Soccer-Mom Carcinoma, starring Laura Linney

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I don't have Showtime—I've always been an HBO guy—but even if I had it I wouldn't watch the new Laura Linney show, The Big 'C'. I don't object to the idea of the show or to the plot ('s offering: "A suburban mom, diagnosed with cancer, tries to find the humor in the disease"), but I do object to the show on a couple grounds.

One, it's a half-hour show. Half-hour equals sitcom. Half hour equals everything always works out in 23 minutes. They just couldn't find the programming space to give the subject a full hour?

My second objection though is much bigger. I object to that stupid fucking title.


The Big C is such a prudish and ridiculous idiom for cancer. The Big C … big compared to what?

What if the show was titled 'The C Word'? Even a longtime HBO snob like myself might tune in to see what angle Showtime planned to take with a sitcom centered around 'Cunts'. One of the more offensive words in American English, Showtime would have little choice but to call the show 'The C Word.'

But did they really have to subvert the word 'Cancer'? I get the fact that the title has general appeal, especially compared to more literal titles (like "40 year old female presenting with enlarged supraclavicular lymph nodes"), but I would have preferred that cancer had been liberated from that stupid, Victorian fright-night idiom, the word we dare not speak lest we all catch it. Makes you believe that Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich does in fact die for no reason after all.


Our society always has to imply cancer, it can never come out and say it. And this too is a drawback of "The Big C". Sure, Linney's character has cancer—kudos to the network on that one—and sure, she's foregoing the costly, worthless treatments that do nothing but make Big Pharma richer—more kudos there—but the show is still predicated on the same old tradition of shame and secrecy because she still conceals her disease.


Instead of "The Big C" how about "Soccer Mom Carcinoma" or "Tumor, Idaho." I know those suck but at least I'm trying.

Your and might be handing out four stars for The Big C (I have no idea if they are), but for me, the show's willingness to confront advanced, terminal cancer is undercut by its anachronistic title. Therefore I can only give it Three Stages.

It's too bad because Cancer should have won this one, it should have gotten its odious name in lights for all of us to see and get more familiar with. But hey it's Showtime, where dorks like Gallagher became famous. If it were HBO, home of my nomination for TV's all-time greatest show (Six Feet Under), it'd be a different story.

By Ross Bonander

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