I started watching Chasing Life when it premiered about three weeks ago and I decided to reserve comments about the show until I watched at least three episodes. The show's overbearing simplicity and two-dimensionality makes it very difficult for me to critically review. On the one hand, I do not think that chasing life is a bad show, and I think that the show is made for a specific niche of fans that would appreciate it. On the other hand, for a show that professes to explore a very difficult subject area, as cancer, they do not do a very good job at understanding and expressing its intricacies.
Chasing Life is a television show that follows the life of April Carver played by Italia Ricci, an ambitious reporter at the fictional newspaper, The Boston Post, who is at the climax of her youth. It follows her life in relation to that of her family, which consists of her insecure mother played by Mary Page Keller, her enthusiastic grandmother played by Rebecca Schull, her rebellious teenage sister played by Haley Ramm, and her very witty best friend played by Aisha Dee. Her boss is finally noticing April at work, and she met another reporter, Dominic, played by Richard Brancatisano, who becomes her love interest. So, the television show increases the stakes for April because her life is finally falling into place, until she finds out that she has cancer.
The problem with this show is that it is not really about a climatic young adult who has and is living with cancer. Rather, it is about a climatic young adult who happens to have cancer. You many not understand the difference, but there is a difference between the two themes that changes the quality of the show dramatically, with the former being the better storyline. So, if one assumes that April does not have cancer, that is if one is to deny that the main character has cancer, it does not change the present plotline in anyway, apart from those moments were there is a biological and medical manifestation of her leukemia, where the audience sees her bleeding through her gum or her nose. So, her life is exactly the same, she just happens to have cancer.
Getting the news about the caner does not fundamentally change the direction that the character would/should have gone had she not had cancer. However, it is just the third episode and so, maybe, the writers are just a bit slow at establishing a concrete direction for the plot. But, the problem might also lie in the fact that after three episodes, we do not know anything about April. The show touches on everyone's life but her own and so even if there is a fundamental change in the direction of the character, the viewers would be unable to decipher that change.
The show also possesses all the melodramatic subplots that we can expect from ABC Family. The problem with these exaggerated and overwhelming subplots is that the show would have benefited from purely refined simplicity. I am not saying that the show should narrowly focus on April or that the plotline should be completely centered around her, but if the viewers are going to root for her, we must, at the very least, know what we are rooting for. The show is going to ultimately collapse under the weight of its subplots and the poorly flushed out plot of the show would end up undermining the main character, even though they have nothing to do with the main character. It is as though the writers did not have enough confidence in themselves and their storyline, and this shows in the way that the various characters ultimately express the storyline.
There are two characters however, who I think have shown some depth and that is Kieran played by Augusto Aguilera, who is Brenna's-- April's sister -- love interest and Leo played by Scott Michael Foster, who I anticipate is going to be another love interest for April. These two characters barely have any screen time but, in my opinion, they have shown more depth than every other character on the show. Kieran is someone that you would characterize as a misfit, that could easily be misjudged, but he turns out to have more depth than you would originally think he has. Leo on the other hand can easily be dismissed as the arrogant and spoilt son of a politician, but I anticipate that the direction of his character would turn out to be more complex than that.
I am not saying that these are the most three-dimensional characters that have ever been explored on television, but in the context of the, quite frankly, very bland storyline and its other two-dimensional characters, they are my favourite characters. However, I also have to commend April's best friend, Beth, I love the subtle, post-modern feminist twist to her character, it is actually quite impressive.
I am not trying to prematurely dismiss the main character April, the other characters on the show, and the plotline itself, which I think has a lot of potential. Like I said in the beginning, it has only been three episodes and the writers of the show might end up surprising us. I think that April is just going through denial and her character might end up making the much-needed and complex transformation from a character who happens to have cancer to a character who has, is living with, and dealing with cancer.
Maybe April would become a character with more depth, one that we can finally cry with, laugh with, love with, and root for, but as for now, she is not there yet and neither is the show. But please, by all means, check out the show, because as I previously asserted, it has potential, and so, we can continue to tolerate its already collapsing storyline. Maybe it would make a drastic turn for the better in its following episodes or maybe it would continue to lead itself, to its own demise.
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