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Good TV This Week: Bargaining With Laura Linney

If you haven't yet seen Laura Linney's "The Big C," this would be a good time to sample the audacious dark comedy that, over its first two seasons, made viewers laugh out loud and cry cathartic tears.  Showtime launches the series' third season tonight (4/8) (along with new seasons of its "Nurse Jackie" and "The Borgias"), accompanied by free viewings of the premiere episode on the internet.  Linney's cancer-stricken character, Cathy Jamison, gets some good news from her oncologist (Alan Alda), setting off a season of bargaining in her cancer journey.  What will she do with her priceless gift of more time?  Maybe a joyologist can help her find the answer.

Perhaps you didn't know that there were such things as joyologists.  I didn't, until showrunner Jenny Bicks told me about them:  "Google 'joyologist,' and you'll see.  They're there."  It's a self-designated title, like the currently-ubiquitous Life Coach, she said -- "Anyone can call themselves anything these days."  Bicks wrote the character she describes as "an over-the-top, sensual, intellectual speaker" thinking of Susan Sarandon.  Then she sent a script off to the actress hoping for the best.  "She got it right away.  She's uber-perfect.  We're so lucky to have her.  It's a big arc," Bicks added.  Joy - yes, that is her name -- makes her debut in the third episode of the season.  It's the first time these two great talents, Linney and Sarandon, have worked together.  Their sparring is something to behold.

Through Joy, the sharply, wittily observant show will be squaring off against health and wellness types who essentially blame the patient for getting sick.  "It's a troublesome point of view, the sense that it's something you've done to yourself," noted Bicks, who is a cancer survivor.  "I certainly encountered a lot of them along the way."

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