Not So Grim Reaper

The Big C's Fresh Take on Death

When people die on TV, it’s usually to tell us something about the living—to give doctors someone to save, or detectives someone to hunt for, or for other characters to find meaning. Not in The Big C, Alessandra Stanley writes for The New York Times. The Showtime series, premiering Monday, is just about a Minneapolis teacher with incurable cancer. Laura Linney portrays the melanoma-afflicted Cathy as “refreshingly ordinary” and “the kind of dutiful worker bee who is easily silenced by stronger personalities.” The diagnosis frees her to speak up a bit more, and she chooses not to tell anyone—not even her family—that she has been told she has one year to live. Instead, she calls people out for being rude, flirts, builds a swimming pool in her backyard, and orders dessert. The Big C “is at its best when sardonic and subdued,” Stanley writes, offering up the black humor cancer patients share. Cathy gets “her weird back,” a character says, and “the weirder Cathy gets, the more likable she becomes,” Stanley writes.