The Big C Review: Chemo-dy Gold

THE BIG C: Thursday 3rd February, More4, 11pm ALERT ME

On a list of the world’s most unfunny things, cancer comes pretty near the bottom, (just above the holocaust) but Laura Linney has crapped all over the rule book by turning the cell-mutating harvester of souls into comedy gold. If that sounds coarse then please be advised that The Big C‘s pilot contains a bucket of raw sewage and the word c**t. That’s right, c**t! The rudest word in existence, the word that every other swear-word looks up to with misty-eyed reverence, the ‘Chuck Norris’ of the profanity lexicon. Don’t let that put you off though, this award-winning comedy also contains enough wit to bamboozle the QI panel. It’s the show that Cougar Town desperately wanted to be..

So Laura Linney is the terminally ill cancer patient in question and thanks to a viscous little melanoma, almost overnight she has gone from being a brain-crushingly predictable teacher to the most happening woman on her street. She’s building a pool in her front yard, pranking her smart-alec son and finally telling the kids in her class exactly what she thinks of them. “You can’t be fat and mean..” she tells that girl from Precious. “You may be making people laugh with your cruel jokes, but no one’s asking you to the prom. Now sit down!” This exchange – which is surely the much-yearned fantasy of every history teacher – is just one of many banging scenes which make this a debut that hits the ground running. Another one turns into Ground Zero for the aforementioned C-Bomb when Laura blasts a curmudgeonly neighbour who complains about her awesome pool.

Linney’s laid back hubby and practical joker son are great little characters, but of the support act my personal favourite is her wilfully homeless brother Sean, who fights tirelessly for the environment and has more comebacks than your average boxer. Like everyone else here, America’s answer to Swampy still doesn’t know of his sister’s affliction by the end of this pilot, but such irregularity is great to behold. Indeed the manner in which this opener ignores the formality of conventional introduction makes the viewer feels like it has been edited back-to-front. I had to check I was watching the right right episode at one stage. The good news is that The Big C already has a second series in production – let’s hope the woman’s health holds out for a few more months..