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'Better Things' review: Season 4 stuck in neutral

Pamela Adlon (l) as Sam Fox and Mikey

Pamela Adlon (l) as Sam Fox and Mikey Madison as Max on FX's "Better Things.". Credit: FX/Suzanne Tenner

SERIES "Better Things"

WHEN|WHERE Season 4 premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on FX

WHAT IT'S ABOUT In season 4, Frankie (Hannah Alligood) has moved back home, so it's a full house again with single mom/actress Sam (Pamela Adlon) and daughters, Max (Mikey Madison) and Duke (Olivia Edward). "Phyl" (Celia Imrie) is still driving her own daughter, Sam, batty. It's the rainy season in L.A.— really rainy. 


 

MY SAY After two straight Emmy nods, Adlon got zip for season 3, the best one of all. Maybe voters finally realized "Better Things" was about them, or too much about them. And … still is. The 4th remains that closely observed portrait of a small world, confined to certain L.A. ZIP codes dominated by "the biz," where a  sense of unease, paranoia, and "tsoris" stalks every word and action. Sam is turning 50, so double that sense. That it's raining all the time helps. 

"Things" is still about how the little stuff is really the big stuff, and how generational conflicts play out much as they have since moms have had daughters. Meanwhile, the comedy, also poignancy, is still refracted through that "biz," or as someone points out to Sam, "It's 'Logan's Run' here," to which she replies, "Yeah, and we're the dead people."

Still good? Of course — aside from a nagging sense that Sam and "Things" are standing in place. Inertia is part of the joke except that we think we already know the punchline. TV shows are about journeys too but through the early episodes, this one seems like it may be stuck in neutral.

 BOTTOM LINE "Things" is in deja-vu-all-over-again territory.

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