Cable Operators

Review: Showtime's 'The Big C'

8/15/2010 7:01 AM Eastern

Showtime continues its penchant for dramas
featuring family-oriented characters in complicated,
less than ideal situations with The Big C.
The series stars Laura Linney as Cathy Jamison, a
repressed, do-gooder suburban Minnesota housewife
whose world is turned upside down when she
learns that she has
terminal cancer.

She chooses to
keep the news from
those closest to her,
including her estranged,
immature
husband Paul (Oliver
Platt), her obnoxious
son Adam
(Gabriel Basso) and
her strange, homeless
environmentalactivist
brother
Sean (John Benjamin
Hickey) as she
attempts to deal
with the prognosis
that’s given her
very little time left.

Throughout the
pilot episode, Linney effectively portrays the range
of emotions and atypical actions Jamison’s character
goes through as she deals with her cancer diagnosis,
from deciding to build a pool on the lawn of her
house to help relive memorable times in her childhood,
to berating a curmudgeonly neighbor who
never speaks to her and complains about the pool’s
construction, to punking her prankish son in order to
set him straight.

As a summer-school teacher, Jamison also decides
to try to better the life of overweight, angry
student Andrea, played by Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).
Jamison challenges Andrea to quit smoking
and vows to give her $100 for every pound she
drops.
The only person that knows of Jamison’s plight is
the young and attractive Doctor Todd (Reid Scott),
who serves as both Jamison’s physician and her
sounding board, and who himself is dealing with
consulting and comforting his first cancer patient.
He initially deflects Jamison’s inquiries about her
physical and emotional treatment by handing her
standard cancer pamphlets and brochures, but toward
the end of the pilot becomes a comforting and
nurturing confidant to Jamison.

It’s hard not to root for Jamison as she begins to
navigate her life with cancer and her decision not
to treat the disease with chemotherapy. The key for
the series is to continue to play out the complexity
of Jamison’s character — complete with all the emotional
and behavioral ups and downs that someone
in that situation will ultimately experience — and resist
the temptation of making her a one-dimensional
superwoman that bravely fights the disease without
any vulnerabilities.
The pilot will leave viewers wanting to tune in to
future episodes to follow Jamison’s plight, which is
always a good sign for a new series. Showtime’s The
Big C
could become a big hit for the pay service.

The Big C premieres Aug. 16 at 10:30 p.m. on Showtime.

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