The Big C is a thoroughly-entertaining dramedy that aired for four seasons on Showtime, from 2010 to 2013. The series follows Minneapolis high school teacher/suburban wife and mother Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney in a Golden Globe-winning role), who has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer. Cathy had always been a meek, reserved person, but finds a new lease on life after her diagnosis. She doesn’t want to be that person anymore, and decides to live whatever life she has left to the fullest.
Cathy kicks her manchild husband Paul (Oliver Platt) out of the house, telling him she’s sick of taking care of two children. She also starts to parent teenager Adam (Gabriel Basso) more aggressively, in hopes of preparing him for adulthood when she will not longer be around. Cathy also tries to talk some sense into her eco-warrior brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), who chooses to live like homeless hobo as a way to reduce his carbon footprint. Cathy also tries to help troubled, overweight student Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe) live a healthier life. And after 5 years, finally meets her next door neighbor Marlene (Phyllis Somerville), a curmudgeonly old widow.
Against her doctor’s (Reid Scott) recommendations, Cathy decides to keep her condition to herself—which makes her family and friends think she’s going crazy, or having a midlife crisis. However, over the course of the series, she lets those she loves in as she tries to battle her illness, get closure for issues in her past, and prepare for her family’s future.
A general rundown of the seasons/recurring guest stars:
- Season 1 (2010):
Cathy comes to terms with her diagnosis, and over the course of the season, slowly reveals her condition to some of her friends and family members. Cathy befriends her cantankerous next door neighbor, who is having health problems of her own. She kicks husband Paul out of the house, but he continues to try to win her back, suggesting they go through couples therapy. However, they both explore extramarital affairs—Cathy with a painter at her school (Idris Elba) and Paul with a former high school classmate (Nadia Dajani). Meanwhile, Cathy’s college roommate Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon) comes to town and strikes up a relationship with her brother Sean. And Cathy worries about her son growing up to be a responsible adult.
- Season 2 (2011):
As Cathy deals with the loss of a friend, she and Paul work on their relationship. However, new housemate Andrea makes this a little difficult. Meanwhile, Cathy must deal with more people learning of her condition as she starts a new clinical trial with Dr. Atticus Sherman (Alan Alda), where she also meets and bonds with fellow cancer patient Lee (Hugh Dancy). Adam’s bad behavior continues its downward spiral—including a relationship with a middle aged woman named Poppy (Parker Posey) he meets in a children of cancer survivors support group. And Sean and Rebecca deal with some horrible news. The season ends in a big cliffhanger.
- Season 3 (2012):
Picking up three weeks after the finale, a health scare causes Paul and Cathy to worry about who will take care of Adam when they are gone. Cathy deals with the trauma by creating an alter-ego of widowed flight attendant Alexis, and exploring a double life spending time at the Naked Turtle Pub near the hospital, where she meets bartender Fredi Walker-Browne (Lee Tergesen). Meanwhile, Adam joins a bible group to meet Jesse (Kailie Torres). Paul and Cathy meet life coach “joyologist” Joy Kleinman (Susan Sarandon), who takes an interest in Paul. Sean’s new business venture finds him running a gay phone sex service, which leads to an interesting new relationship. And Cathy explores adopting a second child from couple Dave and Maxine Cooper (Hamish Linklater and Mamie Gummer).
- Season 4 (2013):
Cathy’s condition worsens and with the help of her new therapist (Kathy Najimy), she accepts that the end is near and stops her treatments. Meanwhile, Cathy hires Chemistry tutor Lydia (Samantha Futerman) for Adam, who makes him an interesting proposal. Andrea enters a fashion design program with guest professor Isaac Mizrahi. Paul becomes a motivational speaker, and hires assistant Amber (Liz Holtan)—though she is secretly using the family as a case study for her thesis. And Sean becomes an organ donor.
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this show the first time around until I started re-watching it again on this Blu-ray set. The Big C is so easy to binge—and not just because each disc offers a Play All option. The series takes viewers on a roller coaster of emotions, making you laugh one moment, and well up the next. It is filled with humor and heartbreak, providing a unique look at one woman’s struggle to battle her cancer while also living her life to the fullest and doing her best to fix and prepare her family and loved ones for a future without her. While all the performances are excellent, Laura Linney is especially captivating, making you really connect and care about Cathy right from the start. The fourth/final season provides closure and an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the series.
The first three seasons of The Big C had been previously released on DVD by Sony (the third being a MoD-only release). However, now the final season is finally available as part of Mill Creek Entertainment’s new Complete Series box set. This release is also the first time that the series has been made available on Blu-ray. The video and audio presentations are quite solid, providing a clean, detailed picture, and clear dialogue throughout. Unfortunately none of the bonus material from Sony’s original DVD releases is available on Mill Creek’s re-release. This legacy bonus material included a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with all the main cast members for the first season, and nearly an hour of deleted scenes and outtakes from the first 2 seasons. So those who already own the original DVD releases of the first two seasons may wish to hold onto them.
The four seasons are spread across 6 Blu-ray discs, with 2 discs for each of the first 2 seasons, and 1 disc for each of the final 2 seasons. The discs are housed on trays in a thick 7-disc Blu-ray keepcase, which is placed inside an outer cardboard slipcover.
- All 40 episodes of the series:
- Season 1 (2010, 13 eps) (6:03:23):
Disc 1: “Pilot”, “Summer Time”, “There’s No C in Team”, “Playing the Cancer Car”, “Blue-Eyed Iris”, “Taking Lumps”
Disc 2: “Two for the Road”, “Happy Birthday, Cancer”, “The Ecstasy and the Agony”, “Divine Intervention”, “New Beginnings”, “Everything That Rises Must Converge”, “Taking the Plunge”
- Season 2 (2011, 13 eps) (6:05:07):
Disc 1: “Losing Patients”, “Musical Chairs”, “Sexual Healing”, “Boo!”, “Cats and Dogs”, “The Little c”
Disc 2: “Goldilocks and the Bears”, “The Last Thanksgiving”, “A Little Death”, “How Do You Feel?”, “Fight or Flight”, “The Darkest Day”, “Crossing the Line”
- Season 3 (2012, 10 eps) (4:38:33):
“Thin Ice”, “What’s Your Story?”, “Bundle of Joy”, “Family Matters”, “Face Off”, “Life Rights”, “How Bazaar”, “Killjoy”, “Vaya Con Dios”, “Fly Away”
- Season 4: Hereafter (2013, 4 2-part eps) (3:48:34):
“Quality of Life”, “You Can’t Take It with You”, “Quality of Death”, “The Finale”
- Season 1 (2010, 13 eps) (6:03:23):
- 1080p/ Widescreen 1.78:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- Subtitles: English SDH
Unfortunately none of the bonus material from Sony’s original DVD releases is available on Mill Creek’s re-release. This legacy bonus material included a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews with all the main cast members for the first season, and nearly an hour of deleted scenes and outtakes from the first 2 seasons. So those who already own the original DVD releases may wish to hold onto them.
The Big C is an excellent series that still holds up many years later. It takes viewers on a roller coaster of emotions, providing lots of humor while exploring a topic that affects the lives of many people. Laura Linney is fantastic in this role, making the viewer care about this woman’s struggle and feeling the range of emotions she goes through as she tries to live life while preparing for her own end. I am happy to see this series finally available in HD on Mill Creek’s new Complete Series release. However, it is disappointing to see that all of the bonus material from Sony’s previous DVD releases has been dropped—with the fourth season being so short, this could have easily fit on the sixth disc of this set. That said, this Blu-ray release still comes recommended based on the quality of the series itself.