Pamela Adlon Finds ‘Better Things’

The new show from Adlon and Louis C.K. features unfiltered dark comedy that riffs on parenthood, divorce-dom and the entertainment business.

click to enlarge Pamela Adlon, center, plays Sam Fox in new show "Better Things." - Photo: Colleen Hayes/FX
Photo: Colleen Hayes/FX
Pamela Adlon, center, plays Sam Fox in new show "Better Things."

Pamela Adlon is known for many things: her distinctively raspy voice work for characters like Bobby Hill in King of the Hill and Spinelli from Recess, her frequent collaborations with comic Louis C.K., her own career as a comedy writer and producer and her real-life role as a single mom of three daughters.

In Louie, Adlon’s character (also named Pamela) is the raccoon-eyed, ball-busting on/off love interest of the show’s star, played by C.K. Both single parents, they meet at a local park where their kids play. Their relationship takes a decidedly adult turn soon after. 

If you’ve ever wondered what Louie would be like with more Pamela, look no further than Better Things (Series Premiere, 10 p.m. Thursday, FX). 

The show in general is based a little more in reality than the often-surreal Louie, but features the same unfiltered dark comedy that riffs on parenthood, divorce-dom and the entertainment business. 

It makes sense: C.K. and Adlon created the series together, and he takes writing and direction credit on various episodes.

In Better Things, Adlon’s Sam Fox is an actress and single mother of three girls (Adlon dedicates the pilot to her daughters). We see her audition for acting gigs and do voice-over work for cartoons. This iteration seems closer to the real-life Adlon than the Louie version. 

We find Sam begging her teenage daughter to hide things like sex and drug use from her, and navigating relationships with the fathers of her daughters as well as negotiating her own current dating situation. 

Scenes could easily take place with Louie and his daughters. But she’s also taking on new challenges you won’t find as much in Louie, like problematic sex scenes, misogynist casting calls, aging as a woman in L.A. or simply going to the gyno. 

“Have I shut down, down there, yet?” Sam asks her doctor (Cleopatra Coleman from The Last Man on Earth — expect lots of great guest spots) post-examination. “Am I a man yet?”

It’s told that late comic great Chris Farley would say he only played one character, just at different volumes. In that vein, Adlon’s latest role is coming through loud and clear with perfect pitch. And since we don’t know when -- or if -- the next season of Louie is coming, Better Things serves as an adequate stand-in.   

Picks of the Week:

Weediquette (10 p.m. Wednesday, VICELAND) – A look at marijuana in the NFL, from a pain treatment for players to a protectant against brain injury.

Mr. Robot (10 p.m. Wednesday, USA) – Elliot worries that Mr. Robot has been lying; Darlene tries to do the right thing; Dom and the FBI close in.

Finding Prince Charming (Series Premiere, 9 p.m. Thursday, Logo) – Finally: Gay Bachelor!

One Mississippi (Series Premiere, Friday, Amazon) – Tig Notaro stars in this loosely biographical dark comedy about her return to her hometown in Mississippi after her mother’s sudden death and her own health scare. Louis C.K. is everywhere lately — he serves as producer alongside Juno’s Diablo Cody. Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said) directs. The series seems to fit in line with Amazon’s breakout hit, Transparent. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry.

Dancing with the Stars (Season Premiere, 8 p.m. Monday, ABC) – For 23 seasons, DWTS has been helping D-list celebs get in shape while clinging onto fame. Tune in to see Olympic bonehead Ryan Lochte, former governor Rick Perry, the shockingly still somehow relevant Vanilla Ice and others duke it out on the dance floor. 

Halt and Catch Fire (10 p.m. Tuesday, AMC) – Joe and Ryan make a discovery; Gordon and Donna ditch camping for a staycation; Bos and Cameron return to Texas.

Atlanta (10 p.m. Tuesday, FX) – Earn goes out on a date despite the fact that he has no money; Paper Boi proves himself.


CONTACT JAC KERN: @jackern

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