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TCA 2012: Showtime Renews 'The Big C' for Fourth, Final Season of Four Hourlong Episodes

The Laura Linney cancer dramedy from Darlene Hunt and Jenny Bicks will return for a four-episode run and see its format expand from half-hour episodes to an hour.

The Big C Laura Linney at Bar S3 EP1 - H 2012
David M. Russell/SHOWTIME
"The Big C"

Showtime has renewed The Big C for a fourth and final season and changed the half-hour dramedy's format.

The series starring Laura Linney as a woman coping with her cancer diagnosis will return with four hourlong episodes, the network said Monday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

"From its inception, the show has been unique, and we've found a  creative way to bring conclusion to Cathy's story," Showtime Entertainment president David Nevins told reporters. "It's very important with a premium network that shows be able to plan their end and do it the right way. We have a contract with our audience. The show begain in the summer, Seasons 2 and 3 were spring and winter and they've got a very interesting and novel and form-breaking way to handle where the show is going."

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Following the session, Nevins told a smaller group of reporters that he doesn't envision major cast changes but said producers are crafting the final season, noting that he would discuss with the creators whether the series is submitted for Emmy consideration in the comedy or drama series category.

The shortened third season (down from 13 episodes to 10) averaged 480,000 viewers, down from its two previous frames despite the addition of Susan Sarandon for a multiple-episode guest arc. The series, which was developed by former Showtime president Robert Greenblatt, evolved to take greater risks under the cable network's new boss. 

"He's allowed us to take this into a more surprising area for this season," showrunner Jenny Bicks told THR in April ahead of its third-season bow. "What he has allowed us to do is take some real chances, and that has led to a more surprising show."

Each season of the dramedy, created by Darlene Hunt, centers on a stage of grief, and Bicks told THR after the third-season finale that next year would focus on depression and what comes with that.

"The next stage of grief is depression and it leads to acceptance; how we would play with those we have a good sense of but the fourth season would not entirely be depression," Bicks said. "We are going to move through depression fairly quickly. You're not going to necessarily see these things so literally."

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The season finale saw Linney's Cathy return to sea with a stranger after realizing that the life she created for herself wasn't one she was happy to return to.

"We would not be happy if this is the ending; I think we owe our audience and ourselves the chance to see this through," Bicks said. "We still have a lot more story to tell."

The Big C, which also stars Oliver Platt, Gabriel Basso, John Benjamin Hickey and Gabourey Sidibe, is the second Showtime comedy to announce its series finale in the past several weeks; the premium cabler said June 13 that Weeds will wrap after its current eighth season.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit