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Herc Says Showtime’s
THE BIG C Is Crap!!

I am – Hercules!!
A bad new Showtime sitcom with a bad case of the zanies, “The Big C” follows a high school teacher who learns she has maybe a year to live, then refuses to let her loved ones in on the diagnosis. It’s from writer-producers Darlene Hunt (“Will & Grace,” “90210”) and Jenny Bicks (“Sex and the City”), and stars the great Laura Linney (“You Can Count On Me,” “Love Actually,” “Kinsey,” “The Squid and the Whale,” “John Adams”) and the great Oliver Platt (“Funny Bones,” “Lake Placid,” “Kinsey,” “The West Wing,” “2012”). But Linney and Platt are wasted in a comedy clearly written by people who are neither funny nor handy with relatable characters. Adults say things to each other like “Because you say they’re ‘stinky poo-poo’!” If you’re gathering it’s nowhere near as funny or interesting as AMC’s “Breaking Bad” -- which also dealt with a high school teacher prompted by a cancer diagnosis to make some changes -- I’d say trust your instincts. It’s also not as funny (or moving) as something like “Terms of Endearment” or “St. Elsewhere” -- which in Dr. Daniel Auslander created a memorable regular character battling metastatic liver cancer from episode one. Stories like this were also handled much more entertainingly and relateably in the movies “My Life Without Me” and Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” (both of which I cannot recommend highly enough next time you’re hanging out on Netflix). The “Big C” pilot also loses points for poaching one of the best and most famous moments of “Reversal of Fortune,” a far superior enterprise. You can judge for yourself; Showtime long ago posted the first episode online: The Boston Herald says:
… The only way to describe “The Big C” is with a big ‘T.’ Trite. …
Entertainment Weekly says:
… there's no doubt that Linney is radiant in her role. She carries The Big C past many of its implausibilities and irritations. …
USA Today says:
… forced and faulty … Throw in a bit of nudity and a few masturbation and erection jokes and you have a show filled with annoying characters stumbling their way through ridiculously exaggerated situations. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… on paper, "The Big C" has a lot going on. Then the action starts and things get, well, Crazy. And not necessarily in a good way. … they jam early episodes with so many over-blown characters and wacky antics that it's impossible to attach meaning to any of them. Platt especially is almost criminally misused; as middle-aged wild child to Cathy's more orderly (read: controlling) adult, he wanders in and out of scenes like some infantile forest creature, defined only by wifely resentment, unrecognizable as an adult male (much less one who has, apparently, a job big enough to pay for the very nice house in suburban Connecticut). …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… its failure has nothing to do with being too dark and everything to do with being too light. Too light on character development. Too light in the gravitas department. Too light when it comes to setting the hook and making you want to stay and watch this series past the pilot. … Despite Linney's considerable charms, the role is too thin and unbelievable to fully tap her talent - and viewers will find little reason to root for her character.
The New York Times says:
… The Big C” works because most of the writing is strong and believable, and so is Ms. Linney, who rarely sounds a false note and here has perfect pitch. … It’s a credit to the actress, and the writers, that the weirder Cathy gets, the more likable she becomes.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… The pilot paints an entertaining portrait of the lead character while leaving supporting characters less defined. "The Big C" does not arrive with as sturdy a foundation as "Nurse Jackie," an unusually well-developed show from the get-go, but Ms. Linney completely inhabits a role that's recognizable as a woman who is strong and unusually selfless -- at least until her diagnosis. …
HitFix says:
… Her rationale - that if her loved ones found out, her relationships with them would change too much for her liking - makes sense for about a half-second, until it becomes clear that radically altering her behavior without telling anyone why is changing things just as much as, if not more than, the truth would. She wants to grow closer to her son, for instance, but her context-free clinginess only drives him away. But even if it’s a flimsy rationale, it still gives her license to act cuh-razy! She intentionally spills wine on her couch! She does carthweels in the hallway at school! She shoots at a school bus with a paintball rifle! She’s not yet as wacky as Sean - a save-the-planet activist who’s homeless, doesn’t bathe and only eats food that’s been thrown out or is about to be, and whose every scene carries with it the air of self-satisfied whimsy that unfortunately infects most cable comedies - but by the end of the summer, she may be close. And if the actress playing Cathy wasn’t as talented and committed as Laura Linney, “The Big C” might be unbearable. …
The Salt Lake Tribune says:
… an appealing premise for a series. But at the same time, Cathy has become so guarded with her condition (she hasn’t told anyone in her family about it), viewers rarely see beyond the façade she’s set up. That makes it difficult for anyone to embrace her journey. … Cathy would be an intolerable person to spend a half-hour with every week — if it weren’t for Linney’s vivacious, multidimensional performance in which she easily moves from strong-minded woman to vulnerable victim. …
The Washington Post says:
… beguiling … a darkly comical and affirming antidote to the pink-ribbon and yellow-bracelet platitudes that have defined the modern cancer experience. …
The Boston Globe says:
… Linney and this role were made for each other. There are a few problems with “The Big C.’’ Occasionally, the tone veers off course into forced comic absurdity, such as when Cathy’s young doctor tells her, “You have an awesome rack.’’ The character of Cathy’s brother, Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), is a TV-ized version of a homeless man — he’s more of an irritating performance artist than a street person. But my cavils are irrelevant in the face of Linney’s extraordinary work. …
The Wall Street Journal says:
… There can be something appealing about Cathy's acting out; say, after an encounter with relentlessly upbeat cancer-support-group members. But burning furniture you hate and yelling at people don't add up to much even in the hyped category of personal growth. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… Cathy is surrounded by characters, rather than people, and that's where the role begins to feel showoff-y. She's able to reduce them all into a type with a sharp comment yet remains unformed herself; the reasoning behind her refusal to share her diagnosis is hazy at best, for example. Such soft areas, and a feeling of forced quirkiness, keep "Big C" from being a Class A series. …
Variety says:
… Interesting in its conceit and watchable for what Linney brings to it, the show works too hard at whimsy. … "The Big C" gets an "E" for admirable effort but still feels like a squandered opportunity. Given the chance to explore what truly matters in life, the show ultimately provides little more than a showcase for a terrific actress, while treating death like the next slightly zany frontier.
10:30 p.m. Monday. Showtime.
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