Better Things on FX and FX on Hulu is a dramedy about Sam Fox played by Pamela Adlon, a working actor and single mother raising her three daughters, Max (Mikey Madison), Frankie (Hannah Alligood) and Duke (Olivia Edward) in a rambling Spanish-style house in one of the canyons of Los Angeles. She lives across the road from her mother, Phil (Celia Imrie), an English expat with questionable faculties and no filter. There is also Diedrich Bader as Rich, Sam’s gay best friend, who tells her the truth and vice versa.
Better Things is now in its 10-episode Fourth Season which began airing in early March. The series, especially Adlon’s performance have been praised by critics and Adlon was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2017 and 2018. The show received a Peabody Award in April 2017.
It is a fiery, funny, beautiful show with a strong feminist vibe and searing female energy, about navigating relationships, gender, agism, and the indignities of 21st-century American life. Adlon is not just the star and co-creator, she serves as, writer, executive producer, and sole director of the series. Each episode is like a little art-house film about relatable people in situations that could really happen. Despite its deliberately day-to-day subject matter, Better Things is aesthetically daring even with what must be a small budget. It’s proof that a television show doesn’t need tons of money to feel big. It expresses itself with confidence and carefulness while showing the most surprising, yet perceptive, way to look at life in our era.
In Season Four, Episode Six, which aired last week, Sam travels to New Orleans for the same-sex wedding ceremony of Maneesh, one of her fellow passengers on a flight where the cockpit caught fire. It is a friendship struck during a moment of panic, yet their friendship has lasted. Maneesh (Kunal Dudheker) is marrying Andrew, who is played by real life Resistance hero, Randy Rainbow. Sam is welcomed by Andrew’s mother, Miss Louise, played by the delicious, incomparable Elizabeth Ashley, who defends her new friend from some drunk dude in an LSU cap who saunters over to tell Sam he used to masturbate to her during the wedding dinner.
The always welcome Molly Shannon, playing a character named Molly Shannon, invites Sam to a party at her New Orleans mansion. Molly, while filming in the city the year before, is now loving New Orleans, where she is getting into the real estate market and having the time of her life, telling Sam:
“I’m picking dick out of my pussy!”
Sam toasts Molly with:
“I would like to pick dick out of my pussy. I’m moving to New Orleans.”
The best moment in this emotional episode is a live musical performance by Randy Rainbow of a Tom Waits tune that is so unexpected. Adlon focuses on the reaction of the wedding guests, their spontaneous tears, and their gratitude for the love and magic in the room. I was goose-bumped and overwhelmed hearing Rainbow’s version of Waits’ gorgeous Martha.