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May 24, 2014

The Big C: hereafter

  • Laura Linney

    Laura Linney

  • Laura Linney

    Laura Linney

Executive Producers: Jenny Bicks, Darlene Hunt, Laura Linney, Michael Engler, Richard Heus, Vivian Cannon and Neal H. Moritz





Cancer patients don’t lose their battles to cancer — because they are not losers. 

This is a sentiment fans of Showtime’s hit comedic drama The Big C can understand and appreciate thanks to the series’ winsome and outspoken heroine Cathy Jamison. 

For 4 fascinating seasons, Cathy showed viewers and critics alike that her life, loves and humor were so much larger and more significant than her terminal melanoma diagnosis. 

None of this would’ve been possible without star Laura Linney’s Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe-winning turn as Cathy. Every season, she connected with viewers and made them love Cathy and sometimes, even want to choke her a little. 

Cathy was the acerbic-witted mom, sister and friend that all of us know and love not despite their sharp tongues, but because of them. 

Nobody busted balls like Cathy — be they the testicles of doctors and priests or school principals and bar flies.

Even God took guff from Cathy, who wanted him to hurry up and kill her already: 

“If I should die before I wake, that’d be good,” a hilariously impatient Cathy said during a prayer toward the end of her life.

See what she did there? Linney’s Cathy made death funny, if that’s even possible, and she always kept fans on their toes with a poignant comment that could make them cry or laugh—and often both at the same time.       

Meanwhile, the list of people Cathy loved and who loved her right back were equally essential, and included her on-again off-again hubby Paul (the always impressive Oliver Platt); her wacky pacifist brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey); her rambunctious son Adam (Gabriel Basso); one of her most challenging students Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe); and her cantankerous elderly neighbor Marlene (Phyllis Somerville). 

A stellar list of guest stars including Susan Sarandon, Alan Alda, Idris Elba, Hugh Dancy, Cynthia Nixon and Kathy Najimy also brought gravitas and gave Linney a whole new set of highly capable actors with whom to spar. 

Some critics slammed The Big C because Cathy didn’t tell her relatives and friends that she was dying of cancer right away, making those around her seem daft. 

Others lambasted the series because of its familiar cancer and death tropes. But no one could dispute the undeniable chemistry between Cathy and the men and women in her life. 

Those relationships were tattered and tested, but always strong. They were the backbone of The Big C because they epitomized what love really is: 

Love is messy and when a loved one is walking into death’s embrace, love is beyond terrifying. But it’s love. And unlike a lot of shows, The Big C  didn’t run away from the scary side of love, it embraced it. 

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the relationship between Paul and Cathy. 

Paul became a more considerate husband and father and Cathy began to forgive him for being less than perfect. Later, when Paul had his own brush with death, Cathy compassionately urged Paul to take better care of himself.

Their love story was flawed but relatable. 

Other men caught Cathy’s eye and threatened to steal her away just as other women did the same with Paul. But they always got back together and as Cathy’s final days drew nearer, it was Paul who dragged Cathy’s belligerent father (the incomparable Brian Dennehy) to her death bed for the sake of closure.

It was also Paul who took Cathy’s impending death the hardest, shed the most tears and brought her the peonies that they would’ve had at their wedding had Cathy’s father not been so cheap. 

“I’m so pissed that you’re going,” Paul told Cathy in one of the series finale’s most moving moments.    

With so much love surrounding her, Cathy tried to figure out what her final words would be and she settled on “Lucky me.” 

In the end, however, fans were the lucky ones. 

For 4 years, they got to know a woman who truly learned to live and eventually die on her own terms — and touched untold numbers of people experiencing similar challenges in real life.

For this, the final season of Cathy's journey, The Big C: hereafter, is the recipient of a 2014 Television Academy Honor award.

— Mekeisha Madden-Toby, Special to  

Watch The Big C: hereafter here on the Showtime Anytime website and mobile app.

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