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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Big C is "Losing Patients"

The Big C: The Complete First Season     Showtime's The Big C returns for a second season with "Losing Patients." In the premiere, Cathy (Laura Linney) questions whether staying with Dr. Todd (Reid Scott) is the right choice after he discontinues the treatment she began. Cathy confesses to Paul (Oliver Platt) that Dr. Todd kissed her, and her husband takes the news predictably bad. Adam (Gabriel Basso) deals with his mother's illness by becoming an aggressive farter. Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon) learns of Cathy's disease, and lets it slip to Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), who is furious that his sister didn't tell him herself. And as Cathy deals with all of these emotional eruptions, as well as trying to secure a new doctor, she is visited by visions of dead neighbor Marlene (Phyllis Somerville).

     As a season premiere, this one kind of stinks. There is a lot of wrapping up of loose threads left hanging from last year (Todd's kiss, Sean not knowing), but does little to move things along, other than Cathy seeking to switch health care professionals. But The Big C forgoes big stunts for a longer series of arcs, and as an episode, "Losing Patients" is not bad at all. In fact, it captures the same spirit and tone of the rest of the episodes thus far, and so if you are a The Big C fan, it should fall right into the wheelhouse of what you enjoy.

     It is regrettable that this appears to be Dr. Todd's last episode. Scott is a talented actor, who was enjoyable in My Boys, and it is nice to see him doing something different. Because Cathy's next doctor will be played by the great Alan Alda (M*A*S*H, The West Wing), and there would never be any more romantic development between Cathy and Todd, the character is no longer necessary. But that doesn't mean he won't be missed.

     Choosing to keep Marlene around is both strange and wonderful. Strange, because using ghosts as part of the main story, especially when the conceit doesn't begin until season two, isn't really the vibe that The Big C puts off, so it is a little out of place. Wonderful, because Somerville was one of, if not the, best parts about season one, and so her suicide is a heartbreaker. It does not cheapen Marlene's death at all that she appears again. Somerville has been reduced to special guest star status, so how often and for how long she will be around is unknown at this point. It is unlikely she will stick for the entire series run, unless The Big C only goes for two years.

     Nixon should be upgraded to main character, because she really provides a necessary service to the show. Sean is a strange fellow, and many of his homeless for morality bits have already been covered. Rebecca gives him new elements to play off of, and provides some nice drama when she comes between Sean and Cathy. She's not a very likeable person, but most of the characters are, so she provides a good balance.

     The Big C still suffers from meandering and cheesiness, something the first season struggled with. It's definitely the weak link in the Showtime half hour dramedy line up. However, the actors involved are fantastic, and any weaknesses may potentially be overcome. It's not terrible, just not excellent. For now, it's worth sticking around and waiting to see if that changes.

     The Big C airs Monday nights at 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime.

     Please click here for all of my The Big C reviews.

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