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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Big C "Taking the Plunge"

    Showtime's newest half hour dramedy, The Big C, got off to a rocky start this past summer.  However, happily, the series improved as the episodes went by, and the show ended with an exciting finale last night.  In the beginning, it was cliche and one-note characters that harmed The Big C, but as each week unfolded, each figure got more defined, and developed personality.  There were a few bumps along the way, but some surprises twists and touching moments made this show a permanent spot on my TiVo season pass list.

     Cathy (Laura Linney) finally told her family about her cancer, and that's when things really started taking off.  A large chunk of the season was plagued by marital drama between Cathy and her husband, Paul (Oliver Platt), whom she kicked out almost as soon as she was diagnosed.  Perhaps it's a bit convenient that their union was saved so completly by Paul finding out why Cathy had been acting odd, but Paul always loved Cathy, and it's no wonder he wanted to protect her.  The show touched on Cathy having issues handing over control of anything to Paul, and asking for help.  Although they were not in evidence last night, I assume that will be the ongoing disagreement in season two.

     Cathy's son, Adam (Gabriel Basso) was handled more off-screen.  We only really saw his reaction to his mother deciding to undergo a dangerous treatment.  At first, I was sad at the omission.  But in retrospect, there was plenty of screen time given for Adam to seem completly unaffected by what should have been very emotional stuff, and so, the missing moment wasn't necessary.  Instead, Adam had a much more satisfying climax.  He accidentally discovered a key that he shouldn't have to a storage locker he wasn't supposed to go to until his mother passed away.  It was filled with gifts for his future birthdays, Christmases, graduations, etc.  While Adam had not even shown a frown through other issues, this brought him to tears, as I'm sure it did to any member of the audience with a soul.

     Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) also faced some last minute growth when his former lover, Rebecca (Sex and the City's Cynthia Nixon) told him that she was pregnant with his baby.  Homeless by choice, as part of an environmental activist philosophy, Sean had to do some major self reflection, knowing he would soon be responsibile for another human being.  Sure, Rebecca offered to raise the baby herself, but did anyone believe for a minute that Sean would accept that offer?  Cathy's gift of a house to him was the perfect step.  It didn't seem forced at all.  Still, there will be adjustment.  I chuckled when Sean went out and slept on the lawn because he just couldn't feel comfortable on the couch.  I hope this will earn Nixon a full-time promotion come season two.

     One of the biggest twists, though, came at the end of last week's penultimate episode, when Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), battling Alzheimer's, decided to put a bullet in her own face.  Her funeral was almost fun, as she planned it herself, complete with polka band and scratch off lottery tickets.  Marlene was probably my favorite character, and I felt as affected as the other characters by her choice.  At first, Cathy seemed to see Marlene's act as noble by ending things on her own terms.  Thankfully, the writers took the opportunity to show some of the consequences of her passing, and Cathy came to understand that she wanted to live.  I understand why someone facing such a grevious condition might choose to end it, but others are affected by your actions.  And some will be sad to see you again.  She will be missed.

     All in all, the show did not reach the brilliance of other Showtime hits, such as Weeds or Nurse Jackie, but it carved out it's own little niche, which it will hopefully occupy for at least a few years.

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