In the US: Thursdays, 9pm ET, FX
As you get older, you become more reflective. You look back over your life and all the things that made you what you are and that took you to your current place in existence. Often, you’ll want to share your thoughts and ruminations with others, share those memories before they become like so many ‘tears in the rain’.
Frequently, however, this is far more interesting for you than for anyone else, who probably have their own stories and memories they enjoy far more than yours.
Better Things is a semi-autobiographical piece written by and starring Pamela Adlon, co-written by Louis CK. Adlon isn’t a big name, unless you’re a fan of either Grease 2 or Louis, but she’s had a long career in show business, particularly in voice-over work. Indeed, you may recognise her voice more than her, since she won an Emmy for her performance as Bobby on King of the Hill.
Ever wanted to know what life is like for a 50-something single mother with three daughters, who’s the daughter of a TV producer and who’s an actress living in LA who goes to a lot of auditions and has to deliver a lot of bad dialogue in a lot of bad TV shows? I can’t say I feel a desperate need to know myself, but maybe you’re different, in which case Better Things will be a big help bridging that empathy gap.
Trouble is, it’s not saying an awful lot that you won’t have heard elsewhere. It’s tough being a single mom; it’s tough dating when you’re older; it’s tough having a teenage daughter; it’s tough being an older actress. And so on. These are known things. Even the ‘bad parenting’ jokes have been done to death this year alone, in movies such as Bad Moms and TV shows such as The Detour. Maybe we need reminding every so often, but I’m not sure a multi-part comedy series on FX is the best way to go about it.
All the same, there are good things in Better Things, although that’s more to do with some creative choices than the subject matter or anything especially interesting or funny that happens. Better Things isn’t always linear storytelling, with time jumps backwards and forwards, dream sequences, inter-titles, TV shows within TV shows, cameos by famous actors, either as themselves (Julie Bowen from Modern Family) or as characters (Bradley Whitford from The West Wing). The autobiographical elements give the show a specificity and an accuracy that it might not otherwise have had, too, and there’s some laughs to be had from Adlon’s voiceover work.
Maybe if you’re facing similar issues, you’ll find this funny in a gallows humour kind of way. Personally, I found it just a little bit too self-involved, a bit too much a female Californication but without much joy.