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In Movies & TV Commentary

To her family, Laura Linney's character in "The Big C" looks like she's suffering from emotional problems -- not cancer.

In Movies & TV Commentary

Bubbly Aarti Sequeira is this season's "Next Food Network Star."

In Movies & TV Commentary

Is "I'm sorry" enough for "Dr." Laura Schlessinger?

OnMedia: "The Big C" gets maybe a C+


"The Big C" -- debuting tonight at 9:30 on Showtime -- isn't exactly a sitcom, although the new half-hour show about a woman (Laura Linney) dealing with a diagnosis of terminal cancer is supposed to be funny.

There are some entertaining and touching moments as high school teacher Cathy Jamison, played by Linney, negotiates life after receiving the word. But she's surrounded by a supporting cast full of quirky caricatures.

There's her crazy, homeless brother, Sean (John Benjamin Hickey), who's wiser than wise. There's her pathetic, sad husband, (Oliver Platt). There's their obnoxious, insensitive teenage son (Gabriel Basso).

A couple peripheral characters are more interesting. The young doctor treating Linney's character, played by Reid Scott of "My Boys," is refreshing. Gabourey Sidibe is also entertaining and believable as one of Linney's high school students.

Other than her doctor, none of the supporting cast knows why Linney's character is acting as she does in the first three episodes available for screening. Her behavior merely seems crazy to them. Her lack of honesty in sharing her illness with those close to her isn't really dealt with and presents a roadblock in connecting with her.

Some may see courage in Cathy Jamison's independent stand as she battles cancer by declining treatment and trying to live life on her own terms. But I found her, at times, unlikable and mercurial. That may be real, but it's not entertaining or watchable.

I've had experience watching how people have dealt with cancer, and it's not a pleasant thing to experience, even if the ending is a happy one. I know there's a basic human drive to find humor in tragedy. But the equation doesn't work well here.

Linney is, of course, a masterful performer. But for the most part, the story and much of the cast can't provide the support she needs to carry a show that can ultimately end only in her death.

Showtime is offering an edited version of the first episode online. You can watch it here:

On TV: Travel Channel's "Food Wars" returns to the schedule at 9 p.m. Wednesday, but the Milwaukee episode featuring AJ Bomber's and Sobelman's hasn't been scheduled for at least the first two weeks of the season.

  • Former CNN producer Aarti Sequeira, whose shtick was blending Indian flavors into American food, won Sunday night's season finale of "Next Food Network Star." Wisconsin-born Aria Kagan got cut from the competition for a Food Network cooking show last week, ending up in fourth place.
  • Deadline Hollywood reports ABC is remaking the British "MI-5." The original show, known as "Spooks" on the other side of the pond, has aired in the U.S. on A&E, BBC America, and public broadcasting outlets.
  • Chicago Tribune TV critic Mo Ryan has left the paper after 13 years to go over to AOL Television. She announced her departure from the Trib via Twitter.

"Dr." Laura's latest mess: "Dr." Laura Schlessinger's radio show died in Milwaukee years ago, but she used to be a pretty big deal. She's still on a couple hundred stations, although she isn't on in some big markets, like Chicago.

Her latest blip of publicity came last week when she used the ultimate racial slur repeatedly on her show. She was trying to make a point, but failed miserably, leading to an on-air apology.

If you haven't followed this story, Media Matters lays out what she said with transcripts and audio.

Yes, lefty Media Matters is hardly friendly to the good "Dr." (that title has nothing to do with her radio character as a moral adviser, but comes from a PhD in physiology). But the information is accurate and provides the background if you're interested in this story, which doesn't seem to be over just yet.


Talkbacks

tommcmahon | Aug. 16, 2010 at 4:38 p.m. (report)

How come Dr Laura hasn't been on a Dr Pepper commercial?

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brewcitypaul | Aug. 16, 2010 at 3:40 p.m. (report)

Your argument fails to recognize the incredible success The Office has enjoyed as the flagstaff of bringing a sitcom from UK to USA and making it successful. So, Hollywood studios will continue to try and find the next big crossover. New ideas in Hollywood are frowned upon just so you know.

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ajesse | Aug. 16, 2010 at 1:12 p.m. (report)

When are American TV producers going to learn that they cannot recreate British programs with any success? I'm a big fan of MI-5. But I'm also a big fan of "Coupling" & "Life On Mars", and the American remakes were bloody awful. (Actually I thought the American "Life On Mars" was actually pretty good, but failed miserably. And how they ended it was stupid.) Let the British have their shows, and we can enjoy them too. In other words, get your own ideas.

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brewcitypaul | Aug. 16, 2010 at 1:02 p.m. (report)

Stop reading articles that are TV recaps if you don't want to read spoilers about TV shows. Done and done.

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Milyorkee | Aug. 16, 2010 at 12:45 p.m. (report)

Again with the Next Food Network Star spoiler. Thanks. Last week your reasoning was it was a Wisconsin contestant getting kicked off...what was the reason this time for burying the results in an article about "The Big C" and then having a slideshow with Aarti's pic? Maybe I should just stop reading your column?

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