What should feel like balance instead creates major tonal issues. I don’t know what to make of Chasing Life. Even the poster is confusing — I suppose it’s an update of the old saying: “When life gives you lemons, pile them into a coffin while you contemplate your cancer diagnosis” — and the show clumsily tries to provide both drama and comedy with poor results. Chasing Life doesn’t give us enough time to learn about April, the lead character, before throwing us into the lives of everyone else around her. The first three episodes are packed with overdone theatrics: her father died in a car crash, the anger between the family and the uncle who is secretly helping April, the mother’s online dating exploits, the best friend’s career quandary, the hierarchy and power struggles in the newsroom, and the younger sister’s trope-y teen rebellion. It collapses under the weight of its heavy plots.
At the end of the pilot comes a big twist that is meant to hook in the viewer, but it’s eye-roll-inducing and unnecessary. The hook — a young woman tries to accept her life-changing diagnosis while remaining headstrong — is already there. Everything additional feels desperate, as if the writers think the story isn’t strong enough to sustain a narrative on its own. This lack of confidence is evident throughout the episodes, and it’s disappointing because Chasing Life is very much a show that could continue to build ABC Family into a great network for teenage girls — we could certainly use one — but it’s not yet strong enough.