Pamela Adlon cannot turn off her mothering instinct, nor the need to make others feel at home around her. This was in evidence last week in North Hollywood when the FYC panel for “Better Things” took place on a stage dressed to look like an everyday living room. The setting also felt like a safe space for women since every person on the stage was female, from Adlon and moderator Debra Birnbaum of Variety, to the cast playing Adlon’s on-screen family: Celia Imrie, Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood, and Olivia Edward.
The pro-woman message wasn’t overt, but it was nevertheless important in the wake of the sexual harassment revelations from last year involving Adlon’s mentor, writing partner and good friend Louis C.K. His name wasn’t mentioned during the panel at all, and instead the mood was one of loving support and celebration for what the cast and crew had achieved: a perfect season of moving television.
To hear Adlon speak, though, making TV this way is natural and as inevitable as the passage of time.
“I just want to keep it moving in the direction that life goes, just the way all of us go,” she said about her intentions for Season 3. “We’ve gone through massive changes since we’ve seen each other. It’s kind of epic…just the ebbs and flows of life, I just wanted to keep reflecting that. I want people to have the response to it that they have. I love it that people are so passionate and it touches them.
“I always said the logline… of my show is, ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re too busy to make any other plans,’” she said, paraphrasing John Lennon. “So that’s my show. I’m just comfortably just sitting in the reality of that and just that’s what keeps giving me the material and the inspiration.”
With FX parting with Louis C.K., “Better Things” also had to go through a transition to find new writers. Last season was entirely written by Adlon and C.K. And even though Adlon created, stars in, and directed every episode of her show last year, she’s welcomed help for the task of writing the show.
“I have a wonderful group of writers that I’m working with this season: Sarah Gubbins, Joe Hortua, Robin Ruzan, and Ira Parker,” she announced. “It’s been amazing to be in a room with them since February and talk about stories and inspirations. Now we’re writing drafts and I just hope that everybody loves it as much as we do.”
Gibbons hails from Amazon’s acclaimed comedy, “I Love Dick,” while Hortua has written for “Bones,” “Leverage,” and “Backstrom.” Ruzan is an actress who has also written for “Saturday Night Live.” Parker’s credits include TNT’s “The Last Ship,” “Four in the Morning,” and “Rogue.”
The gratitude and positivity during the Q&A session reflects the attitude seen on the show. Academy members were treated to a screening of two episodes: “Eulogy,” the tearjerking installment in which Sam (Adlon) hears how much her family values her during a mock funeral, and “Graduation,” in which the family goes that extra mile to give Max (Madison) an unforgettable graduation gift. It was revealed at the panel that Max wasn’t the only one surprised by the stellar choreographed dance number, but that Madison herself was left in the dark so that her reaction would be genuine.
“They hid that from me,” Madison said, revealing how hurt she was that the other cast members kept avoiding her in order to rehearse and keep the secret.
Adlon had Madison blindfolded to walk through the hundreds of crew people before she was sat on the bench and instructed, “Stay in character.”
Alligood was excited to do the routine, which she said, “added a whole other element to the show.” Edward, who is 11, added that the routine was something you “dream about when you’re a little kid.”
Imrie noted that even as busy as Adlon was with the many hats she wears on the show, adding the dance routine required even more time at the Debbie Reynolds studio on weekends to get all the moves down.
“I can’t think of a better graduation present,” said Imrie. “It’s so original and .. I’ve danced all my life. It’s quite complicated stuff…. It’s completely unique. I can’t think of another show that would do this. It’s fantastic.”