June 18, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Chasing Life”


CHASING LIFE:  Tuesday 9PM on ABCFamily

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on CHASING LIFE:  Very inconveniently, 24-year old aspiring Boston reporter April Carver (Italia Ricci) has just been diagnosed with leukemia.  The timing couldn’t be worse, not because she’s afraid for her life–April more or less tosses that concern off–but because she’s just started dating hunky reporter Dominic (Richard Brancatisano), her boss (Vondie Curtis-Hall) has made her a regular staff member on the paper, and her mother Sara (Mary Page Keller), sister Brenna (Haley Ramm), and best friend Beth (Aisha Dee) are having all sorts of dating and other personal issues, which stops April short any time she considers telling one of them about her illness.  Even worse, April’s cancer was diagnosed by her uncle George (Steven Weber), whom the family blames for deserting them (for Doctors Without Borders) after driving the car in the accident that killed April’s father, and now she has him back in her life.  The pilot ended with April meeting a stranger at the cemetery who was leaving flowers at the grave of her father–who turned out to be April’s father.

Episode 2:  At least by the conclusion of Chasing Life‘s second hour, April had finally told someone about her diagnosis.  Unfortunately, it was her idiot friend Beth, who apparently lives in a sitcom, so she spent the rest of the episode spouting anti-cancer health tips from an app she’d downloaded.  The rest of episode 2 was even worse, as the script by series creators Susanna Fogel and Joni Lefkowitz introduced a variety of new supporting characters, each one less believable than the last.  There was April’s hot new work colleague, Raquel (Shi Ne Nielson), who barely waited a commercial break to stab April in the back after having introduced herself by swearing that she wasn’t one of those women who try to undercut her fellow reporters.  Then we met the bad-boy son of the gubernatorial candidate April will be writing about, and the cute tattoo-art gallery boy for Brenna (he seemed to have wandered in from an episode of 90210), and let’s not forget the eccentric, dour guy (he writes miserable online reviews of restaurants and other merchants who offend him), who Dominic for some reason has as a roommate, although Dominic appears to be 30 years old and is a supposed star on the newspaper.

In short, the arrival of Patrick Sean Smith as showrunner of Chasing Life alongside Fogel and Lefkowitz wasn’t promising at all.  The clock has just about run out on cutesy misunderstandings about April’s cancer (an entire scene was spent on Rachel being afraid that she’d drunkenly told Dominic about her disease, only to realize that the “condition” he was talking about was her hangover), and on April coming up with reasons not to tell her family or employer that she’s sick.  The episode didn’t even do anything with the pilot’s last-second revelation about her father’s secret family, just a botched farcial foot-race that ended with April short of breath.  (Director Norman Buckley couldn’t make that, or anything else in the episode, convincing.)

Chasing Life had an underwhelming debut in the ratings last week, losing more than half its Pretty Little Liars lead-in with a 0.5 (and doing no better in ABCFamily’s targeted young women demos).  Based on the quality of the episodes so far, there’s no reason to expect any improvement.  Despite a likable lead in Ricci, the series is painfully ill-written, and rather than feeling compassion for or getting inspiration from its protagonist, one can hardly muster more than frustration and impatience.  What Chasing Life needs to be pursuing, as quickly as possible, is a decent script.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  The Diagnosis Is Terminal

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."