THE BIG C “Happy Birthday, Cancer” Advance Review


THE BIG C “Happy Birthday, Cancer” Season 1 Episode 8 – Cathy celebrates what she says might be her last birthday in the “Happy Birthday, Cancer” episode of THE BIG C and must decide how she wants to spend it, with whom, and whether or not she can actually have it all in the time she has left.

As much as The Big C is about Cathy’s cancer battle and the acceptance of her mortality, it’s also very much about the relationships in her life. Last week’s “Two for the Road” episode centered on her relationships with Sean and her father, while here we focus on Paul, Adam, and Lenny.

Cathy is once again torn between the two men in her life, and I really like Lenny, but damned if he isn’t almost too perfect, while Paul, who is far from perfect, is becoming a more fleshed-out character, which makes the choice less than clear and the stakes higher. All three characters have some nice scenes, and during an impromptu and heartfelt speech, Paul finally gets a real clue as to why Cathy had him move out. There is some excellent character and plot development here.

The character development fairy also visits Adam, who early on struck me mainly as a thoughtless, sarcastic, selfish brat, but while he does have those tendencies, he’s mostly just a teenager with a clueless dad and a mom who is acting erratically for no apparent reason. Sometimes I think Cathy is so focused on making sure he’s a “good kid,” that I don’t think she sees that he’s a hurting kid, but really Adam is very much a normal kid in this episode, pulling off a pretty funny (and completely juvenile, but hey-he’s a kid) prank and even being surprisingly sweet and caring when I wouldn’t have expected him to, and my heart warms at a quick but touching moment he shares with his mom.

Cynthia Nixon begins her recurring role as Rebecca, Cathy’s estranged friend from college, and in some ways, she’s exactly what The Big C was missing–a link to Cathy’s past that shows what she was like before she married Paul and became the uptight, by the books woman she apparently was pre-cancer. Nixon is good–very Miranda-like–and she and Laura Linney have excellent chemistry, but don’t expect it to be smooth sailing for these old friends.

One random, but interesting to me, note: we find out that it’s still only July in The Big C land, so Cathy actually hasn’t been keeping her secret very long at all. It’s a small thing, but it actually makes me quite happy.

“Happy Birthday, Cancer” is a great mix of humor and bittersweet drama, everything The Big C does best. There’s less Crazy! Cathy and more insight into Cathy and the other characters, and Rebecca’s introduction is handled smoothly. I’m looking forward to having her in the mix.

After you’ve watched the episode tonight on Showtime at 10:30pm/9:30 central, I hope you come back and post your thoughts.

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