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All the ‘Better’: Pamela Adlon’s series is back for season 4

Pamela Adlon (right, with Rebecca Metz) in "Better Things."Jessica Brooks/FX via AP

One of the best series is back on FX.

Pamela Adlon’s “Better Things” just started season 4, and last week it opened with a pair of beautifully bittersweet episodes. The first minutes of the first half-hour are a stirring welcome back, as the camera sweeps through the very lived-in home of the LA family of women we’ve come to know so well. The little things in each bedroom speak volumes about its owner, from the art on the walls to the scribbled notes on the dresser — it’s the approach of the entire series, focusing in on the small things to make bigger points, to gesture out.


Adlon’s single mother, Sam, her three daughters, and her jabby mother still engage in a battle of wills that can veer from comedy to drama in an instant. An episode might revolve around an unexpected new pet, or a fraught car ride. The show is not heavily serialized. But it all adds up to life ‘s passages, epiphanies, and bonds reaffirmed. The format is different from episode to episode, with Adlon writing and directing at a level of remarkable assurance — not to mention her passionate performance.

Sometimes people ask me to describe “Better Things,” whose title is artfully evasive. It’s hard to sum it up, which is one of the better things about it.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.