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Creator Darlene Hunt deserves praise for taking a melancholic subject and turning it into an entertaining comedy-drama with The Big C. But the end of the road has arrived for the series as Laura Linney bids her character goodbye in the fourth and final instalment, writes Debashine Thangevelo.
DEATH is a subject that could be tackled with all the gloomy trimmings or with self-deprecating humour and refreshing irreverence.
Of course, much hinges on the writing and the casting. And The Big C ticked all the boxes. For starters, the seasoned Laura Linney is absolutely incredible in her suburban role as Cathy Jamison, a mother and high school teacher whose life is thrown into a tailspin when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Aside from having to confront her own mortality, she also tries to get her home life in order by keeping her impressionable teenage son from drifting and ensuring her marriage survives several fallouts, including an affair or two.
What makes this series hugely entertaining is her chutzpah, at times, as well as her quirky interactions with her friends, doctor, brother and very mouthy student Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe).
Or course, to maintain the authenticity of the story – Cathy’s journey has to come to an end.
As for whether the Emmy award-winning actress was disappointed by how the network chose to give her character her big send-off in four one-hour episodes, she told TV Guide Magazine: “Some shows are cancelled without any warning at all. It was fantastic that we got an hour for each episode to complete the narrative.”
Talking to her character’s emotional state, Linney revealed: “She’s in a sort of depression. We fast-forward to get through the last stage – acceptance. And there’s a little bit of all stages at the end. We touch upon options in dealing with someone with an advanced disease that I didn’t know were possible. I don’t want to give away any secrets, though.”
By the way, Alan Alda reprises his role as Dr Atticus Sherman in the final instalment. Thankfully, she has warmed up to his very clinical bedside manner.
The actress added: “Kathy Najimy plays her therapist and Isaac Mizrahi has a wonderful storyline as Andrea’s fashion design mentor. Dana Ivey also has a fantastic arc as a fellow cancer patient.”
Although, Linney plays a cancer patient, it is a subject that hits very close to home for her. Her dad passed away from lung cancer prior to her walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes earlier in the series.
On how fans will probably respond to the final season, she offered: “My father (playwright Romulus Linney) died while we were making the series. I hope they (fans) return. But I respect that people would be afraid of the show, especially if they are living with someone who is battling cancer or if they have cancer themselves. Some people were angry that Cathy didn’t tell anyone she had cancer for some time, though they kept watching. My hope is that the show makes people feel less alone and lets them know that there is a strong community out there for them. Not that television should revolutionise the world, but if it has helped one family, that’s a good thing.”
• The Big C airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Friday at 10pm.