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TV Review: The Big C

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The Big C debuted a couple of weeks ago on Showtime, and is definitely a new show that is worth watching.

Laura Linney plays school teacher Cathy Jamison. Cathy has just found out that she has a terminal stage four melanoma. Upon hearing the news, her attitude about things going on in her life adjusts almost immediately.

She has a lazy and immature husband (Oliver Platt) and a beyond bratty son (Gabriel Basso). Cathy also deals with her willingly homeless brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), whose lifestyle takes activism to a whole new level. Cathy also has a neighbor Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), who we meet in the first episode after complaining about Cathy installing a pool in her front yard.

Rounding out the cast are guest stars Reid Scott and Gabourey Sidibe, who play Dr. Todd and Andrea. Dr. Todd is the doctor who informed Cathy about her diagnosis, and is also somewhat holding her hand through her situation. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he looks like he stepped off the set of Grey’s Anatomy.

Andrea is a student in Cathy’s summer school class who is in need of an attitude adjustment. Cathy tells her, “You can’t be fat and mean, Andrea. You can either be fat and joyous or a skinny bitch. It’s up to you.” That is definitely one of the best lines from the show so far, and it also leads to a wager between the two characters. Cathy tells Andrea that she will give her $100 for every pound she loses.

The writing on The Big C is superb. The dialogue between the characters is entertaining.There have been some great quotable one-liners like, “Cancer sucks. Put that on a goddamn inspirational poster!”

I find that with a show with an important topic like cancer, good writing is very important, because it helps keep the show flowing, keeps it interesting, and most importantly, it captures the emotions that Cathy is experiencing.

I like the dynamic between Cathy and her brother Sean. They bicker back and forth a little bit, which is fairly amusing. We get to find out more about Cathy’s demeanor when Sean fires back at her when they banter about how she acted when they were younger. My favorite line so far from Sean was from the first episode where he told Cathy, “You’re getting your weird back, Sis.”

I also like the dynamic between Cathy and her neighbor Marlene. They definitely got off on the wrong foot, but there’s a mutual respect that their new friendship is building on. Their interaction throughout the season should be interesting, especially since Marlene and her dog know that she has cancer.

There have been a couple scenarios on the show that I haven’t felt were very believable, like in the second episode where Cathy uses a paintball gun to shoot at a bus that was taking her son to soccer camp. Also Sean, who chooses to be homeless, has a girlfriend. I find it hard to believe that as a homeless guy he would be able to charm his way into a girl’s pants, let alone have an actual relationship with one. His girlfriend is quirky, which sort of makes them fit, but so far I don’t buy it.

Another thing, one has to wonder how long a series can last when the main character has a terminal disease and is, as of now, refusing treatment. Cathy has not been told that she a certain amount of time left, but I think it definitely leaves the door open for her to change her mind about treatment, as well as talking to her family about what she is going through.

That said, The Big C definitely shows promise of being a very entertaining series. There’s great casting and the dialogue between the characters is fun and witty. I am definitely excited to see where the series takes Cathy and this group of characters throughout the remaining episodes of the season.

The Big C airs Monday nights on Showtime at 10:30 p.m.

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.
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