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Monday, August 23, 2010

The Big C premiere elicits a yawn

    It's hard to fairly judge a show by it's pilot.  I try not to, although if it has a really terrible pilot that I couldn't even sit through, then I don't expect subsequent episodes to be any better.  Showtime's new half hour offering, The Big C did not have a great pilot.  It was filled with cliches and trite dialogue.  However, I adore the lead, Laura Linney (John Adams), and the cast has plenty of other talent with Oliver Platt (The West Wing), John Benjamin Hickey, Reid Scott (My Boys), Gabriel Basso, Phyllis Somerville, and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).  Admittedly, many of those people have a limited career history, but each held their own in the first episode.

     The series involves Linney's character, Cathy, dealing with cancer.  It isn't a big reveal held to the end of episode one.  It's the title issue.  Of course, she goes a little bit crazy.  She breaks into a neighbor's house, has a giant pool dug in her tiny back yard, and cusses and bribes a student.  But we can forgive her because she might die, right?  Right?  Sure, some erratic behavior is fine.  But in a society where so many of our population have had this terrible disease, and so many have fought it into remission and lived many, many years after, only a certain amount of bad behavior is tolerable before the character becomes unlikeable.  I'm not saying that's what has happened to Cathy... yet.  I don't wish to sound insensitive, and surely some may think I am being so, but I think she could deal with her emotions without turning into a tool.  Again, has not happened yet.

     The conceit of the series arrives with a number of limitations.  Will Cathy die or force the cancer into remission?  If the show gets any better, and it's high ratings for last week's premiere are a good sign that people will tune in, the writer's will surely go for the latter.  But how long will the story work if the main conceit is taken away?  They can do stories about how someone copes after the immediate death threat has been removed, but again, it won't be too long before that gets stale.  And then will the cancer return?  How many times can that be done before viewers stop caring?  If it does come back more than once, a happy ending to the show would be almost impossible to leave viewers satisfied.

     The Big C has some things to work out.  But then, so does Cathy.  It's good enough to earn some more watch time, including the second episode, which airs tonight.  The Big C airs Mondays nights at 10:30pm on Showtime.

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