|Pamela Adlon in Better Things on FX.|
Better Things, Pamela Adlon’s new comedy on FX, does an excellent job of summing itself up in its opening scene. Adlon’s character Sam is sitting on a bench, looking at her phone while her youngest daughter, Duke (Olivia Edward) stands sobbing next to her. After a little while, Sam looks up and catches the disapproving stare of the elderly woman on the other end of the bench and confronts her, explaining that Duke is crying because Sam won’t buy her a cheap trinket and inviting the older woman to go ahead and buy it for her if she’s so concerned about the little girl. It’s hard not to read that opening scene in terms of star Adlon’s role on Louie, another sort-of comedy on FX in which she frequently appeared as comedian Louis C.K.’s on-again-off-again romantic interest (Louis C.K.’s also heavily involved as a producer on this show, so it seems fair to compare the two programs). In that show, we saw her primarily through the fictionalized Louie’s eyes (both shows feature comedians playing somewhat autobiographical versions of themselves) and at times her character threatened to become a twenty-first century version of the maddening temptress, the woman whom the main character desired but could never really possess. Louie was ultimately much smarter than that, but it’s still refreshing to see Adlon introduce a slightly different version of her character and show us life from her perspective. As the woman on the bench learns, there’s a lot more to Sam than the sardonic, seemingly uncaring front that she presents to the world.