The Golden Globe-winning Showtime series, The Big C, returned for its second season and its beginnings are solid, but not especially terrific. The show is, of course, still anchored by Laura Linney (Savages) and she continues to bring her A game, unafraid to make her character unlikable in her attempts to capture the realities of being a realistically embittered cancer patient.

Season two finds Cathy (Lnney) deciding to get a second opinion and trying to get an appointment with Dr. Atticus Sherman (Alan Alda). Her relationship with husband Paul (Oliver Platt) seems to be going well, unlike her relationship with her brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey). She also worries about her son Adam (Gabriel Basso).

The truth of the matter is the show is good but not great. For one thing, most of the characters are rather annoying and hard to empathize with. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that is. The cast is pretty good but the characters don’t seem to have a genuine affection for each other. And with a show that bounces from darkly comic to warmly touching, you need an inviting cast of characters to make it go down smoothly.

Not only that, but some interesting ideas are introduced and then tossed aside. The second episode “Musical Chairs” begins with Cathy and Adam returning to a school of fake sympathy. That would have been interesting to explore for a whole episode; instead the focus goes to a baby shower for Cathy’s friend Rebecca (Cynthia Nixon), who’s carrying Sean’s baby, which is not nearly as interesting.

Laura Linney remains really the only major reason to check out this show. Platt, Hickey, Basso, Nixon and Gabourey Sidibie (as Cathy’s one genuine student Andrea) are all okay but they struggle with their poorly underwritten characters. Hopefully the quality of the show will pick up as the season progresses.

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