Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Big C Returns: Final Season

I've only been an irregular viewer  (by choice) of The Big C, a Showtime made cable series I find too demanding to be included among my regular TV favorites.
Yes, I know Laura Linney is impressive, she always is. But facing her weekly bouts with cancer has sometimes been too much for me.
The New Yorker's Nancy Franklin has brilliantly made the point The Big C is another of those Showtime shows made for women who get themselves into troubling situations.
Included in Franklin's equation is Nurse Jackie with Edie Falco as a nurse who's also an addict.
And then there's Weeds with Mary-Ellen Parker which I found engaging at first and more lately completely off course.
The Big C revs up again Monday April 29 at 10  p.m. on Super Channel for its fourth and final season.
Once again I'm being challenged by brilliant writing and Linney's no-nonsense acting that takes me inside her character who is facing great battles with chemotherapy.
Linney brilliantly captures the nervous energy of a person perpetually living on the edge. The first new episode gets Cathy to bark up at a hamburger joint and have a diarrhea attack in her back yard in front of her astonished family.
We see her decide to resign her history teaching job at high school because she finds the teaching of mere facts to be a nuisance.
So she barricades herself in the high school office and goes on a rant on the P.A. system that surprises and delights the kids who have been doing badly on traditional tests because she hasn't been teaching the basics.
In fact almost everything about life makes her nervous in someway. There's the offhand way her primary chemo doctor (so well played by Alan Alda) treats her --but then he has hundreds of other patients to look after and he isn't feeling well himself.
Look, the acting is as usual exceptional. Oliver Platt as the pudgy husband is fine and so are John Benjamin Hickey as brother Sean, Gabriel Basso as Cathy's 16-year old son Sean, Gabourney Sidibe as college student Andrea and Liz Holtan as Paul's talkative and annoying assistant Amber.
Two new actors join up this season: Kathy Najimy as the no-nonsense therapist and Isaac Mizrahi appearing as himself --he'll be Andrea's mentor as she tries for design school.
And this is what really scares me about The Big C. I watched the first episode of this last season and can see how it is going to enfold.
There'll be no happy ending --there can't be.
Cathy is going through all the stages and will soon reach the final one: acceptance.
The laughter mixed with tears of the earlier years has gone.  Cathy knows everything now depends on timing which is why she quits teaching and must prepare her son's 16th birthday party to be a great blow out.
Death on TV? It happens every week on CSI and those other procedurals and I never feel a thing.
But the one death coming up on The Big C is different, it feels totally real which is why I'm so totally affected.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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