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Big C’ is a cancer on the airwaves

New Showtime series is ugly, smug and unpleasant

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For goodness’ sake, just die already. You’re boring.

The Details

The Big C
One and a half stars
Showtime, Mondays, 10:30 p.m.

People with terminal cancer deserve our sympathy, but new Showtime dramedy The Big C seems determined to disprove that notion. Like the network’s other female-led half-hour shows, The Big C presses the limits of likability for characters who would typically engender a lot of goodwill, from nurses to widowed moms to the mentally ill. But The Big C is by far the worst and the most unpleasant, a show whose idea of “edgy” seems to be to make every character into an asshole.

Even the enormously talented Laura Linney can’t make Cathy Jamison, a schoolteacher diagnosed with advanced-stage melanoma, into an appealing protagonist, and Cathy is probably only the third most annoying character on the show. Deciding to forgo treatment and not tell her family and friends about her condition, Cathy instead starts living her life recklessly, doing all the things she was always afraid to do. While this sounds inspirational, creator Darlene Hunt writes Cathy as obnoxious, inconsiderate and mercurial, and her actions only get more infuriating over time. She’s saddled with a dumb oaf of a husband (Oliver Platt) and a snide, ill-tempered teenage son (Gabriel Basso), along with a self-righteous brother (John Benjamin Hickey) who’s voluntarily homeless. By the first episode’s halfway point, I wanted them all to get cancer and die as quickly as possible.

Things calm down slightly by Episode 3, but the show remains so smug, so impressed with its own in-your-face take on a sensitive subject, that it’s hard to imagine it will ever offer anything more than cynical ugliness.

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