Better Things (airing at 10pm Thursdays on FX) has a voice that earned it a second season this week. Pamela Adlon takes a sitcom staple and mines the drama out of it. Lenny Kravitz guest stars as Mel, a director working with Sam. She invites Mel to dinner, and her kids are socially terrible. Frankie talks about a diarrhea bout during ballet and Phil decides to get racial during a pantyhose talk. Mel helps Sam through the troubles, as he tells her kids how lucky they are to have an artist mother. During the dinner weirdness, it appears that Frankie is suffering from OCD.
“Brown” is painfully realistic. Pamela Adlon realizes that a lesser show would’ve let Mel and Sam get together at the end. But Mel is going through a divorce and Sam has her hands full with the kids. They like each other, however, their lives won’t allow them to come together. But, they have to get through this dinner. Mel and Sam try to support each other through their awkward dinner conversations, but what of the others? Sam’s kids don’t want to deal with yet another suitor to replace their father. Plus, Sam’s mother just wants to connect with her daughter’s potential boyfriend in some way.
Pamela Adlon knows that these family members shouldn’t be demonized. They’re individuals who normally have the tools to interact with others. But, when the slightest variation enters their lives, they lose their minds. From the ballet poop to Phil’s pantyhose to Mel’s skin color, the color brown is a prominent theme throughout the heavy episode. It’s odd to give your sense of parental failure a color. But, brown dominates so much of adult life. Whether it’s cleaning your kid’s diaper or looking at a slightly dimming future.
Pamela Adlon is slowly proving to be a treasure. It would be better if so many of the episodes weren’t written by Louis CK. Yeah, Adlon isn’t a prominent writer, but she has written in the past, and her voice still isn’t clear in her work. Louis CK does an amazing job nailing her tone, but three episodes in and something is missing. Why does each of these episodes feel like Adlon and CK are interchangeable? Why do we feel like we’re getting some bizarre Louie spin-off? While a second season is guaranteed by FX, there needs to be a reason to keep visiting Sam and her kids. Otherwise, I’ll stick with my Louie Blu-rays.