Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Big C

Cancer is hardly the well-spring of good comedy. However, that's not stopping Showtime from giving it a go-around in its new dramedy The Big C, which premieres August 16, but for a short time, you can watch the pilot for free here: http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/07/watch_the_first_episode_of_the_4.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+nymag/vulture+(Vulture+-+nymag.com's+Entertainment+and+Culture+Blog)
If you do get the opportunity to see it, its got a lot of promise. Here's the basic premise: Cathy (Laura Linney), a suburban high school teacher, is given a fatal cancer diagnosis, and is now trying to enjoy her remaining time by living life her way. That means kicking out her childish husband (an excellent Oliver Platt), building a swimming pool in her backyard, and straightening up her equally childish teenage son. The story is enjoyable, though it could grow thin in the future if not presented will; it threatens at times to fall into sappy Lifetime territory instead of staying on its dark-humor-and-tough-sentimentality course established in the first episode.
Sidibe and Linney
The real joy of the show here, though, is Linney's performance. This really shouldn't come as a surprise, since Linney never disappoints. But she plays the newly-freed Cathy with such zest and heartbreak that's she impossible not to like here, even when she's exceptionally snippy. She finds a great foil in Gabourey Sidibe, who plays a bitchy student named Andrea. Sidibe follows up on the promise she showed in Precious with what looks to be a great character; in fact, the pilot's best scenes are the ones between Linney and Sidibe.
With The Big C, it looks like Showtime is building quite the reputation for being home to female-driven dramedies, building on its successes with Toni Collette's United States of Tara and Edie Falco's Nurse Jackie. These kinds of shows seem to be becoming the networks new model, which is probably necessary since the end of Dexter could be nigh. The Big C looks to be another great show, making me wish, even more than before, that I had Showtime. Curse you, low funds and basic cable!

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