One of the most anticipated Canadian shows on the fall television schedule is CBC’s This Life. From the moment the show was announced, along with its very familiar Canadian cast–headed up by Torri Higginson (Stargate: Atlantis)–we were looking forward to checking out this adaptation of the Radio-Canada drama Nouvelle adresse. Now that we’ve gotten our hands on some advanced screeners we find that we’re unable to get enough of the family drama, and are eagerly anticipating what’s in store for the Lawson family during the first season, which premieres Monday, October 5 at 9 p.m. on CBC.
The 10-part series will follow single mom and lifestyle columnist Natalie (Higginson) after she receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer, and show viewers how she and her family prepare for her death. We get a chance to not only meet Natalie, but also her parents (Peter MacNeill and Janet-Laine Green), two brothers (Rick Roberts and Kristopher Turner) and sister (Lauren Lee Smith), and her three teenage children.
Now, if you’re thinking that watching a show about cancer sounds depressing and that you’ll take a pass we’re here to tell you why you should reconsider and tune in. This show is realistic and just as with life, there’s both high and low moments, but we think viewers will find themselves heavily invested in the lives of the Lawson family. In fact, we’ve even went ahead and compiled a list of seven reasons you will want to watch This Life.
As we mentioned, there’s some pretty familiar Canadian names in this cast and it all starts with Higginson as the lead. She’s got a heavy burden to carry here because if the audience can’t relate and quickly become attached to Natalie, then they aren’t going to want to go on this journey with her. However, Higginson immediately pulls you in as a viewer and we found it hard to look away from her at times. You feel every emotion she’s going through right along with her. She’s relatable, honest and someone we easily became invested in and care about learning how things go for her in the future. That’s all due to Higginson and her strong performance.
Talented Supporting Cast
Just because we went and singled Higginson out doesn’t mean the rest of the cast isn’t pretty great in their own right. We found Lauren Lee Smith to be especially compelling as Natalie’s younger sister Maggie, who could be forced to grow up in a lot of ways given that the big sister she’s always relied on may not be around long. Smith and Higginson have a nice, sisterly rapport that gives way to some of the lighter, more relatable familial moments on the show. Saving Hope vet Turner is also great as the quiet and somewhat mysterious, younger brother Oliver who’s got us eager to learn more about what he’s hiding. Shawn Doyle also appears as Natalie’s love interest, and he makes it easy to see why she’s so interested in her daughters’ principal. All in all, from top to bottom, the cast of This Life is very strong and we find it hard to name a weak link.
Realistic Family Drama
Despite cancer being the center of the show, at its core, This Life is about one thing: family. The Lawsons are a family with problems just like the rest of us: relationship issues, teenagers who aren’t performing well at school, estranged relationships between adult children and their parents. These are real problems that we all face with our own families, but just like in life, while families may face issues, they all love each other deeply and that love drives the Lawsons to look out for one another. We suspect many viewers who have been missing the Braverman clan ever since Parenthood went off the air are going to love discovering the Lawsons.
Teenagers that aren’t annoying
So many times teenage characters on television can be annoying, or worse yet, one of the things that drives you to absolutely hate your favorite show. (Yes, I’m looking at you Kim Bauer from 24 and Dana Brody from Homeland!) Thankfully the same cannot be said for Natalie’s three children played by James Wotherspoon, Stephanie Janusauskas (who bears a striking resemblance to a young Sutton Foster) and Julia Scarlett Dan. These teens are each given their own, unique story with their own set of problems to face and each of these young actors does a great job at coming across like real teens. Now that’s not to say you won’t get annoyed or irritated by some of their behaviours, because after all, these are teenagers we’re talking about!
It’s a good cry
So you’re probably thinking how is the fact that you’re guaranteed to have a cry most weeks while watching This Life a good reason to tune in? Well we don’t know about you but it can feel therapeutic to have a good cry every once and awhile, right? The dearly departed Parenthood taught many viewers just that, and the thing is, we’re betting that viewers will latch onto the Lawsons so much so that these cries can be over good times just as easily as they can be sad ones. Regardless, here’s your warning: watch This Life with a box of Kleenex nearby.
It’s not depressing
Yes, we just told you to watch with the Kleenex handy, but just because This Life is a show about cancer doesn’t mean it’s depressing to watch. Natalie has cancer and that part is awful. While This Life doesn’t sugar coat how horrible what she’s going through is, it’s not melodramatic or over the top. It’s realistic, but at the same time there are moments, when Natalie’s family is rallying around her and supporting her, that show viewers that even though Natalie has a right to be terrified about her future, there are still plenty of things to be happy about as well.
It’s surprisingly funny
Again, when one thinks “show about cancer,” they don’t immediately think they’ll be enjoying some laughs through it as well. However, This Life is surprisingly funny. This is a family that loves each other deeply, which means they also know how to have fun with one another and you’ll easily find yourself laughing right along with them. The characters, Smith’s Maggie in particular, also get themselves in some very awkward situations that lead to laughs.
Have we done enough to convince you to tune into This Life? If you do, make sure you stop back and let us know your thought and what you enjoyed about the show in the comments section below.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.