Showtime’s “The Big C” Premieres Tonight With Breasts Instead of Tears

By Fred Topel I know what you’re thinking. The Big C is about cancer and a woman dying of cancer so it’s going to be depressing and why would you want to watch a depressing cancer show? That’s exactly the kind of thinking The Big C is here to correct. Life is hard. Sad stuff happens and a better way to deal with it is to address it head on. Humor might be asking a little much of average everyday people but for entertainment it makes it even better.

But if you’re worried about the cancer show being a downer, rest assured that very little of this is about real life depression. Every character has a Hollywood quirk which is not realistic but very entertaining. Underneath all of that is the heart and the wish fulfillment of how we would act if there were no more consequences.

The show even starts out after the diagnosis. You don’t have to go through all the serious stuff Cathy (Laura Linney) would have gone through when she found out. We start when she’s already making changes to her life that will make her final days awesome. Cathy stands up to people, makes irrational purchases and teaches people valuable lessons. Not in a self-righteous way, in a cutting through the crap kind of way.

Linney looks fantastic. Maybe this is inappropriate given the subject matter, but her skimpy bathrobe is enticingly revealing. Her breast pops out twice in the first episode, once in a hospital gown so maybe that’ll make you uncomfortable. When it pops out again in the front yard, that’s hot. You even see nip that time. In episode two she poses naked in front of a stainless steel fridge. That is hot! And it’s tasteful. There are plenty of scenes where they could just show her full frontal but it’s classy.

I imagine by the fourth season Linney will have some cancer makeup so I’m really glad she gets to show off early. Most of her roles go out of their way to make her stringy and mousy. It’s the cancer show that makes her a sexpot? Well, I’ll take it.

The dialogue is clever. It’s snappy to get through establishing who characters are and what plot they’re trying to accomplish. In the most heated moments, they go with absurdity instead of heavy handed drama. Of course they can say the F word since it’s on Showtime.

The show’s addressing of non-cancer issues is sharp too. They have a point of view on extreme environmentalism, obesity and even general housekeeping. It’s real stuff, but with smarter dialogue and people who cut right to the issue instead of passive aggressively avoiding it.

I imagine I’m making this show sound wilder than it actually is. They make some extravagant gestures and do some big stunts, but nothing is outside the realms of possibility. It just feels like the ultimate potential for a human being dealing with a situation and pushing the boundaries of society’s comfort zone.

They had a cry moment at the end of the first episode. It’s still emotional but I buy it. Plus they maybe had to just show that in the premiere so you know it may go there sometimes. But then there’s a support group meeting later on which is so outrageous it’s practically a spoof. And it should be because there is something artificial about it, as much as it does ultimately help people. That episode also gives Linney an angry scene which is the other important end of sad drama.

Anyway, I’m really happy with this show. I can’t wait to see Cathy deal with this every week and getting to go through each minor catharsis without having to have cancer myself. Showtime has done it again.

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