ABC Family seems to program primarily two types of dramas: Heartfelt family drama (“The Fosters,” “Switched at Birth”) and out-and-out soaps (“Pretty Little Liars,” “Twisted”).
The network’s latest, “Chasing Life” (9 tonight), starts in the former category but inches ever closer to the latter by the key, closing seconds of its absurd premiere episode.
Twentysomething April (Italia Ricci) works for a Boston newspaper as a “floater” – in episode two it’s explained that she’s an intern – and although “Chasing Life” purports to present her as driven and good at her job, some of her tactics are suspect (she crashes a charity event, even pretending to be a volunteer, in an attempt to land an interview).
The depiction of her newspaper workplace is fairly laughable, from the newspaper’s policies (interns aren’t allowed to write stories, evidently, and April has to give her notes to a staffer, something more common at magazines) to the editor’s attitude (“You’re not totally illiterate,” he says by way of a compliment), little of it rings true to life.
If April’s work world is silly, her home life is uninvolving because it’s barely sketched out and seems like an afterthought. She has a troublemaking sister (Haley Ramm) and a mom (Mary Page Keller) who has just started dating again after April’s dad died. The family shuns April’s doctor uncle (Steven Weber), who gives her the cancer diagnosis that informs the show’s title.
Yes, April has leukemia, but she can’t bring herself to share this with anyone in the pilot. And while such a diagnosis should feel important, the show undermines this potential drama by the way April mostly treats it as a hassle she’d rather put off until later.
While her reaction may be somewhat natural, coupled with all the show’s trappings of soapy drama – will April go on a date with the paper’s arts reporter? – and especially the big reveal in the closing scene, there’s little sense of urgency in “Chasing Life” beyond its title.
A version of this review first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.