Better Things (TV series)

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Better Things
Better Things Title Card.png
Genre Black comedy
Created by
Opening theme "Mother" by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Composer(s) Jay Gruska
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 20 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • Pamela Adlon
  • M. Blair Breard
  • Dave Becky (seasons 1–2)
  • Louis C.K. (seasons 1–2)
Producer(s) Joanne Toll
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 20–30 minutes
Production company(s)
Original network FX
Original release September 8, 2016 (2016-09-08) – present
External links

Better Things is an American comedy-drama television series created by Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K. for FX, starring Adlon as a divorced actress who raises her three daughters by herself.[3] FX gave a 10-episode order on August 7, 2015.[4] The series premiered on September 8, 2016.[5] On September 20, 2016, FX renewed the series for a second season, which premiered on September 14, 2017.[6][7] In October 2017, FX renewed the series for a third season.[8]

The series and Adlon's performance has received critical acclaim. Adlon was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2017. The show received a Peabody Award in April 2017, with the board stating: "[...] this searingly funny and beautiful show is an at-times raw examination of the vicissitudes of working motherhood, crackling with feminist verve and energy, that consistently cuts new ground."[9]



  • Pamela Adlon as Sam Fox, a single mother and working actress raising three daughters in Los Angeles.[10]
  • Mikey Madison as Max Fox, Sam's volatile and angry but essentially decent oldest daughter.[11]
  • Hannah Alligood as Frankie Fox, Sam's radical middle daughter.[11]
  • Olivia Edward as Duke Fox, Sam's adorable and still generally sweet-hearted youngest daughter.[11]
  • Celia Imrie as Phyllis, Sam's mother who is a British woman with some looming physical and mental issues.[12]


  • Diedrich Bader as Rich, Sam's gay best friend, who tells her the truth and vice versa.
  • Lucy Davis as Macy, Sam's close friend who has serious personal problems.
  • Alysia Reiner as Sunny, Sam's newly divorced best friend ever since her family took in Sam when Sam's father threw her out of the house when she was a teenager.
  • Greg Cromer as Jeff, Sunny's pot-smoking and lazy ex-husband.
  • Rebecca Metz as Tressa, Sam's understated and very competent manager and friend.
  • Patricia Scanlon as Joy, one of Sam's friends.
  • Mather Zickel as one of Sam's ex-boyfriends.
  • Matthew Glave as Xander, Sam's ex-husband.
  • Henry Thomas as Robin, a single father and Sam's current boyfriend.
  • Kevin Pollak as Sam's brother Marion

Notable guest stars[edit]

Production and development[edit]

The pilot was ordered by FX on January 18, 2015. It was written by Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon, and directed by Louis C.K.[13] The story is semi-autobiographically based on Adlon's life.[14] The pilot was picked up for a 10-episode first season on August 7, 2015.[11][14]

The title of the show comes from The Kinks song, "Better Things".[15]

In November 2017, after Louis C.K. confirmed the sexual misconduct allegations against him were true, FX canceled their overall deal with C.K. and his production company, Pig Newton. C.K. will have no involvement in future seasons of the series.[16][17] That month, Adlon fired 3 Arts manager Dave Becky as her manager. Therefore, Pig Newton and 3 Arts will no longer co-produce the series going forward after they were both removed from the conclusion of the Season 2 finale.[18] For the third season, Adlon hired four new writers for the series: Sara Gubbins, Joe Hortua, Robin Ruzan, and Ira Parker to join her in the writers room, after C.K. was fired by FX.[19]

Series overview[edit]

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
110September 8, 2016 (2016-09-08)November 10, 2016 (2016-11-10)
210September 14, 2017 (2017-09-14)November 16, 2017 (2017-11-16)


Season 1 (2016)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
US viewers
11"Sam/Pilot"Louis C.K.Pamela Adlon & Louis C.K.September 8, 2016 (2016-09-08)XBG010010.671[20]
Sam Fox is introduced as a working actress with three daughters (an angry eldest, a fiery middle, and a sweetheart youngest), various middle-aged men in her life, and an increasingly addled mom living next door.
22"Period"Pamela AdlonStory by : Pamela Adlon
Teleplay by : Louis C.K.
September 15, 2016 (2016-09-15)XBG010070.570[21]
Sam hopes that she can no longer get pregnant, then has to handle her daughters' escalating bad behavior and her mom's heightened eccentricity.
33"Brown"Nisha GanatraLouis C.K.September 22, 2016 (2016-09-22)XBG010060.382[22]
Sam's latest acting work allows her to spend quality time with her best friend Sunny and less-endearing time with Sunny's nasty pothead husband Jeff. She also lands a date with a handsome African-American man but their dinner together at her house is ruined by Grandma Phil's racism.
44"Woman Is the Something of the Something"Nisha GanatraPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.September 29, 2016 (2016-09-29)XBG010030.455[23]
Sam is briefly up for a leading sitcom role, but never knows about it because her agent doesn't want her to be hurt if (when) it doesn't pan out. A fire alarm brings chaos to the house, while a feminist event at Frankie's school brings her and Sam closer together.
55"Future Fever"Lance BangsPamela Adlon & Louis C.K. and Cindy ChupackOctober 6, 2016 (2016-10-06)XBG010040.439[24]
Sam takes care of Frankie when she runs a high fever, Duke when she has coins to turn in at the bank, and Max when a frank look at her lackluster academic career has her sad over her unpromising college prospects.
66"Alarms"Lance BangsPamela Adlon & Louis C.K. and Gina FalloreOctober 13, 2016 (2016-10-13)XBG010090.406[25]
The men are not alright as Sam has to deal with gross colleagues, her utterly useless ex, a sleazy fake-admirer, and even Sunny's zero of a hubby Jeff (when they find out he's on Tinder). But more interaction with an addled Phil brings some good work and cheer to Sam and her girls.
77"Duke's Chorus"Lance BangsPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.October 20, 2016 (2016-10-20)XBG010050.460[26]
Sam clashes with the Mormon mom of a friend of Duke's, until they each come to understand the others' difficult situations. Max is worse to her mother than ever and Frankie concludes that there is God.
88"Scary Fun"Nisha GanatraPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.October 27, 2016 (2016-10-27)XBG010080.381[27]
Sam warns Harvey, a boyfriend of Max's that she doesn't trust him around her daughter. Sam and Frankie play pranks on each other. Max is left heartbroken by Harvey when she is dumped, so Sam, Frankie and Duke stay at home instead of going out for Halloween to cheer her up.
99"Hair of the Dog"Nisha GanatraPamela AdlonNovember 3, 2016 (2016-11-03)XBG010020.426[28]
Sam takes Max and her friend to a Joe Walsh concert where unexpected info is revealed.
1010"Only Women Bleed"Pamela AdlonPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.November 10, 2016 (2016-11-10)XBG010100.547[29]
After a chaotic morning, Sam gets to work, but that's interrupted when Frankie is sent home from school and Max later tells her mom something about her sister.

Season 2 (2017)[edit]

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
US viewers
111"September"Pamela AdlonPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.September 14, 2017 (2017-09-14)XBG020010.528[30]
Sam has company over for a party. Tension is high between Sam and her daughter Max, who is dating Arturo, a man nearly twenty years her senior. Arturo was previously dating Macy, one of Sam's friends. Max eventually reveals to Sam that she is in over her head and wants to end the relationship, but is scared to. Near the end of the party, Sam takes Arturo outside and tells him his relationship with her daughter is over.
122"Rising"Pamela AdlonLouis C.K.September 21, 2017 (2017-09-21)XBG020020.492[31]
Sam breaks up with a boyfriend she hates, snarling at him after he calls her out for mistreating him that she disliked him from their first date, but was "too nice" to break up with him. Later, Sam goes on a weekend trip with her friends to the fancy home of Sunny's new wealthy boyfriend. However, she leaves the party and instead goes to a beachside motel to be alone. She fantasizes about driving back home to get her daughters and bringing them to the beach.
133"Robin"Pamela AdlonPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.September 28, 2017 (2017-09-28)XBG020050.498[32]
Sam befriends Robin, a single father. Sam is asked by Robin to go with him for a weekend gateaway to wine country and she leaves her obnoxious, squabbling kids behind as they whine about her. They have a nice time, but things get awkward when Sam requests they have separate rooms at the inn. Robin later apologizes for screwing things up and Sam still seems to like him.
144"Sick"Pamela AdlonPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.October 5, 2017 (2017-10-05)XBG020060.377[33]
Sam confides with Rich about her fear about her relationship with Robin; he's the perfect guy, but she's comfortable with being alone. Later, Sam's ex-husband unexpectedly stays over for dinner.
155"Phil"Pamela AdlonLouis C.K.October 12, 2017 (2017-10-12)XBG020070.520[34]
After Phil injures herself which lands her in the hospital, Sam contemplates on whether to put her into an assisted living, but she eventually decides against it and to take care of her mother herself. Robin meets Sam's children for the first time as they go out to dinner. Later, Sam goes to meet her ex (Mather Zickel).
166"Eulogy"Pamela AdlonLouis C.K.October 19, 2017 (2017-10-19)XBG020030.502[35]
Sam teaches an acting class and films a car commercial. Sam is upset at her children when they don't appreciate her work as an actor which has paid for their lifestyle. Sam has Max and Frankie eulogize her and tells them "I don't want to wait until I'm dead for my kids to appreciate me".
177"Blackout"Pamela AdlonPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.October 26, 2017 (2017-10-26)XBG020090.414[36]
After the electricity goes out in Sam's home, Jeff suggests that she get a generator in case the power goes out again. He drives her to the hardware store to buy one, and she ends up running into Robin and his daughter. Sam has stopped seeing Robin and hasn't called him; Robin tells Sam he misses her. On the way home, Jeff tries to kiss Sam, but she rejects him.
188"Arnold Hall"Pamela AdlonPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.November 2, 2017 (2017-11-02)XBG020040.426[37]
Arnold Hall, whose son is Sam's worthless ex-husband Xander, summons her for a visit. She gives Arnold a blunt evaluation when he asks her to keep supporting his son's "life of leisure" after her legal divorce payments expire late next year. She later goes to a bar mitzvah for Sunny's son Push where she gets even with Frankie for being verbally abusive, gives a great speech, and witnesses the unfriendly interplay between Sunny and her bitter sister.
199"White Rock"Pamela AdlonStory by : Pamela Adlon & Louis C.K.
Teleplay by : Louis C.K.
November 9, 2017 (2017-11-09)XBG020080.499[38]
Sam takes her three children to White Rock, British Columbia to visit her uncle Lester (Phil's brother) and his wife Jarita. Sam learns family secrets, including discovering that she has an aunt she never knew about, who was put in a institution due to a mental illness and cut from the family. Sam later learns that she died in 1983. Max converses with Jarita about her life in England; Frankie bonds with Lester over fishing and carpentry; and Duke sees a ghost.
2010"Graduation"Pamela AdlonPamela Adlon & Louis C.K.November 16, 2017 (2017-11-16)XBG020100.336[39]
Sam, her family, and her closest friends celebrate Max's high school graduation.


Critical reception[edit]

Better Things has received positive reviews from television critics. The first season has a Metacritic score of 80 out of 100 based 31 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[40] Rotten Tomatoes gave the first season a 94% "Certified Fresh" score with an average rating of 8.08 out of 10 based on 54 critic reviews, with the critical consensus "Pamela Adlon's Better Things abstains from traditional sitcom sendups and forges a path all its own – in this bawdy, often hilarious and bittersweet ode to the daily highs and lows of being a single mother."[41]

The second season has received highly positive reviews from critics. On Metacritic, it has a score of 96 out of 100 based on 13 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[42] On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 95% approval rating with an average rating of 9.2 out of 10 based on 22 reviews, with the critical consensus "Better Things' second season plays even more adroitly to its strengths, weaving confidently between stinging humor, caustic observation, and poignant drama."[43] In his review for Time, Daniel D'Addario wrote, "This is a huge leap forward for a show that was already quite strong. Adlon comes as close to a pure auteur as TV gets. That her story is one imbued with both sadness and light makes Better Things one of television's very best shows—in any genre."[44] Better Things is ranked as the seventh best TV series of 2017, according to Metacritic's list which tallies "best of" lists from various major TV critics and publications.[45]


Year Ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2016 7th Critics' Choice Television Awards Most Exciting New Series Better Things Won [46]
21st Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical Pamela Adlon Nominated [47]
Peabody Award Entertainment Programming Better Things Won [9]
Gotham Independent Film Awards 2017 Breakthrough Series – Long Form Better Things Nominated [48]
69th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Pamela Adlon Nominated [49]
33rd TCA Awards Individual Achievement in Comedy Nominated [50]
Writers Guild of America Awards 2016 New Series Pamela Adlon, Louis C.K., Cindy Chupack, Gina Fattore Nominated [51]
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Outstanding Music Supervision – Television Nora Felder Nominated [52]
2018 75th Golden Globe Awards Best Performance in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy Pamela Adlon Nominated [53]
70th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Pamela Adlon Pending [54]


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External links[edit]