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One of the ‘Better Things’ on TV

Pamela Adlon in FX’s “Better Things.”Jennifer Clasen/FX

Better Things 10 p.m., FX

With “Louie,” “Baskets,” “You’re the Worst,” “Man Seeking Woman,” and, now, “Better Things” and “Atlanta,” FX and FXX have become important players in the half-hour comedy-drama game.

Showtime helped develop the hybrid genre with “Nurse Jackie,” “United States of Tara,” “Diary of a Call Girl,” and “Weeds.” But FX and FXX have taken it on in earnest lately. The sibling networks have given us some of TV’s best and most personal examples of the format.

“Better Things,” which FX premiered last week ahead of the fall onslaught, is particularly excellent. It was co-created by Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K., who’ve acted together on both “Lucky Louie” and “Louie” (for which Adlon won two guest Emmy nominations). Adlon stars as a harried single mother of three who works as an actress and voice artist — just like Adlon herself, who starred on “Californication” and voiced Bobby Hill on “King of the Hill.”

Like “Louie,” “Better Things” represents the tenor of ordinary life so accurately you might be tempted to miss the great art and effort behind it all. There’s no big there there, really; Adlon’s Sam deals with Hollywood sexism and ageism, faces bullying by her relatively entitled kids, and copes with her odd British mother, who lives across the street. Small incidents, such as Sam’s visit to the gynecologist, or her outburst while voicing a cartoon animal, form what is usually considered “plot.”


But it’s all remarkably winning and insightful, once you let go of the network-bred expectation of high-concept story lines. Adlon is a powerhouse lead; she prevails with the passion, cynicism, chaos, anger, profanity, and resilient humor that have become her trademark. She is a happily crazy lady on “Better Things,” a lovable, helium-voiced survivor no matter how much her daughters tune her out, no matter how bonkers her mother gets, no matter how much the entertainment industry insults her.


I’d watch her pick up her kids’ clothes — wait, I did, and loved it.

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