In a theater filled to the brim with Television Academy members, it was actor Diedrich Bader who made the best argument as to why creator, director, and star of FX’s “Better Things” Pamela Adlon has been so successful at crafting such a profoundly humane TV series.
“You’re doing it for all of us,” Bader said. “All of the actors who’ve been kicking around for years and making a living in this business. That’s why you’re so at ease on the set, I find, is that you are just completely comfortable with all the roles that you’ve accepted.”
The crowd gathered at Saban Media Center at the Television Academy in North Hollywood on May 10 appreciated Bader’s revelation, which came during the Emmys FYC panel for “Better Things,” on the heels of Adlon’s own admission that it was incredible that “somebody like us” was doing what she was currently doing. And by “like us,” Adlon meant a character actor who’d spent decades – she and Bader combined have nearly 400 acting credits listed on IMDB – plugging away in the industry only to be given creative control over her own series.
“I just feel like one of us broke ranks and we broke into corporate offices and said we want to do this our way,” she marveled.
The panel was held after a special early screening of “Shake the Cocktail,” the show’s Season 3 finale, due to air May 16. Without spoiling anything, it’s safe to say that it serves as a fitting cap for what might be the best “Better Things” season to date, an episode as emotionally complex and spiritually uplifting as anything the series has ever done. It serves as yet another episode of the show in which both warmth and empathy practically radiate off the screen.
That’s another aspect of the series that Bader was able to explain.
“It is a unique thing to have absolutely no tension on the set. I don’t know how many sets I’ve been on at this point, but I’ve never been on one that’s been so about creating something that we all completely believe in,” the “Veep” actor explained. “It’s about love and capturing the rhythm of life. It’s just a gorgeous thing to be a part of.”
As if she didn’t already have her hands full on the show, actor Kevin Pollack pointed out that Adlon also takes it upon herself to serve as mother hen on set (and potentially beyond) looking over every person that’s on the crew and the cast. And catering. And if you’re within six blocks of the shoot, an accusation that sparks a guffaw of recognition from the showrunner herself.
“In the middle of all of the jobs she’s doing, if one person sneezes she’s like, ‘Are you sick? Do you need to go home? Do you need a decongestant? We have one,’” actress Rebecca Metz chimed in, further tattling on the huge heart of her boss.
“Well,” Adlon added with a self-deprecating tone, “also, ‘Get away from me.’”
The panel, the evening, the episode, was full of love and light, already a departure in a comedy landscape often filled with series boasting a more cynical or clinical point of view.
At the event’s end, the Saban Center lobby was full of people and a hum of excitement, a buzz spurred either by the wine at the open bar or the sugar at the donut bar. But whatever the reason, the room was suffused with a warm glow, ready to beat back the gloom of a rainy Southern California night, and at the center of it, as with all things “Better Things,” was Adlon.
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