Calling The Big C’s first season hit-or-miss is actually pretty generous. For a series with such a stellar cast, the show never really hit its stride, stumbling along toward a finale that was emotionally affecting but not well-earned. That said, those tearjerky closing moments gave me hope for Season 2. I’m not holding my breath for greatness, but I’m willing to tough it out for Laura Linney. Here are my suggestions to improve on a rocky first season.
1. Let the humor come naturally.
A comedy about cancer is a tough sell, so I admire The Big C’s inherent audacity. At the same time, too many of the jokes were about Cathy (Linney) being wacky and ridiculous—these moments never felt remotely real. Life is tragic, but it’s often really funny, too. There's no need to force it.
2. Give us reasons to care about the supporting characters.
At the start of the series, Paul (Oliver Platt) and Adam (Gabriel Basso) were aggressively obnoxious. They got better, but it’s still hard to feel sympathy for either one of them. Continue to develop their positive traits—then we’ll talk.
3. Don’t use cancer as an excuse for insanity.
Cathy herself is often tough to like. What kind of mother looks at porn with her son, or calls his crush to give a long, tearful speech about how shy he is? Cathy is honestly kind of terrible, and the idea that cancer makes her that way is tough to swallow and a little insulting.
4. Try to offer some genuine surprises.
Part of the success of Showtime’s Dexter and Weeds comes from their ability to shock the audience. All of The Big C’s apparent twists were telegraphed well in advance: Marlene (Phyllis Somerville) killing herself, Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon) getting pregnant, Dr. Todd (Reid Scott) planting one on his patient. These aren’t just obvious—they’re TV clichés.
5. Use your special guest stars.
I’m glad the season finale gave Cynthia Nixon a bit more to do. She hasn’t yet redeemed herself for Sex and the City 2, but it’s a start. What happened to Gabourey Sidibe’s Andrea, though? And what purpose did she really serve? Also, I’m pretty sure Liam Neeson only showed up to appease Kinsey fans dying for a Linney-Neeson reunion. We’re out there!
6. Give Cathy a friend.
And no, her student, her doctor, her husband, and her son don’t count. Marlene did, but she had to go and die. Rebecca’s certainly a friend, but she’s caught up with Sean and their little bundle of awkward. Cathy needs a confidante to counter the frustrating, self-imposed isolation of Season 1.
7. Figure out what story you want to tell.
The Big C never really came together. Cathy’s motivations were consistently unclear, and her actions felt more like the show spinning its wheels than actual plot development. Now she wants to hold on to life. OK, let’s run with that. But please, no more back-and-forth.
What do you want to see in The Big C’s second season?