Summer Preview: "The Big C"
I was intending on giving you a sneak peek into season two of Showtime's The Big C. That was before I actually screened it and lost the plot a bit. So this isn't going to be that type of column, folks, and for that, I do apologize.
It didn't hit me until I popped that disc into my DVD player, but I'm probably not the person who should've screened this show for you. Not when I'm going through my own health crisis. But while that made me lose focus when it came to the specifics of the season premiere, it gave me a sharper one when it came to what the show as a whole is actually made of.
Unlike series heroine Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney, who from what I watched is totally worthy of the Golden Globe she won for the first season), I don't have cancer. I do have a condition for which there is no cure, and many of the things that have been done in the name of improving my quality of life have actually made it worse. I get up every morning and hope that I can come through the day just a little better than before. In that sense, I can personally attest that The Big C gets it right when it comes to what one goes through in that place, mentally and emotionally. Yes, it's a really lousy situation, and it can become very bleak - which is exactly why you have to find some hope and humor, or you won't like where you end up. I've been there.
That makes me really "get" and appreciate Cathy's character. I haven't made quite the reckless choices that she has but I understand them completely; knowing that I'm not supposed to be typing this column right now, I've always lived my life with that attitude, for better or for worse. She's a realistic, human character, in ways that are both good and bad. Most importantly, she's not looking to be pitied. That depth of character doesn't just stop with Cathy, though - I also can identify with her husband Paul (Oliver Platt, whom I still associate with the previous Showtime series Huff). I haven't had anyone doting on me, but when my friends are in trouble, I'm that person. I'm the one who can be a little overly concerned...again, probably because I'm always subconsciously aware of my own fragility of life, but that's another story. The point is, The Big C's characters feel like real people and while that's always what I want to see on television, it means even more when dealing with a sensitive subject.
Which brings me to another aspect of this show that I like. Having read about it when it first premiered, I saw a lot of comments from people who believe there's nothing funny about cancer. While I respect the intent of their statements, I think they're missing the point of this show a little bit. The comedic element of the show isn't making fun of cancer or those who have it. It's finding the humor in the situation. As a writer, I know there has to be humor somewhere, or it would be one heavy show to watch. As someone with health issues, though, I grasp it completely. I learned to laugh at myself at a young age, and I still do, even as my health declines. I certainly don't want to be sitting back feeling sorry for myself all day, every day - and there's humor out there. I might not be able to walk much anymore, but I get great parking. Humor lends a certain amount of relief and perspective, and having it in this show didn't bother me at all.
I might not be able to recount the specifics of season two, readers, but I can say this: The Big C is a show that gets the fundamental things right. These are well-drawn characters handling a tough situation and all that comes of it in ways that I can say are authentic. And for that alone, I recommend you check it out. Ask yourself what you would do in Cathy's situation. You might be surprised.
Season two of The Big C premieres tonight on Showtime at 10:30 ET/PT.