One of the most refreshing new shows to hit the air this year comes from Showtime and it’s called “The Big C.” The “C” can stand for multiple things: Cathy, as in the show’s protagonist, cancer as in her illness, or comedy as in the way she chooses to confront the issue. Darlene Hunt is the show’s creator and a writer for the series, which features Oscar nominee Laura Linney in the lead role alongside an equally talented supporting cast.
“The Big C” sticks out among the onslaught of programs clogging up your TV schedule because of Hunt’s unique take and voice. She writes like no one else, and she isn’t afraid to take on something as serious and daunting as cancer and make it OK to laugh at. Not to diminish the struggle but to shed light on a different way that people can deal with it.
Hunt has a background as a writer, producer, and an actress so she’s pretty well rounded when it comes to the entertainment industry. Her television writing experience began almost 10 years ago when she noticed that she had a knack for coming up with nontraditional premises, which would foreshadow her creation of “The Big C.”
Hunt: I’ve been writing pilots since 2001, none of which have seen the light of day but I’ve made a pretty healthy living at just writing pilots. I pitched a show that was set in the waiting room of a hospital where a kind of nutty family reconnected. I really wanted to write it because it was loosely based on my childhood and it just really threw people. With the whole hospital aspect, the studio just couldn’t get around how that would be humorous.
It wasn’t until Hunt met up with producer Vivian Cannon that “The Big C” was born. She found a kindred spirit with her because she had a similar sense of humor and was ready to push the envelope.
Hunt: We were talking about ideas that we didn’t think anyone would ever buy and she said that it was time for a cancer comedy. Sometimes in this business it’s the power of numbers that helps get something sold and because she and I were both passionate about it the studio decided to take a chance.
When you write a show that centers on a terminal disease (emphasis on terminal) it doesn’t seem like the most attractive project for a network to pick up. In a way, the death sentence to the main character is a death sentence to the show. Therefore, Hunt did encounter some reservation from Showtime when she initially pitched the idea but they knew that they could take it on. They were just concerned about its longevity.
Hunt: I told them that we would make every season a “season.” Each TV season would be a season of Cathy’s life. So the first TV season would be summer, and a year later when we come back for season 2, that’s fall. So 6 TV seasons, which would be 6 years is really only 18 months of Cathy’s life.
Hunt is very aware of the innovations that are being made everyday in the fight to cure cancer. She can’t predict what strides doctors will make over the next several years or how they will fit into Cathy’s journey but one thing’s for sure: she knows how the show will end.
Hunt: There is a very specific ending that I’ve had in my mind that I’ve pitched to Showtime that I’ve always seen as the way that I want the show to end. But that being said, we’re trying to really stay true to the science and there are amazing things going on in melanoma research right now. The fact that this could potentially be a very curable disease, even at Stage 4 within a year, is really possible. So, we want to stay true to that too.
For those of you who are fans of “The Big C” and its official Facebook page, you’ll be pleased to know that Hunt frequents the site often and reads your comments. Everything you say counts. The powers that be are listening!
Hunt: I do stalk the Facebook Page a lot because only happy people go there. It’s really moving to see and hear people respond. We have a writers staff of people obviously writing episodes now but certainly the pilot and the tone I tried to set is very much my voice and I feel like I just finally found the proper channel for it.
“The Big C” is funny. “The Big C” is heartbreaking. “The Big C” is real. Hunt chose a lighter way to approach the show that’s been greatly influenced by the way she lives her own life.
Hunt: I have been on a quest to write a show that deals with a dark subject in a light way. I just think that’s kind of how I deal with life in general. I kind of have a cynical, dark point of view and really just thrive on jokes and comedy and seeking out laughter wherever I can.
Now without further ado, here’s what’s coming up for the characters on Season 2 of The Big C!
- Cathy: “I think we’ll get to see more of the nitty gritty of her attacking the cancer a little more head on. This season we were sort of playing with denial as far as in the stages of grief and now she’s going to be out of denial and really facing this thing.”
- Rebecca: “As far as some of the new people that you’ve met in the first season that you’ll see again, one of them is Cynthia Nixon. She showed up in episode 8 as an old college friend of Cathy’s. She’ll hopefully, God willing, be back in the second season and we’ll kind of see their friendship played out.”
- Adam (Gabriel Basso): “I can promise you by the end of the first season you get to see a big change in him especially in the finale that I wrote. I really hope that people who’ve gotten invested in these characters will feel like they’re seeing them grow and change in light of Cathy’s changes.”
- Lenny (Idris Elba): “We may have him back. He certainly has kind of a lot to do with the first season and complicates her relationship with her husband. I think we have him for 3 or 4 episodes for the first season.”
There you have it! Cathy’s life will get a lot more complicated and we’ll be there watching her every step of the way.
“The Big C” airs on Showtime Mondays at 10:30 PM. Don’t forget to watch the season finale on November 15th!