Perhaps best known for her childhood turn as Kelly Affinado in “The Facts of Life” and for giving that raspy voice to Bobby Hill on the animated series “King of the Hill,” Adlon calls “Better Things” an exaggerated version of her life. Like Sam, she is a mother of three and an actor trying to stay employed in a business with a reputation for tossing aside women of a certain age. She can’t help but take a critical eye to herself in the series: “Did my boob just get fat?”
There are sharp and funny moments in each 30-minute episode. But this is not your standard sitcom — it’s more of a family dramedy. Mini-crisis flows into mini-crisis. You know, just like real life. Nothing turns out exactly as planned. And parents screw up.
This season, oldest daughter Max (Mikey Madison) calls home from her freshman year in college, says she’s allergic to the vinyl in her dorm and demands her own apartment. Middle child Frankie (Hannah Alligood) hasn’t cracked “A Raisin in the Sun,” which she’s assigned to read for homework by the next morning. At youngest daughter Duke’s (Olivia Edward) school, a boy who beat up Duke shows his face at science night. Sam mutters that he’s a sociopath; Duke begs mom not to make a scene (which she promptly does).
At one point, Sam declares, “I want my big ‘This Is Us’ moment.” The beauty of her show is that she doesn’t need one. The small moments are sublime, whether it’s Sam’s heartfelt support for a fellow actor overheating in an alien costume or her cuddle in bed with Frankie as they read aloud the beautifully poetic lines from “Raisin.” Better things definitely don’t have to come in big packages.