Miss ‘Louie?’ Try ‘Better Things’

 

The mother-daughter comedy returns for a second season Thursdays at 9 p.m., starting September 14 on FX.

When Louie C.K. did not bring his eponymous FX program back for a sixth season, fans of the show were left wondering if they would ever get more of the witty, nuanced yet nonchalant series of vignettes. Now, with a similarly successful first season in the bag, the network knows that the ‘Louie’ crowd (and then some) have found their way to ‘Better Things,’ which is co-created by C.K. and his longtime collaborator-confidant, Pamela Adlon.

The shift is definitely for the best; this year he did a stand-up special on Netflix and shot a black and white film in secret to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. “I Love You Daddy,” produced, written, directed, edited, and starring himself alongside a slew of supporting actors (Chloe Grace Moretz, Charlie Day, John Malkovich, Helen Hunt, Rose Byrne, and Edie Falco), has been sold for theatrical release by The Orchard and focuses on a father who tries to prevent a May-December affair between his daughter and an aging filmmaker.

So while C.K. is occupied with other creative endeavors, Adlon gets to shine here in her own singular vision. This single-camera project, a love letter to her daughters, tells the story of a working actress and single mother of three girls. It’s semi-autobiographical of the mom’s real life, which means viewers get a bonafide storyline whereas “Louie’s” episodes were unrelated. This aspect makes the show great for binge-watching and it also helps that its leading lady is infectious in ways that go beyond comedic.

The first season was a collection of hilarious growing pains for Sam Fox and her three girls, Max, Frankie, and Duke (Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood and Olivia Edward, respectively). It’s not all funny though, there is a real struggle and their singular frustrations juxtaposed helps them find a way through it all whether or not they realize it. Sam channels Adlon’s blunt, everywoman aspects and writes like one too. She is not afraid to put all the weight on her shoulders in some delicate and private moments because she knows she can guide audiences out of the scene gracefully and often right into a touching family ensemble ending.

Being a consistent idiosyncratic dramedy about a house of complex women has always been at the show’s heart and in season two nothing has changed. The only difference now is that critics and audiences know Pamela Adlon’s name, and are ready to see what she is capable of after distinguishing herself from the crowd.

JESSE BAALMAN
jbaalman@lc.edu