During this week’s premiere episode of Chasing Life, we meet April and everyone in April’s life as she learns she has cancer.
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Somebody Call 911
As the show opens, we see our hero — an ambitious, beautiful April Carver — run to get into a very long line at a fictional Boston hospital. It’s for a blood drive for charity. But it ain’t really for charity, ya feel me? The line consists of members of the press trying to score an interview with a hotshot baseball player who has probably doped up. Naturally.
Of course, our hero shows she isn’t particularly heroic by sneaking in anyway she can get into this thing because she wants the story for her newspaper job at the fictional Boston Post. (A quick Google check: there actually was a Boston Post, but it closed in 1956.) Finally, April reluctantly relents by visiting her estranged Uncle George, an oncologist at the hospital. Convenient? Probably, but it’s sort of essential to the whole premise that she gets blood work done, so lay off, okay?
After some maneuvering, she donates blood and tries to charm the baseball player — Richie Miranda — into giving up the goods. Hilariously, when she asks if she is a reporter, she freezes. The jig is up and April passes out. But it’s not because she was clever enough to do so…
Because famous famous baseball players have a lot of time on their hands and like pesky little reporters, he waits around for her to wake up and grants her an interview for the Post.
A meeting at the Boston Post introduces us to April’s job, which is arguably the thing she cares most about. There’s her hardass bossman, a stickler for punctuality, but he’s flexible if you have a story. April may have scored the interview, but seniority gets to write the article. But who cares about that? Let’s meet the recurring cast. We meet her snobby and snarky co-worker Danny and a sexy senior entertainment reporter Dominic. Dominic is the love interest and his personality reflects as such.
I just want to pause and say that Chasing Life has no idea how a newspaper really runs. This is okay. There are bigger inconsistencies.
Like when April walks behind the counter of a coffee shop where her friend Beth works. Beth, by the way, is Australian and she runs the shop. In Boston. I get that ABC Family really likes the actress and I’m forever grateful I don’t have to hear a botched American accent (Phoebe Tonkin and I have issues), but come on.
Oh, and Uncle George calls. April ignores him.
After a long day of work and talking about her love life, April returns home to her grandmother, widowed mother Sara and rebellious sister Brenna. Everyone is on some kind of iPad, iPhone, iComputer instead of looking or addressing one another. So it accurately captures real life. But we’re about to get into boring, awkward territory. Sara joined an online dating community and her daughters fight over who will take the profile picture. It’s as uncomfortable to watch as it sounds.
The day in the life of April Carver continues with her date with Dominic. Prepare shipper names for these two because he’s part of the main cast. Dominic comments about how April won’t let him open the door for her, buy her beer or be a gentleman, to which April responds it’s no big deal. She’s a feminist. She says the f-word; I already love her. Plus, April says, it’s only dollar beer night. Dollar. Beer. Night. That sound you just heard was me packing my bags. I’m moving to this fictional part of Boston where this is a thing. Oh yeah — sparks fly between the two, inciting major kissage.
Everything is well and nice and looking up for April, and just as she is about to turn in, Uncle George shows up. After fighting, he drops the c-bomb: April has cancer.
I’m Shipping Up to Boston
April hasn’t exactly processed this, to say the least. She’s a little bit in shock, but really is more annoyed that her estranged uncle (who is implied to be responsible for her father’s death in a car accident) is giving her the news.
Later, he sneaks into her work to tell her exactly how much of a pickle April’s in. Without the proper tests, they can’t diagnose what type of leukemia it is. Of course, this conversation occurs in the staircase at her work, and when eavesdropped by Dominic, it sounds like the two are having an affair. If this show pulls this trope of accidentally overhearing important information every week, I’ll roll my eyes out of my head.
At work, though, April is getting the recognition for her initiative in the interview and is assigned an important real estate case. So professionally, all of that running around at the hospital paid off.
Also, I am really digging the Boston setting. Sure, they made up fictional places and institutions in Boston, but the landscape of Boston and the cobblestone set streets add something nice to the show. It bothers me a bit at how well-off the family is, but perhaps that will change when April’s medical bills come in.
Let Me Break It to You … Or Not
The rest of the pilot is April just trying to tell someone she has cancer. Of course, this will never work because she hasn’t even accepted it herself.
First, she tries to tell her mother, who is too jazzed about online dating to see that April is a little blue. Sara pretty much says that life is good, so she jinxed her entire family.
Next, she tries to tell her best friend, Aussie Beth. But Beth wants to go out and party and be a 20-something. So at the bar, they run into Dominic, who plays the hurt boyfriend card even though they went out on one date. He comes clean to April that he overheard her with her uncle, but she insists it is a misunderstanding. The fact that Dominic believes her — even if it is the truth — shows he’s not the best reporter. But hey, love interest!
During this, April’s needy and volatile little sister calls for help at a shady party in a shady part of Boston. April picks Brenna up (as a bunch of people photograph her practically passed out), takes care of her and covers for her. And Brenna remains so grateful. What will she ever do without April?
I’m beginning to think this nail they keep hitting over the head is actually going into a coffin.
Finally, all of this seems to sink in for April and she cries. She even visits her father at the cemetery, admitting the c-word. This should be the end to a messy but okay pilot, yet it is not. See, Chasing Life is an adaptation of a telenovela, so naturally it is a soapy show. Instead, the episode ends with April leaving the cemetery and running into a girl dropping off flowers for her father. April’s father.
They have the same father. April has a secret half-sister.
If I ignore this last beat of the pilot, I’d say the show’s messy and clunky. A lot of it is uncomfortable, sometimes even bad. But its heart is in the right place. It may hit you over the head with the fact that April is dying or has cancer — many jokes about that — but I am invested over whether she lives or not. Which is the whole point of the pilot.
- If you want a review, check that out here. I went easier in the review of the first three episodes than I did with this recap (because I’m enamored with the female-driven cast and female perspective), but I’ve also seen the first three episodes. And to use a well-known phrase for anyone suffering from anything but cancer: it gets better. A lot better, actually. So if you didn’t like the pilot but want to hang around, you should.
- The dozens of “death” jokes or foreshadowing was just a hair too much. Actually, about three hairs too much.
- Feminism is mentioned on the show — and also shown — and I really dig that. The 20-something female perspective for a cancer story is welcome in my book.
- Dark storylines should stay far away from the show. Sure, this is a show about cancer, but I could care less about Brenna’s voyage into shady Boston. Or the long-lost sister sub-plot.
- How uncomfortable was the “humor” in the bathroom when April got a nosebleed and the clubber assumed it’s drugs?
- I’m super excited to see a character like Danny on the show. I know a lot of really pretentious and snobby reporters/interns in college who were mostly harmless. This feels very true to me.
- I’m literally going to go see The Fault in our Stars tonight. ABC Family’s programming team is smart.
So what did you think of the premiere of Chasing Life? Do you feel invested in April and April’s Millennial woman story? Will you keep watching? Sound off in the comments below.
Chasing Life airs Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC Family.
(Image courtesy of ABC Family)