Can ABC's Family's 'Chasing Life' Sustain Its Own Premise? The Cancer Drama Faces Criticisms
With all the buzz surrounding The Fault in Our Stars, it's a bit strange that there's another cancer drama heading our way this summer. The newest ABC Family drama Chasing Life premieres on June 10, and the concept has people talking. According to Deadline, Chasing Life , based on the Mexican series Terminales, is about an aspiring newspaper reporter named April (Italia Ricci) who struggles to balance her family, love and work life. Just when things are finally going great for April, she gets the devastating news that she has cancer. The premise of Chasing Life is intriguing — we're only in the pilot and already the stakes are life or death — but the potentially short-term premise has also made ABC Family fans skeptical about whether this show can really sustain such a heavy premise.
April's biggest fear — what fuels all of the action in the series — is that she will die of cancer. We, as the audience, know that she can't actually die of cancer — at least, not yet. The series already has a 20-episode order from ABC Family, so we're it for the long haul. Where will the story go if we know that April will be okay by the end of every episode? Though Chasing Life was based on the Mexican format Terminales, the show was only a 13 episodes series, making it difficult to show the path that Chasing Life could take in future episodes. Luckily, there is a show that we've seen work with this premise: Showtime's The Big C did the serial cancer drama right and Chasing Life could do well if it took notes from that series.
Like Chasing Life, The Big C begins with the protagonist — in Showtime's case that protagonist was Laura Linney's Cathy — being diagnosed with cancer and keeping it a secret from her friends and family. It wasn't long before Cathy's diagnosis began affecting the way in which she lived her life — Cathy decided that if she was going to die sooner than she'd like, she was going to live on her own terms. Each episode of The Big C showcased how Cathy planned to live life differently, but it wasn't the only thing that kept this show fresh all the way through. The show, which lasted 40 episodes over the course of four seasons, was able to stretch the premise — and keep the stakes high — by focusing on how Cathy's health also affected those around her. At its core, The Big C was a family dramedy; though the cancer was the catalyst for the events within the show, it wasn't the only focal point of the story. The Big C also made a point to examine the lives of Cathy's misguided husband, her children, and even the other cancer patients whom she interacted with.
It also helped that The Big C didn't take everything so seriously. Yes, cancer is a heavy subject, but a show about cancer doesn't always have to be.
Mild spoilers for The Big C ahead.
Another thing that The Big C had going for it? The writers weren't afraid to stick to their endgame for the series. The Big C knew that setting up their story as a cancer dramedy had to have the characters face certain realities of the illness. Had Cathy gone into remission, the show would lose what sparked the characters in the first place — and it wouldn't tell the story that it had set out to tell. The last four episodes of the series — the shortened fourth season titled The Big C: The Hereafter — showed Cathy tying up the lose ends of her life, making peace with her death, and eventually succumbing to her disease.
If Chasing Life lasts, it's going to need to make a decision about what to do with its main character, something that most shows don't need to decide right away. It will be a challenge to keep audiences interested when the main story won't resolve itself until the very end of the series, but as we saw with The Big C, strong storytelling can make it possible.
Chasing Life premieres on ABC Family on June 10 at 9 PM.
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