Cancer is funny…at least it is in Laura Linney’s new show on Showtime, THE BIG C. Linney (You Can Count On Me) plays Cathy, a high school teacher that’s diagnosed with incurable melanoma. Funny, huh? Well, throw in a boyish husband (the fantastic Oliver Platt, so, so love him!) and a truly bratty son (Gabriel Basso) and you have an interesting premise for a show – mainly because Cathy chooses (at least for now) not to tell her immediate family of her diagnosis. This makes the audience believe she is brave in the face of adversity….or maybe just stupid?
Here’s the thing – Linney’s performance is as magnificent as you think it should be, but after viewing the first show it is unclear how Linney can sustain her character’s newfound bravery and not continue to make the other characters on the show seem really out of touch.
It is an interesting choice on the writers’ part to create a story arc of internal conflict. It’s difficult and is probably the reason they have to come up with more “brave” actions to demonstrate Cathy’s new attitude, e.g. giving her student Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe) a good talking to after arriving late to class. Unfortunately, Andrea’s dialogue is lacking in depth, making her for the most part, a bit too cliché.
The pacing is great for a half-hour show. Lots of information is given in a non-expository way, and Cathy’s crazy brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) could pan out to be the most interesting and the most comedic. Even though Oliver Platt’s biting into an onion as an attempt for reconciliation is pretty hilarious…and touching.
Tuning in again won’t be hard. Although classified as a comedy, the show has a lot of dramatic push, particularly when you take into account the subject matter. But it’s the extraordinary performances that allow THE BIG C to occupy a slot at the top.