A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this edgy, adult-oriented dramedy centers on a middle-aged woman dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis. The main character has a teenage son and spends a lot of time helping a troubled high school girl, which may attract older teens. If they do watch, they'll see some sexual content (including nudity) and hear some strong, unbleeped language (including "motherf---er" and "c--t"). There are also a few semi-violent incidents involving fake blood, as well as some characters (including teens) who smoke.
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What's the story?
When suburban teacher Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) finds out from her doctor (Reid Scott) that she's got Stage IV melanoma, she makes a conscious decision to keep THE BIG C a secret from her errant husband (Oliver Platt), her teenage son (Gabriel Basso), and her free-spirited brother (John Benjamin Hickey), convinced that they can't handle the news. But her strange behavior leaves them all scratching their heads. In the meantime, she takes an overweight student (Gabourey Sidibe) under her wing and forges a tentative friendship with a reclusive neighbor (Phyllis Somerville).
Is it any good?
If there were an upside to cancer, this exceptionally acted dramedy would be it. Above all, it offers leading lady and executive producer Linney -- a multiple Emmy winner, three-time Oscar nominee, and acclaimed stage actress -- smart material that she can really sink her teeth into. But it also surrounds her with a talented ensemble cast, including Oscar nominee Sidibe (who proves she has range beyond Precious) and guest stars like Brian Cox, Cynthia Nixon, and Liam Neeson.
Cathy's unconventional approach to her cancer diagnosis might not be for everyone, and some parents could decide that The Big C is better left to adults. After all, impending death or not, it's downright jarring to hear Cathy call her elderly neighbor "a f---ing c--t" or tell Sidibe, "You can't be fat and mean. ... You can either be fat and jolly or a skinny bitch. It's up to you." But for those who don't mind the shock value, The Big C is A-level entertainment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the show's tone. Is this meant to be a drama or a comedy? How can you tell? Does it work to have a show about cancer be funny?
How realistic are the teen and adult characters you see on screen? Is the strong language they use reflective of reality, or has it been amped up for the sake of entertainment? What would the consequences of their behavior be in real life?
Do you agree with Cathy's decision to keep her disease a secret from her immediate family? What are the pitfalls of having secrets of that magnitude? What are the benefits of being honest and open with those you love?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love drama and comedy
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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