Stage 4 cancer is far more amusing than you might believe it to be. My wife has been stage 4 for three and a half years now and one of the things we share is a very dark sense of humour. Like the black dramedy Breaking Bad, The Big C deals with cancer and how people react when given the harsh diagnosis. In the case of The Big C, Cathy Jamison is diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. For those unfamiliar with cancer staging there is nothing after stage 4; the options are very limited. Those options are usually complicated and frequently unpleasant treatments which delay the unavoidable or the inevitable. Cathy Jamison is not entirely certain what she wants to do but she is certain that she doesn't want to deal with everyone knowing that she has cancer.
The Big C is a very entertaining comedy/drama. Laura Linney (The Truman Show, John Adams) is well cast with a balance of pathos and belligerence that makes Cathy engaging and interesting. In the role of Cathy's suffering and surprisingly understanding husband Paul is the gifted Oliver Platt (X-Men:First Class) playing the role with ease and passion. The surprise of the cast though is Gabriel Basso (Super 8) as Adam the 14 year old son of Cathy and Paul. Basso is superb as a somewhat spoiled basically good kid with a kind heart but still a 14 year old boy with all that that implies.
The Jamisons are an affluent family living in an affluent neighbourhood. It is a white bread world of suburban soccer, SUV's, minivans so when the cancer diagnosis comes to Cathy it really upends her world. Cathy is used to suppressing her emotions, dealing with her childish husband and her son and the myriad of little issues that fill a normal uneventful life. You would think that Cathy's obsession would be with getting healthy but instead her obsession is more along the lines of carpe diem – she wants to wring every last bit of life out of the life she has left. It is a common enough occurrence to want to seize the day but what is uncommon is her decision not to tell anyone about it. That was not a spoiler it is the premise of the show. Combine a seize the day mentality with a refusal to talk about why you have changed your approach to life so radically and you have the makings of a comedy and a drama with some real teeth.
The script, cast and direction of The Big C make the show incredibly enjoyable. Our family watched the first season DVD release from start to finish in one day. It was time very well spent and ranks with some of the best television available on DVD.
The Big C The Complete First Season features 13 episodes on 3 DVD. Special features are a feature about each actor and deleted scenes.