Comic relief for cancer as show hits our shores

Our guide to the soaps this week

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They put quite a lot of filling in their sandwiches and there’s always a chance of bumping into Samuel L Jackson on the subway, but at the moment, there really is no other good reason to move to America.

A while back, telly lovers in the UK were so unimpressed with the quality of terrestrial programmes they could be forgiven for eyeing up a move across the pond.

But thanks to Sky Atlantic, we can save the airfare.

We’re currently being inundated by top-class US imports thanks to the appearance of the new digital channel, and every day feels like Christmas when you look at its schedules.

What’s more, it appears to have galvanised other channels into upping their games.

Channel 4, for one, refuses to be outdone and on Thursday More4 launched recent Golden Globe-nominated The Big C.

It stars an actress who could genuinely claim to be her generation’s Meryl Streep and it’s won more awards than Pavarotti had hot dinners, cold dinners, sandwiches and biscuits.

What’s all the more remarkable is that it weaves such magic from what could be such depressing source material.

People walk on egg-shells at the mere mention of cancer, so when telly bosses announced their plans to make a comedy drama about a woman with the condition, everybody drew a deep breath.

But not to worry, breathing returned to normal when Laura Linney was cast in the lead role, and the show went down a storm in the States.

Cathy has always been conservative and structured – the perfect suburban wife and mother. Receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis becomes not only a challenge, but a catalyst for change for her.

Cathy is tired of being ‘the sensible one’. She wants to let her freak flag fly.

For the first time in her life, she is going to make choices that suit her needs. But as the truth about her illness becomes known, she begins to realise just how much her choices mean, and how much they affect those around her.

In the first instalment, Cathy decided there is to be no moping around following her diagnosis.

She plans to live life to the full and first up was shifting infantile husband Paul (Oliver Platt) out of the house and ordering a pool to be built in the back garden.

Later, Cathy made amends with a grouchy neighbour, and encouraged an overweight pupil to shed the pounds and stop smoking.

See it again on Tuesday when the series makes its British terrestrial TV debut on Channel 4 at 11.05pm.

It continues on More 4 at 11pm on Thursday, when Cathy will try to reform her son Adam by burning his clothes.

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