One of Showtime's most unique series is The Big C, a comedy/drama about a woman with terminal cancer. Most shows with this type of theme would be doomed not to succeed with audiences, but this show has a secret weapon and her name is Laura Linney. Linney manages to infuse her character of Cathy Jamison with such courage and bravado that you fight her fight alongside her.
Somehow this series also manages to balance the drama and the comedy, a feat that is not easily accomplished. Crazy things happen to Cathy as she tries to live her life to the fullest. This season, season 3 for the series, appears to deal with Cathy's hope for more time. She is in an innovative new cancer program that has shown promising results. Cathy hopes this buys her more time and allows her to help make her son Adam's (Gabriel Basso) life more secure.
Since Cathy's husband Paul (Oliver Platt) has major heart problems Cathy turns to her brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey). She wants him to be responsible for Adam should anything happen to her and Paul. This is a desperate ploy as Sean is barely able to take care of himself, much less anyone else.
All of these problems are acted out with emotion and enthusiasm by a first rate cast. The other shining star besides Linney is Gabourey Sidibe who plays Andrea, a student who is living with the Jamisons. Andrea has rediscovered her black roots this season and is celebrating them. She wants others to join in the party. Sidibe projects such a likeable quality that you cannot take your eyes off her when she is in a scene. As good as the rest of the cast is, it is Sidibe alone who can match Linney scene for scene.
The Big C is not a show where you are assured Cathy will beat this disease. Nothing is ever certain as to how the disease will progress and how Cathy will be affected. All of the characters are fluid and just when you are the least bit relaxed something traumatic occurs, such as Paul's heart attack at the end of last season. This keeps the viewers on edge as they wait for the next jolt in the story.
Linney is the star of the show and the focal point of each episode. She is such a natural actress that you are pulled into Cathy's problems without putting up much of a fight. Linney makes this character amusing but heartbreaking. Cathy's cancer diagnosis was overwhelming to her but she is coping as best she can. This display of courage makes audiences root for her in any and all situations.
Some people will not watch this show because of the subject matter, and they will lose out for not getting involved in one of the most upbeat shows on television. The Big C makes us laugh, and it also makes us think. It raises questions about mortality, morality and religion. The emphasis is on the questions and not the answers and that makes a big difference.
The new season of The Big C premieres Sunday, April 8 at 9:30PM on Showtime.
Jackie K Cooper