Plot: Cathy (Laura Linney) has lived her life more or less by the rules, trying to make responsible decisions and do what she thinks is right. She is a teacher by trade, but she is also a mother and a wife, though her relationship with her husband Paul (Oliver Platt) is strained at the moment. He is her polar opposite, an impulsive and hedonistic man who loves a good time, but the two clashed often and now, the couple is taking a break to reevaluate the marriage. But before she can start to process that, Cathy is given some life changing news during a doctor visit, as she is diagnosed with terminal cancer and might not have much time to live. This spins her entire existence into chaos, as she feels betrayed by her own life, since she played it safe and did what she was told, only to be facing this kind of dire situation. She has no plans to give up however, instead she wants to start fresh and take a more aggressive approach to how she lives, but how will this all impact her current lifestyle?
Entertainment Value: The Big C is a terrific show, the kind of series that grabs your attention right from the first episode and never relents, the coveted “just one more episode” type entertainment. The core narrative is one we’ve seen before, someone coping with a terminal diagnosis, but this series has a fresh approach and while it steers into a darker style of humor, The Big C also manages to feel authentic, even when it goes a little off the deep end. So yes, things get dramatic and spiral into chaos at times, but these moments are earned and well developed, so they come off as natural, given the characters involved. This is especially true of some of the threads with Cathy and her brother Sean, which prove to be some of the wilder, darker content, not to mention some of the funniest. And while the premise is centered on Cathy’s cancer diagnosis, the show is driven by comedy and while that involves a good deal of darker humor, it anchors it all with some effective emotional depth. The time is taken to build these characters and make the emotional beats resonate, while a shorter four season run ensures the story never feels stretched thin.
The four season duration also helps The Big C maintain a consistent level of quality, so unlike many shows out there, the series doesn’t taper off or run out of steam, giving us four rock solid seasons of entertainment. One of the main reasons the show works so well is that while cancer is a prominent presence in the narrative, the story is about Cathy, not so much her illness. Laura Linney is given some excellent material to work with and she really makes the most of the character’s potential, turning in a fantastic, memorable effort. She is able to use the well crafted writing to mold Cathy into a believable, authentic character, which makes her emotional moments, wild decisions, and even mundane situations more impactful. Linney is the heart and soul of the show and her performance is magical at times, she carries the series and that is a real compliment, given how strong this ensemble is. The cast also includes Cynthia Nixon, Oliver Platt, Alan Alda, John Benjamin Hickey, Idris Elba, Reid Scott, Hugh Dancy, and Susan Sarandon.
The Disc: Mill Creek serves up the entire run of The Big C on Blu-ray, in a solid, if not remarkable presentation. The episodes look good and have passable detail, but some light compression woes do surface at times. This is likely due to putting so many episodes on each disc, but even with the occasional visual glitch here and there, the show looks fine and fans should be pleased. The show has some bursts of visual flair and those scenes look good here, with natural colors and accurate contrast, but again, just don’t expect eye popping levels of quality here. No extras.