No one would deny that Pamela Adlon has been a successful actress for a long time. She began her stint as the voice of Bobby Hill (among many others on King of the Hill) twenty years ago. But even before that she had many film and television credits, including her first in Grease 2 in 1982 and Say Anything in 1989. Despite her incredible amount of noteworthy and terrific performances in her career, like being the main reason to watch Californication for years, she is doing her best work now, at age 51.
As Sam Fox, an actress and mother of three, in Better Things, she is the compelling lead of the best half hour show on TV right now, with apologies to The Good Place. I only lead with this information because she is best known for her acting and voice acting. Adlon is the co-creator of the show and has co-written every episode of the show so far (along with Louie C.K.) She also directed every single episode of season 2.
I believe Adlon being the showrunner, producer, writer, and director for every episode is the reason season two of Better Things turned out to be one of the best seasons of television I’ve ever seen. It made me laugh consistently, it made me angry, and it made me sad. I cried out of sadness, but more often than not I cried out of joy and love for this show and these characters.
Sam is not a perfect mom, but she is a great one. She wants what is best for her kids, and will do almost anything for them, only not at the expense of her own sanity. There are episodes of these season that hardly involve them, but they almost always have some impact on her life and actions. If she’s not trying to protect them from their shitbird father, she’s helping them get things they want or throw a great graduation party.
One of the episodes ends with Sam essentially bullying her children into throwing her a funeral, but it’s much more amazing than it sounds, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Season two ends with what is probably my favorite scene from any show this year and everyone needs to watch it just for that.
I felt there was only one misstep in the entire season, in which Sam acted out of character and was being unnecessarily mean, but it was ten minutes out of an entire season. And it was hard to hold against her as everyone makes mistakes and she’s so damn lovable the rest of the time.
If you haven’t seen this show, quit stalling and get on it.