Pamela Adlon’s ‘Better Things’ returns to FX

Rick Bentley
Tribune News Service

The longtime thinking when it comes to penning anything is to write what you know. That’s exactly what Pamela Adlon has done with her FX series “Better Things.”

After a 16-month hiatus, the series returns Thursday with Adlon not only directing all 12 episodes but also serving as the executive producer. She loves those jobs, but the most important thing to her about the series revolving around single mom Sam Fox (Adlon) – who has no filter and is doing her best to raise three daughters: Max (Mikey Madison), Frankie (Hannah Alligood) and Duke (Olivia Edward) – is she gets to write the tales based on story ideas that come from her own life as a mom and daughter.

“This show is therapy. The awful thing (that) happened at Thanksgiving dinner. Somebody pissed you off in the store. Or some other thing. You’re driving home from that situation. You’re like, ‘God, I wish I had said this. What if I had said that? What if this happened? Wouldn’t that be awful if that happened?’ So all those thoughts are kind of the way my show works the best,” Adlon says. “I have this saying: ‘Bad for my life, good for my show.’

“So if it didn’t happen in my life, then I go down the road in my head and I think, wouldn’t that be fun? Wouldn’t that be bad? Let’s do that.”

Taking those ideas and turning them into scripts for a cable comedy takes time. Adlon started working on the scripts for the upcoming season on Feb. 5, 2018, five days before she wrapped up the editing on Season 2. She wasn’t at a loss for ideas, but the timeframe to get the scripts ready was complicated by a mix of work and taking care of her own family.

Her work on “Better Things” has been so successful, the question of taking her writing, directing and acting to the film world keeps being suggested. Adlon doesn’t want to think about future plans until Season 3 is done.

“I did not want to pursue or be too greedy. Now I feel like it was very important to me to create this season and get through this season and give it my full attention. Now I’m excited about creating new content and moving forward and working on other projects,” Adlon says.

Before becoming the multiple hat-wearing force behind “Better Things,” Adlon was a writer on the comedy series “Louie.” But, she’s better known for her work in front of the camera, with credits going back to when the 52-year-old New York native was 16 and appeared in the movie musical “Grease 2.” Among her long list of acting roles since are “The Facts of Life,” “The Redd Foxx Show,” “Bobby’s World,” “Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot” and “King of the Hill.”

All the work has gone into helping Adlon be the best director she can be.

“I’m an actor first. So it’s anathema to me to tell another actor how to do something. And being an actor and being saved many times with scene partners and seeing what they can bring, I know not to say anything,” Adlon says. “If you wrote something yourself and you have it in stone in your head, you have the voice in your head, that’s a nightmare. I’ve done so many animated shows where the writer/director is doing you are into the 30 takes, 40 takes.

“So it’s something where just let people come and then see what they have. And ‘Oh, that’s interesting. I really think that might be a way to go with this scene.’ And then, if there’s something in particular that I really would like to convey, then I’ll say to an actor, ‘I’ve got something for you.’ I’ll pull them aside. I won’t yell it across the room the way it has been done to me so many times as an actor.”

Adlon’s work on Season 3 meant directing a long list of guest stars including Sharon Stone, Matthew Broderick, Doug Jones, Glynn Turman, Judy Reyes, Cree Summer, Charlie Robinson, Janina Gavankar and Marsha Thomason. Recurring players Diedrich Bader, Greg Cromer, Rebecca Metz, Kevin Pollak and Alysia Reiner also return this season.

‘Better Things’

10 p.m. Thursday