

Sick on the Screen

The series premiered on the heels of the hit movie The Fault in Our Stars, another story of young, pretty people stricken with a terrible sickness. Fault is a deeply touching tale that has, according to ABC News, even spawned something like cancer envy. Matthew Zachary, who founded a group called Stupid Cancer, said he overheard people leaving the theater wishing that they could get sick in order to find love.

It's an interesting reaction. While Fault is indeed a romance, it goes out of its way to make the disease itself seem pretty much the antithesis of romantic. The lead character is tethered to nose tubes the entire movie. She can't run or jump for joy. People get sick and they die. In the movie, as in real life, cancer is horrible.

Chasing Life gives us, for the most part, a more picturesque vision of the disease. Certainly it's no walk in the park, and April talks often about the possibility of dying. She's already lost a husband, too. But I can clearly see how an ongoing show like Chasing Life might make some viewers think of cancer as a tragic yet vaguely romantic illness. It reminds me a little of what we hear happened in Victorian England, when consumption (tuberculosis) was the heartbreaking malady all the hip youngsters wanted to die from—a phenomenon mocked at times by Charles Dickens.

I don't think Chasing Life will make hordes of young fans want leukemia. Still, I wonder whether it might be healthier for us all to spend more time chasing our own lives rather than the ones on TV.

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Chasing Life - September 7, 2015 "A Bottle of Secrets"
Chasing-Life: 6-10-2014



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Italia Ricci as April; Mary Page Keller as Sara; Haley Ramm as Brenna; Rebecca Schull as Emma; Richard Brancastisano as Dominic; Abhi Sinha as Danny Gupta; Aisha Dee as Beth; Steven Weber as George




ABC Family


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Paul Asay

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