Friday, July 20, 2012

The Big C [television review]

Premise: Laura Linney plays Cathy Jamison, a reserved middle-aged schoolteacher who develops a new outlook on life after being diagnosed with melanoma.
I can't remember the last time I did a 180 on a show as severely as I have with The Big C, which premiered in the summer of 2010, just finished airing its third season last month, and whose fate for season four is currently undecided. Two great leads in Linney and Oliver Platt (so good on the sadly missed Huff) were able to transcend some of the half hour show's overly whimsical writing that reached unintentionally comical levels during the final scene in season one and only went further downhill from that point. The progressive self-involvement and selfishness of Linney's character, even as someone dealing with cancer, had become insufferable by the conclusion of season three. Platt has held his own and deserves recognition for being the only regular character on the show not to have managed to alienate me.
An annoying core supporting cast is made up of Gabriel Basso as Cathy's sullen son, John Benjamin Hickey as her homeless brother whose mental illness is played for wacky laughs, and Precious' Gabourey Sidibe, all whose presence just add further points to The Big C's "reasons not to watch" column. Sidibe's role as a sassy black woman trying not to be defined by her plus size was expanded as the series went on, and involved some of the laziest writing I've seen this side of most of the episodes from the last season of The Walking Dead. The writers laughably shoehorned her in as a new resident at Cathy's house, seemingly just to get her more screen time, while a too-painful-to-watch story arc this past season has seen her getting in touch with her African roots, further cementing her stature for me as the most annoying character I've seen on TV in recent memory.
The Big C relies a fair bit on guest appearances from well-known actors that usually extend over multiple episodes, with decidedly mixed results. Less successful turns have come from Liam Neeson, Victor Garber, Susan Sarandon, and Parker Posey, while decent-to-good appearances were delivered by Alan Alda, The Wire's Idris Elba, and Sex And The City's Cynthia Nixon.
No amount of outside talent being brought in can distract from the fact that The Big C has squandered a promising premise and the talents of two highly capable lead actors with inept writing and poor support help. The show's ratings, which have declined significantly since a record-setting debut, suggest I'm not alone in my disappointment and dissatisfaction.
Rating: D


  1. I agree with most of what you wrote. After such a great start what a disappointment. And that Precious woman is truly awful-she's doomed to being typecast with obese sassy African American parts the rest of her life (and that's coming from a female African American).

    1. Ouch! That's a tad more blunt about her than I was, but okay.

      Thanks for commenting, Cyrine.


Leave a comment...