THE BIG C: “Cancer sucks. Put that on a goddamn inspirational poster.”
The Fall 2010 television season has been a bit disappointing. While a lot of my favorite returning shows are at the top of their games, most of the brand-new offerings have been either blah or cancelled. Amidst all the first season carnage, however, there is some quality with staying power. Case in point: Showtime’s The Big C. I watched the pilot months ago, but only recently caught up with the rest of the season. And I am so glad that I did. Laura Linney shines as Cathy Jamison, a woman who recently found out that she has cancer, Stage Four melanoma. This half-hour comedy (yes, it is a comedy … sort of) explores how Cathy deals with this news—from trying to build a pool in her yard, burning her couch, and paint-balling her son’s school-bus, to hiding the truth about her health from her family. Cathy’s immediate reactions to her illness veer towards the comedic, but Linney’s performance gives her character a genuine likability, and sense of grounded emotion, even when things get a bit over the top. Yes, cancer sucks, as Cathy herself notes, but one’s life is more complicated than the diagnosis of an oncologist. What does one do after getting a terminal diagnosis? What happens next? How does this news change how a woman-teacher-mother-wife-sister-neighbor-friend deals with the people in her life? Yes, the show is called The Big C, but it’s not about being sick; it’s about dealing with a complicated life, while being sick. How is cancer funny? Well, just like life is funny, with all its ups and downs.
For all its laughs and quirky characters (there are a lot of quirky characters), The Big C also remains honest emotionally. And honesty is not always pretty. Word of warning: this show is not an earnest Lifetime movie about how someone beat cancer, or a tale about the long-suffering sainthood of an ill woman. The Big C is dirty, messy, offensive, uncomfortable, awkward, heart-breaking, sexy, and sometimes hilarious. Warning for sensitive viewers or those with small children: it features mature content. (Including perhaps a little too much of John Benjamin Hickey’s naked butt. On the other hand, we get love scenes with Idris Elba to make up for the unnecessary butt-shots of Sean.) But you know what? Life is not PG either. Life is dirty, messy, offensive, uncomfortable, awkward, heart-breaking, sexy, and sometimes hilarious.
There are only two more episodes left of The Big C this season, so make sure to tune in. Episode 12, “Everything That Rises,” airs Monday, November 8th, at 10:30 p.m. ET/ PT, and is my favorite of the series so far. Cathy takes a road trip with her oncologist Dr. Todd Miller (Reid Scott ) to visit The Bee Man, played by Liam Neeson (whose voice is still as crush-worthy as when I first fell in love with it in high school). You won’t want to miss Liam Neeson’s voice (or the rest of him) and Canadian bee humor. Then, on Monday, November 15th, at 10:30 p.m. ET/ PT, the season finale airs: “Taking the Plunge.” And it’s a doozy. Make Rebecca’s patented “What the Hell” shots, and stock up on Kleenex.