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Herc Says Showtime’s
THE BIG C Is Crap!!

I am – Hercules!!
A bad new Showtime sitcom with a bad case of the zanies, “The Big C” follows a high school teacher who learns she has maybe a year to live, then refuses to let her loved ones in on the diagnosis. It’s from writer-producers Darlene Hunt (“Will & Grace,” “90210”) and Jenny Bicks (“Sex and the City”), and stars the great Laura Linney (“You Can Count On Me,” “Love Actually,” “Kinsey,” “The Squid and the Whale,” “John Adams”) and the great Oliver Platt (“Funny Bones,” “Lake Placid,” “Kinsey,” “The West Wing,” “2012”). But Linney and Platt are wasted in a comedy clearly written by people who are neither funny nor handy with relatable characters. Adults say things to each other like “Because you say they’re ‘stinky poo-poo’!” If you’re gathering it’s nowhere near as funny or interesting as AMC’s “Breaking Bad” -- which also dealt with a high school teacher prompted by a cancer diagnosis to make some changes -- I’d say trust your instincts. It’s also not as funny (or moving) as something like “Terms of Endearment” or “St. Elsewhere” -- which in Dr. Daniel Auslander created a memorable regular character battling metastatic liver cancer from episode one. Stories like this were also handled much more entertainingly and relateably in the movies “My Life Without Me” and Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” (both of which I cannot recommend highly enough next time you’re hanging out on Netflix). The “Big C” pilot also loses points for poaching one of the best and most famous moments of “Reversal of Fortune,” a far superior enterprise. You can judge for yourself; Showtime long ago posted the first episode online: The Boston Herald says:
… The only way to describe “The Big C” is with a big ‘T.’ Trite. …
Entertainment Weekly says:
… there's no doubt that Linney is radiant in her role. She carries The Big C past many of its implausibilities and irritations. …
USA Today says:
… forced and faulty … Throw in a bit of nudity and a few masturbation and erection jokes and you have a show filled with annoying characters stumbling their way through ridiculously exaggerated situations. …
The Los Angeles Times says:
… on paper, "The Big C" has a lot going on. Then the action starts and things get, well, Crazy. And not necessarily in a good way. … they jam early episodes with so many over-blown characters and wacky antics that it's impossible to attach meaning to any of them. Platt especially is almost criminally misused; as middle-aged wild child to Cathy's more orderly (read: controlling) adult, he wanders in and out of scenes like some infantile forest creature, defined only by wifely resentment, unrecognizable as an adult male (much less one who has, apparently, a job big enough to pay for the very nice house in suburban Connecticut). …
The San Francisco Chronicle says:
… its failure has nothing to do with being too dark and everything to do with being too light. Too light on character development. Too light in the gravitas department. Too light when it comes to setting the hook and making you want to stay and watch this series past the pilot. … Despite Linney's considerable charms, the role is too thin and unbelievable to fully tap her talent - and viewers will find little reason to root for her character.
The New York Times says:
… The Big C” works because most of the writing is strong and believable, and so is Ms. Linney, who rarely sounds a false note and here has perfect pitch. … It’s a credit to the actress, and the writers, that the weirder Cathy gets, the more likable she becomes.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:
… The pilot paints an entertaining portrait of the lead character while leaving supporting characters less defined. "The Big C" does not arrive with as sturdy a foundation as "Nurse Jackie," an unusually well-developed show from the get-go, but Ms. Linney completely inhabits a role that's recognizable as a woman who is strong and unusually selfless -- at least until her diagnosis. …
HitFix says:
… Her rationale - that if her loved ones found out, her relationships with them would change too much for her liking - makes sense for about a half-second, until it becomes clear that radically altering her behavior without telling anyone why is changing things just as much as, if not more than, the truth would. She wants to grow closer to her son, for instance, but her context-free clinginess only drives him away. But even if it’s a flimsy rationale, it still gives her license to act cuh-razy! She intentionally spills wine on her couch! She does carthweels in the hallway at school! She shoots at a school bus with a paintball rifle! She’s not yet as wacky as Sean - a save-the-planet activist who’s homeless, doesn’t bathe and only eats food that’s been thrown out or is about to be, and whose every scene carries with it the air of self-satisfied whimsy that unfortunately infects most cable comedies - but by the end of the summer, she may be close. And if the actress playing Cathy wasn’t as talented and committed as Laura Linney, “The Big C” might be unbearable. …
The Salt Lake Tribune says:
… an appealing premise for a series. But at the same time, Cathy has become so guarded with her condition (she hasn’t told anyone in her family about it), viewers rarely see beyond the façade she’s set up. That makes it difficult for anyone to embrace her journey. … Cathy would be an intolerable person to spend a half-hour with every week — if it weren’t for Linney’s vivacious, multidimensional performance in which she easily moves from strong-minded woman to vulnerable victim. …
The Washington Post says:
… beguiling … a darkly comical and affirming antidote to the pink-ribbon and yellow-bracelet platitudes that have defined the modern cancer experience. …
The Boston Globe says:
… Linney and this role were made for each other. There are a few problems with “The Big C.’’ Occasionally, the tone veers off course into forced comic absurdity, such as when Cathy’s young doctor tells her, “You have an awesome rack.’’ The character of Cathy’s brother, Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), is a TV-ized version of a homeless man — he’s more of an irritating performance artist than a street person. But my cavils are irrelevant in the face of Linney’s extraordinary work. …
The Wall Street Journal says:
… There can be something appealing about Cathy's acting out; say, after an encounter with relentlessly upbeat cancer-support-group members. But burning furniture you hate and yelling at people don't add up to much even in the hyped category of personal growth. …
The Hollywood Reporter says:
… Cathy is surrounded by characters, rather than people, and that's where the role begins to feel showoff-y. She's able to reduce them all into a type with a sharp comment yet remains unformed herself; the reasoning behind her refusal to share her diagnosis is hazy at best, for example. Such soft areas, and a feeling of forced quirkiness, keep "Big C" from being a Class A series. …
Variety says:
… Interesting in its conceit and watchable for what Linney brings to it, the show works too hard at whimsy. … "The Big C" gets an "E" for admirable effort but still feels like a squandered opportunity. Given the chance to explore what truly matters in life, the show ultimately provides little more than a showcase for a terrific actress, while treating death like the next slightly zany frontier.
10:30 p.m. Monday. Showtime.
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Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 16, 2010, 1:27 a.m. CST

    Loved Linney in Congo

    by SingingConan

    Put 'em on the endangered species list!

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 6:24 a.m. CST

    America is no longer putting up with onanism

    by ErichZann

    This obsession with onanism has gone on long enough. Americans are finally seeing that it is a destructive force in our society, and will refuse to any longer watch shows that glorify it.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 9:15 a.m. CST

    Americans Love Onanism

    by Creative1

    I'm doing it right now. ;)

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 9:26 a.m. CST

    If I were her, I would have aborted the son

    by shutupfanboy

    Actor is good, but its another self-obssessed asshole teens that you just hate off the bat. Platt can do way more then being the antagonist for a life, the character clearly created. Even though, I also have problems with the plot and reasonsing behind not telling the family, Linney is very entertaining which goes a long way with me. It might be another House, were the main character is a train wreck to watch that everything else is just window dressing.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 9:38 a.m. CST

    Does Linney show her "great rack" or not?

    by CastingCouch

    Because I've yet to read any other reason to consider this universally-panned show worth watching. So she better show it, early and often.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Linney is the poor man's Meryl Streep.

    by cookylamoo

    Only not half so talented. I always wanted to see her naked but after the first twenty times, even that doesn't impress me anyone. She's just another weepy blond and if it weren't for her Father she wouldn't be anywhere.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 11:40 a.m. CST

    Ikiru is definitely one of the best Kirosawa films

    by cornstalkwalker

    and it's also one that a lot haven't seen. I also give a thumbs up to adding that to your queue.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 12:41 p.m. CST

    this concept was done better in My Life Without Me

    by oisin5199

    starring Sarah Polley and Linney's co-star from 'You Can Count on Me,' Mark Ruffalo (the new Hulk). Now that film was funny and poignant. And it had Debbie Harry. And one of the coolest endings ever in terms of editing, music, and transition into credits.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 12:52 p.m. CST

    HS teacher has terminal Cancer.

    by rockgolf

    ...oh yeah.<br> <br> Breaking Bad.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 1:16 p.m. CST

    Weeds + Big C = Breaking Bad

    by cookylamoo

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 1:41 p.m. CST

    LINNEY VS HELEN MIRREN: WHO HAS THE BEST RACK??!

    by JonChambers

    Got to be Helen!!!

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 3:12 p.m. CST

    She had a great rack in P.S.

    by mjgtexas

    And a decent bush in the Life of David Gale.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 6:11 p.m. CST

    OH, that's what the "C" stands for

    by Bass Ackwards

    Thought maybe this was a female riff on Hung.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 7:15 p.m. CST

    I bet Linney looks great naked.

    by gotilk

    But of course if there is nudity, it will be an extra or a guest star. phht.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 9:53 p.m. CST

    I've never like Linney as an actress

    by Detective_Fingerling

    she always comes off as pretentious and entitled no matter what shes doing or who she's playing. I really can't stand that Precious chick either. I'll keep watching this show though. I always give these cable network shows at least a season to work themselves out. It's only twelve episodes. I think I'm not gonna give Treme its season 2 greenlight though. Oh, and I hope the son gets hit by a car.

  • Aug. 16, 2010, 11:32 p.m. CST

    She is better at having cancer than anything Joe Mategna has don

    by Kraven Morehead

    . . . or at least that's what she should tell his character in "Searching for Bobby Fischer". That's a great scene.

  • Aug. 17, 2010, 11:50 a.m. CST

    What are you talking about!!!!!!???????

    by spookybibz

    I loved the opener! I even laughed through the tears. Is it just me or are critics ruining entertainment? Lay off the snark.

  • Aug. 17, 2010, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Linney nude

    by MacTard420

    is a wonderful sight actually! Check out this somewhat-terrible movie called 'Maze'. She bares it all in that one! Not sure if she shows it off in The Big C yet, but I'm going to check out the first couple shows...mainly for this reason. =p

  • Aug. 17, 2010, 5:20 p.m. CST

    They should've called HUNG "THE BIG C"...as in COCK!!!

    by MrMysteryGuest

  • Aug. 17, 2010, 5:21 p.m. CST

    This show needs THE BIG P...PENICILLIN!!!

    by MrMysteryGuest

  • Aug. 17, 2010, 6:54 p.m. CST

    Cable and network tv is the easy way to get an award!

    by HollywoodHellraiser

    Has-beens actors/actresses just have to make an appearance, utter some lines and they get an instant Emmy nod! And usually that nod gives them an award!<p>Look what United Tara did for Toni! Just wait, Laura Linny and Platt will both get emmys noms and SAG noms, too!

  • Aug. 18, 2010, 6:35 a.m. CST

    Not great, but Linney was fantastic

    by Jack Burton

    It's on series record. I liked it enough to keep with it and see where it goes. I watch so very little TV anymore my tolerance for cable stuff that is good but not great is much higher. And Linney is a terrific actress that tends to elevate the material for whatever she is in. Except "Congo". Jesus that is one piece of shit film. Talk about one ripe for a remake. So 3 episodes to go with True Blood. Then Boardwalk Empire starts. And Sons of Anarchy. So for a while there I'll have some quality shows to watch. The Big C will fill in nicely with Weeds.

  • Sept. 19, 2010, 7 p.m. CST

    Show reviewer (Herc) is The Big D (doucher)

    by wheelington

    As someone who was diagnosed w/ Stage 4 Melanoma, earlier this year, I find the show to be an incredible, voyeuristic look into the dark side (or foregoing treatment) that I often find myself in or thinking "what if". Linney's character, the writing, and subject matter is spot-on. So if you don't like the show, it's not b/c the show is trite, untrue or off-base somehow. Take it from me, I live that life everyday.