[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series finale of FX’s Better Things.]
When FX and Pamela Adlon announced in October that the fifth season of Better Things would be the show’s last, the comedy’s writer-director-star said, “This is gonna be a wrap on Sam Fox (for now).”
Fans of the show might be crossing their fingers on the “for now” piece of the equation, hoping that Sam, Max (Mikey Madison), Frankie (Hannah Riley) and Duke (Olivia Edward) might return to our televisions sooner than later, but if Monday’s (April 25) series finale really was the end of the Fox clan, it was a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
We got another fantastic pre-credit music video, Sam got a new piece of art for her upstairs landing and there was a wedding that brought many of the show’s beloved supporting characters back for another celebration and some bookending Monty Python. Then, in the end, Sam contemplated her place in both the social universe of her family-and-friends “village” and in the universe as a whole, complete with shooting stars, northern lights and, if you stuck it out until the end , a very unusual and unexplainable occurrence.
Adlon joined The Hollywood Reporter‘s TV’s Top 5 podcast for a wide-ranging, wonderfully digressive conversation about the show’s journey in our second Showrunner Spotlight standalone podcast, following our January season wrap-up with the creators of Showtime’s Yellowjackets.
Listen to the full interview.
Adlon was the last in-person guest for TV’s Top 5 back in March 2020, prompting lots of nostalgic memories of the changed world.
In the interview, Adlon tells hosts Lesley Goldberg and Daniel Fienberg that she knew season five would be the show’s last before she started writing it and while she suspects that FX would have let her do more if she asked, “It feels good to finish the show feeling good and not slumping toward the finish line. It was a very mutual decision. ”
She acknowledges that every day she experiences new things that go in her “notes” folder that could have been Better Things plotlines, but “I wanted to keep the story going as if the stories will keep going. I don’t consider it being the end for Better Things, which is the way I live my life. People are like are you in mourning? I felt like people want me to be sad and have this moment. Truth is this has been seven years of my life. When I started this show, my life looked very different. All my kids lived at home, there have been many scorched earth moments throughout the years. I’ve lost many people, I’ve had to make adjustments in terms of pivots and major life changes. “
It was a difficult season to put together and Adlon discusses the various challenges that came from production in the middle of COVID-19 (and why COVID was not part of the season). The series’ final song choice, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” harkened back to the use of Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song” in the season five premiere, a nod to fans old, new and fans in the future.
Adlon says, “When we end on‘ Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, ’that was saying goodbye to the fans, goodbye to the people who watch this show, goodbye to the people who have yet to discover the show. Because I know what my show is and I’ve always known it’s a marathon and not a race. People will catch up to it eventually. It’s still not there and it doesn’t have eyeballs of those giant behemoth shows that have so many eyeballs and people talk about hate-watching a show they’re watching, which is so the opposite of what’s going on with Better Things. I’d take hate-watching, multitudes of eyeballs. Look over here! There’s something for everybody! ”
In the 78-minute conversation, Adlon talks about bringing her own genealogical experience from Finding Your Roots into the season, explains how baseball cards became a key piece of the season’s arc and she says how the nighttime sky in the final shots came together and what that unidentified flying object means to her.
Oh and what comes next for Adlon? She drops a few hints.
Listen to the full TV’s Top 5 Showrunner Spotlight special episode, above. TV’s Top 5 is a weekly TV podcast hosted by Goldberg (West Coast TV editor) and Fienberg (chief TV critic) that features news, analysis, reviews and interviews with new and established showrunners. Subscribe here.