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Better Things (season 03)

Josh Reviews Better Things Season Three

Pamela Adlon’s show Better Things continues to be one of my very favorite TV shows currently being made.  I recently caught up with season three, and it’s every bit as magnificent as I had hoped.  (Click here for my review of Better Things season one, and here for my review of season two.)

Better Things was co-created by Pamela Adlon, who also plays the lead role, writes most of the episodes (she wrote or co-wrote eight of the twelve season three episodes), and directed ALL of them in season three.  This is a magnificent showcase for Ms. Adlon’s talents, and I love that she has created a show that is idiosyncratic and unique.  Better Things is unlike most other television.  The show zooms from comedy to heartbreaking drama and back again at a moment’s notice.  It has a loose approach to narrative structure, with some episodes containing several vignettes that have little to nothing to do with one another, and some story-lines carrying through multiple episodes while other single episodes represent completely stand-along mini-movies or tone poems all their own.  There are many reasons why I love this show; one of the best is that, from episode to episode and moment to moment, I never know what I’m going to get.

I love that the show’s focus is firmly on Sam (Ms. Adlon’s character), her three kids Max, Frankie, and Duke, and the other women in their lives.  There are male characters on the show and many of them are great and interesting.  But this is a show that is about these women and their experiences.

Ms. Adlon seems focused on honesty, on depicting the real-life joys and struggles and sorrows of life as a working single parent of kids.  She seems to revel in showing the audience real-life moments we’ve never seen on TV before.  (As a prime example: episode seven, “Toilet,” chronicles Sam’s preparations for her colonoscopy.)

There are times when the show seems to idolize Sam a bit too much.  (“Your mother may be the greatest mother in the world,” Sam’s brother Marion (Kevin Pollak) tells her young daughter Duke at one point.)  But on the other hand, the show again and again shows Sam’s flaws and bad behavior.  So it works that the show is structured so as to put Sam’s hard work as a parent up on a bit of a pedestal.  Sam is a great mother not because she is perfect.  Far from it, she screws up and makes questionable decisions in nearly every episode.  But her effort day in and day out, and her unconditional love for her kids, and her stubborn refusal to stick to the path that most … [continued]