A comedy in which the lead character has terminal cancer is a bit of a tough sell. I wasn’t originally going to watch it because I just didn’t think I could deal with that kind of storyline week after week. I was persuaded to give it a try and was very glad I did.
Cathy has been given a year to live, there aren’t any viable treatment options. She has an eternally young at heart husband, a surly teenage son, a brother who’s so anti-establishment he voluntarily lives on the streets, and a classroom full of disconnected students and she chooses to tell none of them about her diagnosis. The only people she confides in are her surly elderly neighbour and of course her doctor, a young oncologist for whom she is his first terminal case.
The show isn’t about death, it’s about life. It sounds very trite, but it is really, really true. Cathy has accepted her diagnosis and taken it as a kick in the arse to her seemingly unremarkable life. She doesn’t tell her family and friends because she doesn’t want to deal with their reactions, and she’s decided to make her remaining time about what SHE wants. It’s utterly selfish and the enthusiasm with which she attacks the situation is hugely entertaining.
Laura Linney is the centre, heart and soul of this show. She is utterly wonderful in a way that I just can’t really explain. Every single week she makes me laugh and cry, and somehow between her and the writers they’ve managed to make me laugh at the sad bits and cry at the happy bits.
I wish I could tell you more about why it works, but I’m not sure I can find the words without completely spoiling what happens, and half of the joy of the show comes from the gradual change in your reaction from “I can’t believe they’d do that” to understanding that it’s EXACTLY what the characters would do, what I would do, or maybe just what I hope I would do. I beg of you, just listen to my advice and seek out this show, you will not be sorry.
The Big C season 1 is available for 16quid (at time of writing) on Amazon.
Other Reviews – both for the end of season, so please don’t click on the links and be spoiled.
TV Squad (the link is to the spoilery review of the season finale) – It’s been a tumultuous 13 episodes, full of heartbreak, hilarity and ridiculously hot guest stars (Idris Elba and Liam Neeson? What did we do to deserve this?), but over the course of the past few months, ‘The Big C’ has quietly, confidently developed into one of the most satisfying — and undeniably addictive — new shows of the year.
CliqueClack – If you haven’t watched ‘The Big C’, you have missed a spectacular season full of confusing emotions on a tough subject tackled with superb acting and realistic characters. Catch up!