Review: ‘Better Things’ hits a maternal creative high with ‘Future Fever’

Senior Television Writer
10.06.16 10 Comments

FX

A few thoughts on tonight’s Better Things coming up just as soon as I have your PIN numbers…

Though Better Things deals with Sam’s acting career and love life, it’s not a coincidence that John Lennon’s “Mother” is the theme song, because it’s the job title she cares about most, and the one that Pamela Adlon, Louis CK and company seem most interested in exploring. (Even the episode where Sam was being considered for a TV series lead was really about how much she preferred hanging out with Frankie than getting another job.)

“Future Fever” is the show’s most maternal episode yet, and not coincidentally its best, presenting a series of vignettes about the joys, angst, and annoyances that come with the gig, and making clear that Sam is pretty good at it, just as Adlon and company are being ever more confident in telling her story.

In particular, there’s that lovely moment at Max’s ballet class where the camera very carefully pulls out and pulls out until it finally reveals that Sam has been watching along with us for the entire time, and coming into focus on her face just as she’s beginning to smile at her talented daughter. It’s evocative in a way of the gag from Louie where we watch Jane do an extended violin solo, only for Louie to appear at the very end to tell her to stop; where that was a set-up for an unexpected joke, this is played sincerely, so that we experience the pride and joy right along with Sam.

But all the scenes have similar levels of artistry and economy, whether it’s the pre-credits scene where Sam lugs a cooler out to the ballfield, wordlessly reminding us of what a hassle being a parent can be, or the long sequence where Sam’s friends (only one of whom – Tressa her agent – we’ve even met before or know the exact relationship) try to reassure Max in the midst of her panic about college and the future.

The half-hour is a nice mix of triumphs and frustrations, and of comedy (Sam and the woman on the blind date being simultaneously disgusted when the guy starts creeping on Max) and something more serious, like Sam’s pep talk to Max about how half the battle is just putting on the right clothes. (Though this is advice that may apply more to an actress like Sam than another field Max could aspire to join.)

When I suggested in my initial review that this was a show that could help fill the Louie-shaped hole in my heart, this was the episode in particular I was thinking of.

What did everybody else think? How are you enjoying Better Things overall?

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