The Mill Creek Entertainment separate April 16, 2019 DVD and Blu-ray releases of the 2010-13 Showtime dramedy "The Big C" is just what the oncologist ordered. This Emmy and Golden Globe winning series about middle-aged high-school history teacher Cathy Tolkey Jamison (Laura Linney) getting schooled in the realities of stage four (stage five is death) melanoma shows that even the worst of times can provide the best of humor.
The most subtle humor relates to setting "C" in a Minneapolis suburb. Although Cathy lives in a typical TV Land attractive middle-class home, her life is a far cry from that of pioneering working girl Mary Richards of Twin Cities based "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
"C" is one of three unrelated recent Showtime series that have strong actresses playing courageous middle-aged suburban women in crisis. "The United States of Tara" has Toni Collette playing a woman with a severe case of split personalities. "Weeds" centers around Mary Louise Parker playing a housewife who must resort to selling the titular substance to keep her boys in designer duds.
"C" also is one of the latest additions to well-produced DVD and Blu-ray CS sets of off-beat shows that put art over commerce in the MCE catalog. Recent examples include a reviewed set of "Rescue Me," and a phenomenal award-winning release of "The Shield." The especially strong praise for the latter in a post on that release does not do it justice.
The accolades for "C" include Emmy and Golden Globe Best Actress awards for Linney and an AFI "TV Program of the Year" win.
Our story commences at the beginning of the summer. Cathy is at the final stage of acceptance regarding her grief; a spoiler is that she and her friends and family rotate through all five stages throughout the series.
Cathy is throwing money at the "rich people" problem of wanting a pool in her backyard and wanting it now. The rest of the story is that she wants to enjoy what she believes is a very limited time before her death. One of many rubs is that middle-manager husband Paul Jamison (Oliver Platt) and generally good 14 year-old son Adam do not know why the woman in their life suddenly is acting weird.
For that matter, Paul cannot understand why one display of juvenile behavior in two decades of such antics gets him ousted from the marital home. For his part, Adam is upset that he literally is pulled off the bus to soccer camp and that Mom is very clingy. A hilarious scene has Cathy interrupting a private moment and adding injury to injury by immediately using that moment for a highly embarrassing lesson about how to properly stimulate a woman.
The overall change is that Cathy is putting herself first much more than she ever has and is deciding to stop being polite and to start being real.
Like many cancer patients, Cathy is trying traditional and alternative treatments. Her refusal to undergo chemo. is very reasonable considering that the benefits of that procedure come at the cost of many ill effects. Early examples of alternative medicine include travelling to Canada to be repeatedly stung by bees and staying closer to home for a clinical trial.
The progression of the disease occurs in the context of reel and real-life situations that are exasperating even without piling them on top of a presumably fatal disease.
Cathy must contend with helicopter parents at school, her manic bipolar brother Sean, Adam having a very active puberty complete with a sexual encounter that leads to the entire family getting crabs, and Paul losing his job and being unrealistic about his prospects for new professional employment. This is not to mention the already feisty elderly neighbor lady with Alzheimer's and the self-absorbed former college classmate who re-enters the life of Cathy at both the best and the worst of times.
The bigger picture regarding all this in this era in which virtually all those who practice medicine are in it for the money is the frustration that even those of us with what should be decent health insurance experience getting anything beyond basic medical care. Just in the first two seasons, we see Cathy dealing with a doctor not returning her calls and with being denied approved treatment because of a problem related to notice of coverage. This is not to mention health insurance prompting Paul to take a job that he otherwise would not have accepted.
"C" further tackles the issue of the fine line between compassion and annoying levels of charity. Cathy wants people to be nice to her but does not want to be treated like a porcelain doll. Similarly, Adam quickly tires of being the kid at school with the mother who has cancer.
The nice thing about "C" lasting four seasons is that quality writing and a strong cast draw the audience into the lives of the Jamisons and the people with whom they interact. We come to share their joy and feel their pain right up to the series finale.