It's the elephant in the room on Chasing Life and so many other TV shows, movies, novels and plays: Is the character with cancer going to die? Showrunner Patrick Sean Smith admits he had the same question when he was first approached to join the ABC Family drama (Tuesdays, 9/8c) about a young journalist April Carver (Italia Ricci) who learns that she has cancer. "One of my first reactions was, 'Well, how do you keep this show going?' For me, the show is about how her life has changed forever and that can go in to the series finale where she survives it or she doesn't,'" he told TVGuide.com last month.
But while it will presumably be a long time before April's fate is known, we decided to look back at previous small screen portrayals of cancer to asses just how much of a fighting chance April has.
It's no coincidence that the family drama's fourth season drew its highest viewership and a mountain of critical acclaim. That's when beloved wife, mom and sister-in-law Kristina (Monica Potter) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Everything from her shocking diagnosis to the beginning of her chemotherapy (and her subsequent hair loss) was documented. However, no moment gripped the show's loyal fans more than when Kristina went into septic shock and nearly died in the Christmas episode. Thankfully, she slowly recovered and eventually learned she was cancer-free.
The Big C
The Showtime comedy depicted a fortysomething woman battling terminal melanoma through experimental treatments and intensive chemotherapy as she adjusts her attitude and lifestyle to the possibility that she may not live much longer. Although Cathy (Laura Linney) enjoyed periods of remission from her illness, the title of the abbreviated fourth and final season — Hereafter — pretty much spelled out her sad fate. Cathy died at home in the series finale shortly after stopping her treatments.
Brothers & Sisters
Like Parenthood, this family drama chose Season 4 to hit main character Kitty (Calista Flockhart) with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She started chemotherapy treatments soon after, but learned midway through the season that they were not working and that her cancer had advanced — something that she hid from her family until she fainted at her brother's wedding. Thanks to the help of her reluctant half brother, Kitty eventually underwent a successful bone marrow transplant.
The whole reason Walter White (Bryan Cranston) needed to start making meth in the first place was to find a way to pay to treat his Stage IIIA lung cancer. Over the course of the show, the focus rightfully shifted from his treatments to the dangerous and illegal methods he employed to pay for them. Walt went into remission in Season 2, but his cancer later came back with a vengeance — so much so that Walt had to have a lung removed. Although it seemed cancer would eventually take his life, his drug dealing ways caught up with him, and it was a bullet wound that ultimately took his life.
To say the ladies of Wisteria Lane were put through the wringer during the ABC soap's eight-season run would be a huge understatement, but few story lines were quite as grounded and heartbreaking as Lynette's (Felicity Huffman) battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma at the end of Season 3 and through Season 4. Thanks to the show's unique sense of humor (hello, pot brownies!), Lynette's illness was just as comedic as it was dramatic. And like every seemingly earth-shattering plot point on the show, it was swept under the rug just as abruptly as it was introduced, thanks to a devastating tornado and devilish stepdaughter.
No illness hit the acerbic, antisocial doc harder than his BFF's stage II thymoma diagnosis in the final episodes of the series' run. After all, Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) played the Watson to House's Sherlock Holmes. After an unsuccessful first round, Wilson opted to stop his intensive chemotherapy so as to enjoy the rest of his life. Ever the loyal companion, House faked his own death in order to have the freedom to spend the last five months of Wilson's life doing whatever he wanted. The two were last seen riding on motorcycles into the sunset with some serious scruff.
Prognosis: Technically unknown, but ... negative.
Sex and the City
When Samantha (Kim Cattrall) decided to get a boob job in Season 6, she hit an unexpected snag: her doctor found a lump in her breast. The HBO comedy handled her breast cancer, which included draining chemotherapy, hair loss and hot flashes, with the same candor and comedy that the groundbreaking series used to deal with sex and relationships. The story line also gave new emotional layers to the normally unflappable publicist. Although the series finale did not address whether her treatments were successful, the 2008 Sex and the City movie revealed Samantha to be perfectly healthy.
Chasing Life airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC Family. What do you think will happen to April?