Magazine article Variety

Atlanta/Better Things

Magazine article Variety

Atlanta/Better Things

Article excerpt

Atlanta/Better Things


Comedy: 10 episodes (4 reviewed); FX; Tues. Sept. 6, 10 p.m.

Starring: Donald Glover

Better Things

Comedy: 10 episodes (5 reviewed); FX, Thurs. Sept. 8, 10 p.m.

Starring: Pamela Adlon

In the tradition of "Louie" two strong debut series reinforce FX's comedy brand and redefine the half-hour sitcom.

Donald Glover and Pamela Adlon do not have a lot in common. The former is a rapper and comedy writer who became known in TV circles for his fiveseason-long stint on the cult comedy "Community"' The latter is a performer with a long career as a voice actor and comedian who is probably best known for her recurring role on "Louie"

But what's striking about both "Atlanta" and "Better Things" the half-hour shows debuting on FX this week from these two creatives, is how similar they are, despite divergent subject matter. Where Glover's "Atlanta" is about youth - the extended adolescence of aimlessness, to be sure, but still the beginning of adulthood, with all of its hopes and fears - Adlon's "Better Things" is about the slog of middle age, with three kids, two dogs, and a stalled career. But each is anchored by a single comedic mind outside of the typical demographics of cutting-edge comedy in Hollywood.

And most importantly, both shows are very good. In an era flooded with programming, much of it mediocre, FX produced two gems by following a template. That may sound tepid, but it's arguably the greatest compliment one can give to a network.

In "Better Things," Adlon plays Sam Fox, a single mom raising three attitudinal daughters and navigating Hollywood as a middle-aged woman. The show quickly invites the viewer into the intimacy of this family, with home videos, poop jokes, and screaming fights in the hallway. Adlon appears to be bemused and amused at what her life has become - a cross between the stereotypically harried "having it all" career mom, and a messy, extended adolescence, where sometimes her daughters are less charges than peers.

In that sense, she's borrowing from "Louie," where the title character is befuddled by what life, and his daughters, expect from him. But the similarities between the two shows end there. Where "Louie" is taken by flights of fancy and an inexhaustible curiosity about why the world is what it is, "Better Things" is, so far, more focused on the Fox family's daily grind. …

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