Chasing Life Series Premiere Review: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)



ABC Family rolled out their latest drama, Chasing Life, tonight and all signs point to a potential new hit for the network. Without revealing too many spoilers off the bat, let me just say that this series is going to be a real tear jerker. The writing is witty, the actors are well cast, but at the core of  the show is a subject that is fairly hard to breach (although clearly becoming one that television and film is ready to conquer) and Chasing Life does so in a sensitive but deliberate way.

Chasing Life centers itself around a fresh faced twenty-something year-old journalist, April Carver (Italia Ricci), who is diagnosed with Leukemia. As the series goes on, it will presumably cover the struggles she experiences while going through treatment and as she decides whether or not to come clean about it to the people she loves. On the pilot, however, the writers settled with simply laying the groundwork.

Unlike veteran dramas that tend to jump right back into the action, Chasing Life took its time introducing viewers to a version of April running on all cylinders, establishing a baseline for whatever is coming. She’s young. She’s on the precipice of a relationship with an attractive co-worker. She’s the rock in her family. All of these things make it that much harder for her to come to terms with her diagnosis – and even harder for her to tell anyone about it.

It’s no secret that when people are faced with adversity, they tend to respond in unpredictable ways. In the pilot alone, we see that April is a capable woman and that she feels responsible for the welfare of her family. She puts her own fears aside and rises to the occasion when her mother returns from a successful first date. She also is quick to leave her romance in question when the option is leaving her younger sister in a questionable situation.

The thing that really stands out about this show is that there’s a certain sense of realism about it. The writers don’t presume to tell viewers how to feel. They let the story evolve as organically as possible while still making it come across as compelling. April is a character with hidden depths, and in this episode viewers only scratched the surface of what makes her tick.

Although the pilot left us with an overwhelmingly positive impression, there was one thing that was alarmingly problematic – the final scene, and more so, what it means for the development of the series. April is at the cemetery bringing flowers to her deceased father on his birthday, filling him in on her current situation, and when she is leaving she crosses paths with a girl who she finds out is also visiting her father – except that she stops at the same grave that April just left. The secret half-sister plot twist is overdone and frankly, it seems like a cheap shot to a character who is already being emotionally overloaded. There’s already a string of unknowns about her family life, stemming from her father’s death in a car accident a few years earlier. It doesn’t make sense to add this to the mix, especially so early on, when there’s already an established conflict.

Still, Chasing Life is worth checking out. The material might seem a little on the mature side for the targeted ABC Family audience, but fans of the network may be pleasantly surprised with just how refreshing the story is without being watered down to the point where it comes across as nothing more than a walking cliché.