After months of advertisements, Showtime’s latest controversial comedy “The Big C” premiered on Monday night. It was blessed with a lead-in by the already established “Weeds,” which kicked off season number 6. The show centers on the effects that cancer can have on a person’s body, their mind, their family, and their spirit. Laura Linney stars as Cathy, a woman who’s trying to deal with a deadly diagnosis, while getting her life back in order. Was it funny, was it sad, was it bad? The reviews are in and here’s what the critics had to say…

The Premise:

Linney stars as Cathy Jamison, a teacher with an immature husband (played by Oliver Platt), a homeless brother, a spoiled son, and oh yes, stage 4 melanoma. After she’s diagnosed, Cathy takes a non-hysterical view of her situation, noting “We’re all dying, all of us… If you think about it that way, hey, I’m living the dream,” and chooses not to tell anyone about her condition. Instead, she embarks on a journey to discover herself and live life to the fullest. [WSJ]

Cathy – The Protagonist

Cathy’s modest conception of throwing caution to the winds mirrors the strengths of The Big C, which is affecting precisely because of its refusal to assume epic proportions. Laura Linney plays Cathy not as a spit-in-the-face-of-death emotional Amazon but as a woman whose confrontation with her mortality has triggered unexpected and sometimes unwelcome introspection. She broods painfully about her dubious parenting skills, wonders wistfully if men ever found her sexy. And the newfound sense of grim humor that helps her cope is built on a perilously shaky foundation. “I’m warning you that this laughter might turn into a sob in a second,” she says. [Miami Herald]

The Supporting Cast:

Cathy’s brother (played by John Benjamin Hickey), who has made himself voluntarily homeless and yells profanities at people in parking lots, manages to be both unlikable and a poor sounding board for Cathy to reveal herself. A crusty neighbor named Marlene (Phyllis Somerville) despises Cathy so much, they are bound to become close friends by the end of the season. By the way, nobody on this show sounds even vaguely Minnesotan – why not set the show in Connecticut, where it was actually filmed? [KansasCityStar]

The Big Problem with The Big C

My big problem with The Big C concerns a crucial decision the show made for the early episodes: Cathy declines to tell those closest to her that she has cancer. While this is one of the many different reactions people have to such a diagnosis in real life, in a comedy-drama like this, it makes everyone around her seem a bit dim. Surely her surly teen son (Gabriel Basso) and the assiduously wacky ex-husband must think something’s causing Cathy’s abrupt change in behavior, no? I mean, why would a woman who’s spent her life being a cautious neatnik suddenly insist that her entire backyard be dug up to make way for a large in-ground swimming pool? But no, everyone around Cathy just comes off as a self-absorbed dope. [EW]


But, in general, there’s a pat, familiar quirkiness to “The Big C” that keeps you at a remove from it, and too many easy appeals to your emotions. At the end of one episode, Ingrid Michaelson’s sad-wise ballad of loss, “Keep Breathing,” plays, and if it rings a bell that’s because it was also used at the end of an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” when a character was left at the altar. You could put that song at the end of an episode of “I Love Lucy” and it would make you weep. Still, with Linney at the heart of “The Big C,” there’s reason to think that the series will improve. [The New Yorker]

There you have it. If you were able to watch last night’s premiere put in your two cents and tell us what you thought of it below in the comments section.