Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Denette Wilford

GET UPDATES FROM Denette Wilford
 

'Chasing Life' Review: Even The Unexpected Can Be Beautiful

Posted: 06/09/2014 11:04 am

Not very long ago, summer TV used to be a joke, usually composed of reruns and little else. ABC, CBS and NBC (I'm talking pre-Fox here) wouldn't dream of debuting a new show during the hot months, because what would be the point? No one was staying in and watching television. They were out, enjoying the warm weather, going to see a big blockbuster in the theatre; frankly, TV was the last thing on people's minds.

Now it's a whole different ballgame. With summer right around the corner (June 21, 6:21 a.m. ET, but who's keeping track?), it's about that time that ABC Spark (ABC Family in the U.S.) trots out its schedule for the season. Not only are there new episodes of some returning favourites ("The Fosters" and "Switched at Birth"), the network is premiering three new series this June. "Young & Hungry" and "Mystery Girls" debut later in the month; but the first out of the gate is "Chasing Life," and it is a drama like no other.

chasing life

April (Richmond Hill, Ont., native Italia Ricci) is a normal 24-year-old. She works at a newspaper, makes little money, and lives with her widowed mom (Mary Page Keller), grandmother (Rebecca Schull) and sister (Haley Ramm). In order to kick-start her career -- and life -- she tries to impress her editor (Vondie Curtis-Hall) by getting an exclusive interview with a scandal-plagued baseball player that could make her career. All this while catching the attention of hot reporter Dominic (Richard Brancatisano) and life seems pretty good, right?

Not quite. In fact, it all goes downhill pretty fast.

In a startling turn of events (at least for those who have no idea what "Chasing Life" is about), April's estranged uncle George (Steven Weber), who just happens to be an oncologist, has the unfortunate job of telling her she has cancer. Leukemia, to be specific. And while it is treatable, it's not exactly what a 20-something expects to/wants to/should hear. April's reaction is completely believable -- of the "as IF" and "you're joking" variety -- because at that age, we all thought we were invincible, especially when life seems to be going well. No one expects the other shoe to drop.

Aside from George, April keeps her diagnosis secret, a burden no one should face. But it will likely drag on for the whole season considering ABC Spark/Family churns out shows where dragging secrets out for lengthy periods of time is their bread and butter.

Ricci (a dead ringer for Victoria Justice and Nina Dobrev) is natural and authentic in the lead role. April is a strong, stubborn, charming and smart young woman who gets back up no matter how many times she's knocked down. Her family dynamic is a fascinating one, as she seems to be the one everyone goes to with their problems. When you add in April's blossoming relationship with Dominic, her friendship with pal Beth (Aisha Dee) and her promising career as a reporter, it almost makes us forget she's sick. Also, look out for Scott Michael Foster to show up a few episodes in as Leo, a spoiled congressman's son with a secret of his own.

What's best about "Chasing Life," however, is that it isn't just a show about a cancer (hell, there's a twist right at the end of the premiere that will resonate for episodes to come). In the first few episodes, it's more about April coming to terms with her illness and finding the right time to tell her loved ones (though there never seems to be one). The subject matter is heavy, yes, but it doesn't get dark or depressing. The writers inject a lightness into its scripts so viewers don't go there. While cancer is definitely a main part of the series, it's also about family and friendship and love, just with different kinds of obstacles in between.

But it's April's emotional and physical journey that will have viewers riveted. Anyone who has ever felt indestructable can relate, as will those who know what it's like to have the wind suddenly taken out of their sails. But it's how you bounce back, that strength of the human spirit. That's how "Chasing Life" will win audiences over.

"Chasing Life" premieres Tuesday, June 10 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC Spark in Canada and ABC Family in the U.S.

Loading Slideshow...
  • 'Extant'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Wednesday, July 9 at 9 p.m. ET on Global/CBS <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> The premise is so insane we have to watch it. Halle Berry plays an astronaut who's been out in space for 13 months and somehow she comes home pregnant. How did it happen?! Also, it's Halle Berry. C'mon.

  • 'Bachelor In Paradise'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Monday, August 4 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> This 'Bachelor' spinoff brings us back to the days of 'Temptation Island.' This series consists of six episodes featuring a bunch of singles on a lusty, sexy island. We're sure they'll find the love they're looking for.

  • 'Derek'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Friday, May 30 at 12:01 a.m. on Netflix Canada/Netflix U.S. <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> In Season 1, we saw a whole new side to comedian Ricky Gervais. It was touching! Now we want more, and rumour has it the second season is even better than the first.

  • 'Big Brother 16'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Wednesday, June 25 at 8 p.m. on Global/CBS <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> The cast of 'Big Brother 15' (pictured here) was the most racist, disgusting reality show cast of all time -- and that's saying a lot. We basically want to watch just to see if that ante can be upped. Surely the new crop won't be as bad, right?

  • 'The Strain'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Sunday, July 30 at 10 p.m. ET on FX Canada/FX <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> This much-hyped show (shot entirely in Toronto) has some big names in it and behind it, including Corey Stoll (pictured, from "House Of Cards") and the horror man himself, Guillermo del Toro. When a mysterious illness breaks out in New York City (brace yourself, the premiere is a doozy), the CDC must do everything it can to stop it from spreading.

  • 'Halt And Catch Fire'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Sunday, June 1 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> Remember 'Hackers'? This new show has a touch of that. 'Halt And Catch Fire' takes us back to the '80s, when personal computers were still a new thing. It focuses on a group of people/tech whizzes who seek to take over the burgeoning industry. Hello, espionage!

  • 'Orange Is The New Black'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Friday, June 6 at 12:01 a.m. on Netflix Canada/Netflix U.S. <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> After 'OITNB' left us with that cliffhanger of Piper beating the crap out of Pennsatucky, how can we <em>not </em>salivate for Season 2?

  • 'The Quest'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Thursday, July 31 at 8 p.m. ET, ABC <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> From the producers of 'Lord Of The Rings' comes this out-there reality show, which pits people against medieval obstacles against a fantasy backdrop. Picture role-playing games in real life, with all the trimmings.

  • 'The Leftovers'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Sunday, June 29 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO Canada/HBO <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> Can't get enough of post-apocalyptia? Neither can we. Set post-Rapture, two percent of the population randomly ups and disappears. This show deals with the aftermath and the attempts by everyone else to cope.

  • 'Crossbones'

    <strong>Premieres:</strong> Friday, May 30 at 10 p.m. on Global/NBC <strong>Why We Wanna Watch:</strong> John Malkovich plays the pirate Blackbeard. We don't need to say anything else.

  • NEXT: Best/Worst Internet Speeds In Canada

  • WORST: Rogers

    Average download speed: 1.67 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 13: Bell Aliant - DSL

    Average download speed: 1.79 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 12: SaskTel

    Average download speed: 2.24 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 11: Allstream

    Average download speed: 2.52 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 10: Bell Canada - DSL

    Average download speed: 2.53 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 9: Telus

    Average download speed: 2.54 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 8: Distributel

    Average download speed: 2.73 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 7: TekSavvy

    Average download speed: 2.76 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 6: Eastlink

    Average download speed: 2.76 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 5: Cogeco

    Average download speed: 2.78 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 4: Videotron

    Average download speed: 2.82 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 3: Shaw

    Average download speed: 3.00 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • 2: Bell Aliant - fiber optic

    Average download speed: 3.10 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • BEST: Bell Canada - fiber optic

    Average download speed: 3.19 Mbps Source: <a href="http://ispspeedindex.netflix.com/canada">Netflix Canada ISP Speed Index</a>

  • NEXT: TITLES YOU CAN'T GET ON CANADIAN NETFLIX

  • 30 Rock

    *This list of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/09/06/netflix-canada-best-movies-tv-shows_n_3882581.html" target="_blank">titles available on U.S. Netflix but not in Canada</a> is based on data from early September 2013.

  • A Fish Called Wanda

  • Ally McBeal

  • An Inconvenient Truth

  • Apocalypse Now

  • Bad Boys II

    Seriously?!? You give us the original and not the sequel?

  • Being John Malkovich

  • Beverly Hills Cop

  • Bottle Rocket

  • Breakfast at Tiffany's

  • Capote

  • Cheers

  • Conan the Destroyer

  • Days of Thunder

  • Desperate Housewives

  • Do the Right Thing

  • Downfall

  • Dr. No

  • Drive

  • Elegy

  • Everybody Loves Raymond

  • Face Off

  • Family Ties

  • Felicity

  • Flashpoint

    Irony...

 

Follow Denette Wilford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DenetteWilford

FOLLOW ENTERTAINMENT