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FX Channels the Spirit of 'Louie' in New 'Better Things'
August 10, 2016  | By David Hinckley
 

Louis CK’s FX show Louie may be on indefinite hiatus, but its spirit returns in full off center bloom Sept. 8 with Pamela Adlon’s Better Things.

Adlon, a member of the CK posse who has appeared on his show, wrote and directed Better Things. She also stars as Sam Fox, an actress and single mother raising three daughters. Not entirely by coincidence, Adlon is an actress and single mother raising three daughters.

“That’s my wheelhouse,” Adlon told TV writers Tuesday. “When I was first coming up with the idea for the show, it was really hard. I was blocked. But I always knew that telling a story about girls at three different stages developmentally was very interesting to me.”

Sam Fox’s three daughters – Max (Mikey Madison), Frankie (Hannah Alligood) and Duke (Olivia Edward) – are, respectively, a teenager just starting to have boy dramas, a preteen who knows everything and a little kid who thanks to the others has a whole jumble of reference points.

Sam is exasperated and exhausted, of course, but her responses aren’t always conventional. When Max blurts out the s-word, Sam cups her head and says, “My little girl has grown up.”

Fans of Louie will feel quite comfortable with the 10 episodes of Better Things, just as they will enjoy another CK-linked show, Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi on Amazon.

Better Things, like Louie, takes everyday family drama, gives it a slightly heightened sense of desperation, and turns both the good and the bad into something that, when it works, is both universal and amusing.

By traditional rules of the TV biz, that makes Better Things a comedy, though that term has been stretched considerably both by CK’s shows and other recent half-hour hybrids from You’re the Worst to Mozart in the Jungle, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Donald Glover’s Atlanta, which launches Sept. 6 on FX.

“I just feel like everything is funny in my life,” says Adlon. “There is a lot of funny in the darkness. I like things that just feel real, and I don’t like anything that’s dark without a heart.

“In terms of categories, it’s like what we talked about with Louie and all those other shows. I just feel like there’s really no category. It’s not comedy or dramedy. It’s like the incredible feelings show.”

Autobiographical as the show’s roots may be, Adlon says she tries to set boundaries.

“I’m very aware of things that would be too personal,” she says, “and my daughters know that I wouldn’t co-opt their lives. I don’t walk into a room and go, ‘Wait. Hang on. I’ve got to go write what just happened.’ Although I do that with my mother.

“She walks into the kitchen, and I just get out a pen, and I go, ‘Go.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, this is going to be good. Tell me about the Neighborhood Watch meeting, Mom. Let’s go.’ ”

CK, who directed the pilot, has said he doesn’t know when or if he will write a sixth season of Louie. He recently wrote, directed and starred in Horace and Pete, a streaming drama for which viewers paid a set fee each episode.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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