Tube Talk: ABC Family’s ‘Chasing Life’ — making cancer relatable

By Paula Hendrickson
Contributing Writer

It’s not easy to make cancer funny, or even entertaining, but ABC Family’s new drama, Chasing Life, is certainly making it relatable.

Anyone who’s had cancer or who’s had a loved receive the dreaded diagnosis knows how scary it can be, especially at first when there are so many unknowns — the exact type of cancer, what stage it’s at, the prognosis, and what treatments might entail. But there can be lighter moments, too. Finding humor in difficult situations is a way many of us cope, and for some people, a cancer diagnosis brings with it a newfound joy for life.

Judging from its first episode, Chasing Life will do all of the above.

The series stars Canadian actress Italia Ricci as April Carver, a novice reporter coping with family issues while working hard to get her first big break. The only problem is opportunity knocks at the same time she finds out she has leukemia, which is also the same night as her first date with a cute guy she really likes, and when her younger sister spirals out of control. Again.

Turns out cancer is just one of April’s many problems. Another one? Figuring out how to tell her family, friends and the co-workers who rely on her so much.

I hope people won’t get turned off by a show focused on someone with cancer, assuming it will be depressing. Sure, Breaking Bad used Walt’s lung cancer as the impetus for his new career as a drug kingpin, but The Big C balanced the horrible aspects of cancer with wit and humor. If Chasing Life heads in the direction it seems to be aiming for, it might even help break stereotypes of what a cancer patient is.

Too often, a TV series will give a main character cancer to give the actor a juicy, Emmy-baiting story arc. Typically, it either results in a full recovery or a dramatic exit for said actor. What few series do is show characters who deal with their diagnosis, treatment and recovery while managing to live their lives as fully and well as possible. They tend to gloss over the fact that millions of people are actively living with cancer.

April Carver isn’t going to be depicted as a victim of cancer. Her illness is just one facet of an interesting character I think many viewers will want to know better.

Programming note

Chasing Life premieres Tuesday, June 10, at 8 p.m. Central on ABC Family.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to

Posted June 4, 2014

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