There are things we (okay, I) do when everything seems so incredibly bad everywhere. There’s the ceremony staring stoically out the window imagining “Everybody Hurts” playing and we’re poignantly framed in an moody music video. Typically, this involves a dirty calorie spree of mozzarella sticks, ice cream, and variations on the wine theme. Our faithful old friend, The Fetal Position, is getting a long visit.
But these are numbing mechanisms, and they don’t do the service that – and I’m serious – television does.
The daily beast is possessed
Everything We Can’t Stop Loving, Hating, and Thinking About in Pop Culture this week.
I’m not talking about the things we turn to to distract ourselves or turn our minds off, be it a Real housewives binge drinking or a classic comfort watch from Sex and the City for the 17th time. (Well, 23rd time.) The Great British Baking Show, a cooking competition where regular people bake cakes and I inexplicably cry once per episode, is a little closer. It’s the feelings that count.
Over the past few years, and especially this past week, I’ve been drawn to the types of shows that don’t ignore the big feelings in life, but rather walk you through them. No shows that evoke intense emotional responses — say, a weekly Irritation download after each one new episode of And just like that…– or focus on something tragic or harrowing. I’m talking about shows that deal with the mundane; who recognize that we carry with us a constant montage of the unbelievably bad, but also that we have yet to get through the day with all its joys and pains, all our mistakes and our growth.
I’m talking about a show like better things.
Pamela Adlon’s precious jewel a series kicked off its final season on FX this week with two new episodes you can watch now on Hulu. You are beautiful as this series has always been. They are also needed and seem to be on time.
For five seasons, the show has been a broken mirror to Adlon’s own life: a single mother, a working actress, and a collector of passionate, loyal friends. As such, it’s a tour de force of intimate, personal storytelling. Adlon directs every episode, and even details like the clothes her character Sam wears and the paintings that decorate the show’s home are her own. The stressors and joys that permeate each episode also feel like they’re hers — because they feel like they’re ours, too.
better things enjoys everyday life and everyday things when so much comedy seems cynical. It’s reassuring to watch a television series that isn’t necessarily escapist, but isn’t too brutally real either. It makes you a little less crazy about getting through the day when you watch Sam try to get through hers. They are transported into reality, not out of it.
Daily struggles are fought with compassion and an open heart, but better things despite all efforts, does not shrink from the inconvenience that manages to intrude. In a way, everything is put on an even playing field. What are our family finances and what will happen if mom dies and where can we park near the restaurant and what the heck are NFTs? In Sam’s world, they are all the same and equally impossible to answer.
There are times when Sam stops in the chaos of life and sees her child, mother or friend. They may also be in the midst of a personal crisis, doing something frantic or upsetting or otherwise worrying. Maybe they do nothing but live – that is, they do so much, even if there is a brief moment of silence.
“The smile is a spasm. A reflex. It is a charge that permeates space and time and the laws of physics – as do emotions – and electrifies them because they and they are connected.”
In those moments, Sam seems to come to a sudden standstill – as if time has stood still, the sky has parted, and a ray of sunshine is illuminating that person she loves. She can’t help but notice them. Life forces them to.
She sees them and smiles easily. It’s like all the things she knows about this person that she admires so much, despises about her, or makes her feel so close overwhelms her. The smile is a spasm. A reflex. It is a charge that permeates space and time and the laws of physics – as do emotions – and electrifies them because they and they are connected.
It’s the smallest little thing, but every time, like the last five seasons, it makes me cry. Can something break your heart and make it stronger at the same time? Is that possible? Maybe it’s that thing where the scar tissue grows by tearing it a little bit and now you have this heart that’s resilient, strengthened and bigger to have more feeling and love.
That smile is important because it means life is happening. That means it goes on. It goes past the fights, the small ones and the really big ones. It goes beyond the tense stages just as it goes beyond the honeymoon stages. It bypasses both the arguments about homework and the sweet good morning kisses; both the divorces and the great sex; the days that went well, the days that felt like they stole a year from your life because they were so impossible, and the days that were unforgettable and mundane.
Getting ahead is never easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. You lose things and gain things along the way, but you’re still there. You can do it.
It seems so simple, but it couldn’t be more inscrutable to process, especially in everyday life. That’s why I can’t resist those moments when Sam smiles. I’m not sure she realizes what’s happening in those moments – what she’s feeling and what it means for a person drifting through her. But it’s a beautiful, priceless reminder that it’s happening, and maybe even happens to us every day. Moving on, feeling through life is so natural that we don’t notice it. What a comfort to be remembered through this show.
There are other things I’ve turned to lately for a similar sense of catharsis. Bridget Everett’s HBO series someone somewhere is an exquisite example. station eleven was wonderful. Just something like Encantowho was so emotionally honest about what it means to be part of a complicated family and not be sure who you are in it pulled through.
But now I’m so thankful for it better things back although I will be so disappointed to see it go.
Hear more better thingsPamela Adlon continued the last laugh podcast.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/bless-better-things-the-tv-show-that-actually-makes-you-feel-good-about-life-right-now?source=articles&via=rss Bless Better Things, the TV show that’s making you feel good about life right now