5 Reasons You Should Be Watching ABC Family's Cancer Drama Chasing Life


There was once a time when ABC Family was known for cheesy made-for-TV movies, annual holiday events like the 13 Days of Halloween, and little else. But since the premiere of college drama Greek in 2007, the network has evolved into a home for quality original programming, with a slate that features charming, well-written family dramas that aren't afraid to explore topical (albeit sometimes unconventional) subjects that most other networks avoid. Yes, Pretty Little Liars gets most of the network's buzz, but series like Switched at Birth and The Fosters consistently push the envelope with meaningful and captivating storylines that thankfully involve exactly zero vampires, werewolves, witches, or superheroes. 

ABC Family's latest entry in this category is Chasing Life which chronicles the very real ups and downs of an ambitious young journalist—and 24-year-old cancer patient—named April Carver (Italia Ricci, who looks like the doppelgänger of both Shiri Appleby and Nina Dobrev). April discovers she has cancer at the very young age of 24. As HBO's The Leftovers can probably attest, it's hard to sell people on shows that sound super depressing, so you're forgiven if you saw the word "cancer" in Chasing Life's logline and decided to watch something else. But Chasing Life is far from depressing; in fact, it's proven itself to be an enjoyable, uplifting series about the challenges of growing up in a less-than-perfect world. If you passed on the show when it first premiered in June, I highly recommend you catch up in time for the mid-season finale on Tuesday, August 12. And here are five reasons why:


1. It's realistic, not melodramatic fiction

Very few TV series are courageous enough to make cancer a part of their premise. In addition to Chasing Life, I can count The Big CBreaking Bad (don't forget that cancer was the entire reason Walt started making meth!), and the forthcoming Fox dramedy Red Band Society. While it's certainly not uncommon for shows to incorporate a cancer storyline in an effort to add drama—consider Parenthood's emotionally draining Season 4 arc involving Kristina's diagnosis—it's rare for a series to concentrate on the disease. 

What makes Chasing Life special is that it isn't in the business of manipulating your emotions. It's a showcase of how one woman's journey through pain and suffering puts her on a path to discovering who she is and what she wants to be. For some people, cancer is a death sentence, but for others, it's what pushes them to start living their lives. Through April's eyes—the eyes of a woman who's suddenly facing her own mortality when she's barely had the chance to explore life's greatest gifts—Chasing Life portrays the frightening journey of a cancer patient as realistically as possible, from April's initial terror upon hearing her diagnosis to her fear of telling her loved ones to her anxiety over her unknown future and beyond.


2. It features strong role models

April is one of the most levelheaded young female protagonists to grace TV in some time; in fact, she's the perfect foil to the four frustrating women at the heart of Chasing Life's lead-in on ABC Family's schedule, Pretty Little Liars. While some TV characters simply react to what's happening around them or rely on others to save them/fight their battles, April proves that it's possible to be proactive about getting what you want while still remaining sympathetic. For example, in the middle of Season 1, after learning that her chemotherapy might render her infertile, she arranges to see a fertility doctor to discuss her options even though it requires delaying her treatment against her family's wishes. She remains strong in her convictions while also maintaining her likability as a lead character, something we rarely see on TV these days, and for reasons I cannot explain.


3. Parents are people too!

Chasing Life leaves no stone unturned as it explores the way April's illness affects both her home life and her work life—including the strain it puts on her various friendships and relationships. The series is an all-inclusive family drama that doesn't stop when April goes home to the Beacon Hill brownstone she shares with her mother, sister, and grandmother. April's family is comprised of fully fleshed-out individuals who believably exist in April's life; they're not just there to check off the "adult characters" requirement. In fact, during the recent Television Critics Association summer press tour, Steven Weber, who plays April's uncle George as well as her doctor, cited the adult characters as a reason he was drawn to the project: "This show does a great job of giving older actors great roles to play, especially in a genre that you would say is almost—I wouldn't say fixated on younger people, but there are older people out there who exist in these younger people's lives and they're very prominent in this story," he said. In that vein, April's mother Sarah (Mary Page Keller) is a therapist who feels helpless in the wake of April's diagnosis. Like any parent would in her situation, she struggles to find answers, and Chasing Life doesn't shy away from her grief as it dissects how the prospect of losing her daughter affects Sarah's life as well.


4. Scott Michael Foster

If you ever watched ABC Family's Greek, then you're already familiar with Scott Michael Foster's talents and understand why I'm singling him out. The actor's innate charm and excellent line delivery brought humor and depth to Greek's Cappie, an otherwise immature slacker dude whose sole direction in life pointed him only toward the nearest keg. On Chasing Life, Foster brings the same charismatic warmth to Leo Hendrie, the only son of Boston gubernatorial candidate Bruce Hendie and a member of April's cancer support group. Diagnosed with a brain tumor, Leo has only three to four months to live, which allows him to appreciate every moment he has left while teaching April to do the same. Plus, he's cute. And I mean really cute. 


5. There's plenty of humor to go with the serious subject matter

Perhaps the greatest thing about Chasing Life is that, even though April's cancer produces plenty of thoughtful and heavy story material, the series doesn't mine it in every scene. Despite the seriousness of the situation at hand, the series contains an awful lot of humor. Much of the credit goes to Chasing Life's supporting characters, including April's best friend Beth (Aisha Dee), a straight shooter with great physical comedy skills, and Graham (Rob Kerkovich), the roommate of April's love interest Dominic (Richard Brancatisano) who really, really hates kale and will tell you all about it if you give him the chance. 

However, it must be said that Beth is much more than comic relief. Her greatest asset isn't her Australian accent or the fact that she can perfectly deliver a zinger, but her relationship with April, and by association April's sister Brenna (Haley Ramm). Her interactions with both girls feel completely realistic, like a valued personal connection truly exists between the characters. Beth is exactly the type of person you want on your side during a difficult journey, because she'll listen, offer helpful advice, and then make you laugh when you need it most.  


Chasing Life airs Tuesdays at 9pm on ABC Family.


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Aug 06, 2014
I love this show so much! I hope it's renewed, because there's much to tell about April after she starts the chemo next week. I agree with every one of your motives.
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Aug 06, 2014
Thank you Kaitlin! Just started to see the show after reading this. Best choice of the summer.
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Aug 06, 2014
Watching a Cancer Drama on ABC Family is like Watching Porn Rented from an LDS Movie Store or reading this inane review of this inane show.
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Aug 05, 2014
Yes! I am loving this show!
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Aug 05, 2014
Yup...I've seen that ABC Family's original programming can be hit or miss at times, but they've been doing much better lately ("Switched At Birth", "Melissa & Joey", "Baby Daddy", "Young & Hungry"...), and "Chasing Life" is no exception. I'm loving it, and I'm just sad that the mid-season finale is so close. *LOL* I think it's the only show I'm willing to DVR "Dance Moms" for! Great story, characters, and acting. Hehehe! And I'll admit to a teeny tiny 100% straight girl crush on Italia Ricci! ;)
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Aug 13, 2014
I tuned in to Young and Hungry because of the word hungry, it turn out to be a good show. Not as great as TBBT or HIMYM..but okay.

So I think I'll check this show out.


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Aug 06, 2014
Switched at Birth, Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, are hits, Twisted, Bunheads, the Lying Game were quite good as well but axed, as for Melissa $Joey Baby Daddy Young and Hungry were misses for me!! never gave Chasing Life a shot , which is a surprise since I love ABCF probably because I have seen this subject manner in most of my shows granted not the entire season, but several episodes arc!! now Showtime's Big C was good in the beginning but lost direction very quickly

some more quality ABCF shows LINCOLN HEIGHTS WILDFIRE FALCON BEACH but I think that was a Canadian show!! not mocking the Canadians they have lots of good shows CONTINUUM BITTEN LOST GIRL MOTIVE that I watch
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Aug 06, 2014
Waitttt... twisted was cancelled? It was terrible and I couldn't get into it and gave up after like 5 episodes but I wanted to know why he killed that lady.. His aunt or whoever.
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Aug 05, 2014
As a 9 year cancer ovarian cancer patient - not 9 years old, 9 year patient - I started watching to see how the show handled the cancer - both for the patient, the doctor, family and friends.. and I've found that it shows the heart-wrenching parts of cancer and the different ways that people approach their diagnosis. I do love the humor - laughter is so very important, it shows life continues even when things look dark. Looking forward to seeing how April, etal handles chemo. love the show.... even though I'm not part of the demographics they're looking for.
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Aug 05, 2014
The show has turned out to be much better than I initially expected. It has definitely been enjoyable to watch. And I would pause my binge watching of Teen Wolf to watch it so I must be enjoying it. :)
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Aug 05, 2014
I have seen the trailer and a few of her pics and can honestly say that she doesn't resemble the gorgeous Nina Dobrev much. Maybe the hair confuses you.
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Aug 05, 2014
I loved The BIg C. Have not watched this one. Not sure if I am going to start having so much on my plate already.
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Aug 05, 2014
It's a good show.I originally want going to watch but..
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Aug 05, 2014
Damn it! Pretty Little Liars, Faking It, Switched at Birth and Awkward! - I started watching all of them because of recommendations on this site and now this! As if the list of shows I watch isn't long enough already. Damn you Kaitlin and your excellent recommendations, you should keep the good shows to yourself and leave us with Under the Dome and Working the Engels.
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Aug 05, 2014
May I add The Fosters too. Its a very good show.
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Aug 05, 2014
It wasn't for me, The Fosters, but you can add any show you like, my friend!
I suppose Twisted should probably on the list too.
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Staff
Aug 05, 2014
Feel free to skip Twisted.
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Aug 05, 2014
The first 10 eps of Twisted were quite good. Lets not talk about 1B.
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Aug 05, 2014
Too late, I've already wasted my time on that one! Was it ever renewed or cancelled?
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Aug 05, 2014
For some people, cancer is a death sentence, but for others, it's what pushes them to start living their lives.

Very true!

I miss Greek - That is also true!
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Aug 05, 2014
"There was once a time when ABC Family was known for cheesy made-for-TV movies, annual holiday events like the 13 Days of Halloween, and little else."

The Middleman!

"But since the premiere of college drama Greek in 2007, the network has evolved into a home for quality original programming."

The Middleman!
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Aug 05, 2014
Why didn't Matt Keeslar ever find another role that great on another show after these ABC imbeciles canceled this, a truly great superhero show? Natalie Morales and Britt Morgan were also so good in it and the best part, Mary Pat Gleasen. Every episode had the Wilson scream somewhere in some manner - that may have been the coolest part. They keep pumping money into that dog show 'S.H.I.E.L.D' which hasn't touched the quality of any of the 8 episodes that aired of 'The Middleman'. See, anyone mentions this show or this network and it stirs that anger I felt when they canceled a show that was that good in the middle of its first season. 'Middleman' premiered after 'Greek' and was better than 'Greek' and that didn't mean a damn thing.


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Aug 05, 2014
Fair point!
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Aug 05, 2014
I adore this vibrant new show and am glad that it's getting some love from TV.com now too!
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Aug 05, 2014
Could be interesting, but I have enough cancer stories in my family, so wouldnt want to see anymore of it on TV :(

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Aug 05, 2014
In this day and age, I'm not sure there's a person alive who hasn't been touched by cancer in some way. I've lost several people to it, and in a way, I think this series helps by at least giving a voice to those people. Try it out. You might like it.
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Aug 05, 2014
One of my favorite shows this summer and very sad the finale is coming up.
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Aug 05, 2014
I love this show!
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Aug 05, 2014
i've watched it from the beginning and have thoroughly enjoyed it, and Scott Michael Foster is pretty dreamy
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Aug 05, 2014
I would add Rose Byrne to the doppelgänger list for Italia Ricci.
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Aug 05, 2014
Where are you going to find the episodes if you want to catch up?
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Aug 05, 2014
It's on ABC Spark here in Canada and while the website has full episodes on some shows, not this one, unfortunately.
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Aug 05, 2014
There were these guys - liked to sunk ships, lived in the Caribbean, can't remember how they were called. Oh, well...
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Aug 05, 2014
You can always check out our Episode Guides for shows, they'll have information on where to watch episodes.
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Aug 05, 2014
you can go to ABCFamily.com. also depending on which cable provider you have you can watch them ondemand.
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Aug 05, 2014
Saw first three episodes and basically gave up on it, as April's character and her denial of her situation annoyed me. I then decided to watch the fourth episode and it sort of redeemed itself. I think that continuing to watch has made me like the characters more, but it's still not guaranteed I'll stick with it or continue into another season.

I do think that it is a better, or perhaps a more focused, show than Bunheads was.

I did not recognize Scott Michael Foster at first due to the haircut, which he kept long in Greek and that Zero Hour series. He actually looks taller now.

Is it me or does April's friend, Beth, keep losing her accent? I rarely hear the Australian in it. Maybe it's been watered down over time or something?

It was nice to see a kind of Wings reunion. I wonder when Weber and Schull last worked with each other, let alone saw each other. My only issue is I think Weber was a wrong choice in this. He just does not seem to believable, or look much like, a family member. It's odd that a pivotal character is a guest star too.

Also, don't forget the mystery of the half sister.

I watch Switched at Birth and The Foster, but SAB is really flawed. The character of Daphne is written all over the place, they should have maintained her and her mother being on opposite sides of the tracks instead of moving in with Daphne's bio-family, and then there are the back and forth, sometimes forced relationships just to generate drama rather than be realistic.

The Fosters is fine, but also not perfect. The coolest thing was bringing Bailey Madison and Maia Mitchell together, as I first thought Mitchell was Madison suddenly grown up for a moment when the show started.
More+
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Aug 05, 2014
Bailey Madison and Maia Mitchell was really perfect casting. It shows the show runner care a lot about the show.
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Aug 05, 2014
I would really like to know the behind the scenes aspect of this. Did the two know each other? Did they occasionally get confused for one another? Did the producers notice the similarities and luckily had the idea of them being half sisters and get lucky casting Madison? It's interesting.

Also, Madison was on Wizards of Waverly Place when she temporarily replaced Jake Austin as Max after he turned into a girl, so maybe there was a connection there.
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Aug 05, 2014
You could just goggle their names and there are lots of news about them. They did get mistaken for each other before. There were many rumors about them being related but they are NOT. The only connection I think is they were both from Disney shows before. Click on the link below for more.

Are they related?
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Aug 07, 2014
I knew they were not related, but should have known I wasn't the only one wondering about how much they looked like each other. I normally don't have patience or time to Google search stuff like that. Thanks.
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Aug 05, 2014
I love this show. It's awesome.

Also if they ever decide to do April's flashbacks - they can just hire Nina Dobrev :)
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Aug 05, 2014
meh, I'll stick with my boycott to not watch anything but comedies on ABC Family. Bunheads' cancellation still burns. and even their better comedies get cancelled.. basically I don't have much trust in ABC Family.
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Aug 05, 2014
This is becoming one of my favourite shows, it's absolutely lovely.. I think we could sell it more with a community and reviews :) *hint hint*
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Aug 05, 2014
Kaitlin just one problem... It has no DOME ;)
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Aug 05, 2014
I totally agree about #4!! Leo is very charming and charismatic♡♡♡♡
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Aug 05, 2014
This is the only show that I'm watching on ABC Family. I saw a trailer for it, decided to check it out and got hooked. They handle the cancer story well. I love the family dynamic and the supporting characters are also interesting, especially Beth and Greer. I am hoping that this show will get a second season *crossedfingers*
And I would like to add 2 more reasons:
6. Brenna & Greer
7. Beth Kingston
Well, for me at least :P
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Aug 05, 2014
I wish I could have fit in more about Brenna. Her character surprises me each and every week, and isn't at all what I thought she'd be in the beginning.
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Aug 05, 2014
I only need one reason to not watch and that is cancer. if I needed more it being on abc family would also be a reason. cool that I see whats her face from wings in that photo though.
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Aug 05, 2014
I'm watching this show and enjoying it because of Leo reasons, and also the interesting supporting characters (Danny at her office, her cancer support group, etc). But time does move very weirdly on the show. Its, what, 6 episodes in now and its still only been about 2 weeks since April was diagnosed in the pilot, but she and Dominic have gotten together and broken up already. In the meantime Brenna has also gotten together with Kieran (sort of) and Greer.
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Aug 05, 2014
I caught it and have stuck with it since the beginning. I agree with all points made. I rarely watch ABC Family Shows (in fact I watch no ABC Family Shows except for this one), but it manages to be a bright, pleasant show to watch while still handling the seriousness of the issue well.
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Aug 05, 2014
if you likes this show than you really need to watch Switched at Birth & Fosters.
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Aug 05, 2014
I wouldn't be able to watch a show like this,it hits too close to home for me.
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Aug 05, 2014
There is enough bad news in the world , why make a TV show about more?? TV is meant to entertain , I don't see that here.
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Aug 05, 2014
This comment has been removed.
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Staff
Aug 05, 2014
Something can be entertaining even if it's not always joyous.
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Aug 05, 2014
One really good reason not to watch consists of just one word: BUNHEADS! Screw you ABC Family--YOU SUCK.
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Aug 05, 2014
Plz stop reminding me
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Aug 05, 2014
Sorry, it just won't go away, and I hate ABC Family for it. Hurtz Doughnut?
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Aug 05, 2014
I caught the pilot. It was entertaining and I liked most of the characters but there were like 100 storylines happening at the same time so it was tough to really get into, however I've been meaning to return to it for awhile now. Good to know it's gotten better.
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