Review: Grading The Big C

Who's up for a death comedy jam? Don't everybody raise their hands at once.

Leave it to an adventurous network like Showtime to develop a series that confronts the age-old maxim about how "dying is easy but comedy is hard." That's certainly the case with The Big C, an affecting yet uneven tragicomedy that comes to life whenever its heroine confronts her mortality but tends to die any time the story line goes overboard on the wackiness.

There's never a false moment, though, with Laura Linney, joining a lineup of astonishing actresses on Showtime (Nurse Jackie's Edie Falco, United States of Tara's Toni Collette and Mary-Louise Parker of Weeds, which returns tonight) who run an emotional gamut in richly rewarding, challenging roles. As Cathy Jamison, a Minneapolis teacher and self-denying wife/mother who has always played it safe and cautious - until the wake-up call of her Stage 4 melanoma diagnosis—Linney is a luminous marvel.

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