Last night, Shannon and I searched in vain for a television show to watch while eating dinner. Finally, we settled on Showtime’s new comedy, “The Big C,” starring veteran actress Laura Linney. It was definitely a choice of last resort, as we had seen the same preview over and over while I caught up on “Weeds” episodes on Showtime’s OnDemand. Every time the preview begins, Linney’s character asks her husband, “Am I boring?” Shannon was so tired of the preview that she developed a habit of screaming out: “Yes! Shut up! You’re totally boring!”
After watching the first episode, I have to concur with Shannon’s initial assessment. Linney plays Cathy Jamison, a middle-aged woman who’s just been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. But the catch is that she hasn’t told anybody about it yet. Instead, she’s raged at her immature husband, Paul (played by the annoying Oliver Platt), kicking him out of the house. She’s also developed an obsession for building a pool in her backyard so that she can teach her son, Adam, the “banana splits dive” (whatever that is). When we finally meet Adam, we find out that he’s such a rageful, spiteful teenager that the scenes are hard to bear. Instead of worrying about teaching him some stupid dive, Cathy should concentrate on giving him a tutorial in basic manners.
Cathy happens to be a high-school teacher, and we meet one of her students, Andrea, who’s played by Precious star Gabourey Sidibe. In probably the only scene that brought out a laugh, Cathy informs Andrea about the fundamental flaw of being “both fat and mean.”
The main problem with “The Big C” is its resort to clichéd techniques in order to drive its unrealistic story. Shannon and I both had problems understanding why Cathy would hide her illness from her family, as they’re the one support group she should be able to count on. Instead, only she and her young doctor know about the cancer. The doctor’s shocked that Cathy hasn’t told anyone about it, and he calls Cathy one night to see how she’s doing. Of course, Cathy’s husband, Paul, happens to be at the house when the doctor leaves a message on the answering machine (who has these anymore?). Paul then accuses Cathy of cheating on him, but instead of explaining the situation, she remains silent as Paul storms out of the house. Come on, does that really happen? I’m sick of movies and television shows that resort to the “one person knows, while the other doesn’t” plot device, as they blissfully ignore the multitude of opportunities to clear the air. It’s insulting to the audience.
And, yes, this is the episode where Cathy asks Paul, “Am I boring?” Yet again, Shannon’s instincts turned out to be right.
Note: Just because we don’t recommend “The Big C” doesn’t mean that you can’t support the fight against breast cancer. My friends Nicole and Shari are raising money for the Susan B. Komen foundation right now. Visit their site and donate by clicking here.