OK, it's TV time again: Laura Linney stars


OK, it's time to get back to my natural state, talking television.

The three previous blogs dealt with the Great Lakes Folk Festival. (Please read them; the event was fun, fascinating and occasionally frustrating.) But now it's TV time.

The fall season is still more than a month away, but cable fills in all gaps. Tonight (Monday), ABC Family has the season's second-to-last "Huge," one of the summer's best shows. At the same time, Showtime starts the new season of "Weeds" and introduces what may be its best series, Laura Linney's "The Big C."

For details, click "TV column" above. Meanwhile, here's the story I sent to papers, about Linney and her show:



By MIKE HUGHES

The Showtime network finds its fun in
dark places.

It's had series about a serial killer
(“Dexter”), a wives-killer (“Tudors”), a drug-dealer
(“Weeds”) and a drug-abuser (“Nurse Jackie”). Clearly, it was
ready for a cancer comedy,

“I didn't know anybody battling
cancer who wasn't doing it with a sense of humor,” said Darlene
Hunt, who created “The Big C.”

That includes Jenny Bicks, who is a
comedy writer (all six seasons of “Sex and the City”), a “Big
C” producer and a cancer survivor. “I didn't tell everybody”
about the cancer, Bicks said. “I bought a Porsche. I did things I
wouldn't have normally done.”

That's the approach taken by Cathy,
this show's central character, who sees her diagnosis as a signal to
change everything. She “doesn't really know who she is,” said
Laura Linney, who plays her. “She has the opportunity to find out
and she's going to take it.”

She tells no one and changes her
relationship with everyone. That includes her teen-aged son, her
homeless brother, her grumpy neighbor and her husband, who is stunned
by this.

“Emotional maturity might not be the
top line of his resume,” said Oliver Platt, who plays him.

He's had Cathy to take care of him. Now
she's thrown him out and cares for herself in whimsical ways.

A teacher, she also tries to help a
student, Andrea – played by Gabourey Sidibe, who understands this
notion of a life suddenly transformed.

“I thought I would be a
receptionist,” Sidibe said. “I'm always middle-of-the-lane, very
normal. I've always wanted a normal life – and this is what I got.”

She had grown up in New York, the
daughter of a Senegalese taxi driver and a street singer (Alice Tan
Ridley) who happens to be a semi-finalist in this summer's “America's
Got Talent.” She worked, studied psychology at Mercy College and
(except for school plays) ignored show business.

Then she auditioned for “Precious,”
landed the title role and received an Academy Award nomination.
Suddenly, at 27, she's alongside the best in the business.

That includes Linney, who has three
each of nominations for Oscars, Tonys and Emmys. She didn't win the
others, but won an Emmy each time – for “John Adams,” “Wild
Iris” and a “Frasier” guest role.

“Some of the happiest experiences
I've ever had” were for TV, said Linney, 46. “'Tales of the
City' and 'John Adams' – I deeply love those projects. It's fast;
it's furious.”

This subject was a natural for Linney,
whose mother was a nurse at Sloan-Kettering, a New York hospital
known for cancer treatment. “What hit me the most was the theme of
time and what do you do with time, what are the choices that we
make.”

Linney became one of the show's five
executive producers. She insisted on filming on the East Coast, where
she lives and where there's a rich pool of character actors. She
personally talked Liam Neeson into doing an episode, as an
alternative-medicine doctor.

And she threw herself into the acting –
surprising herself at one point.

“I'm fairly contained when I'm
working, … but something hit me in that scene and I just started to
(cry). It was a scene that had so much life and had such vim and
vigor and vivacity and great humor.”

At the core of that fun was the
prospect of death. That's a Showtime sort of series.

– “The Big C”

– 10:30 p.m. Mondays, Showtime

– Debuts Aug. 16, after the 10 p.m.
season-opener of “Weeds”