FX Debuts Two Winners This Fall


Photo Courtesy of Indiewire.

The best new show on television is Donald Glover’s long-anticipated Atlanta. Glover, who raps under the moniker Childish Gambino, was a standout on the dearly missed Community and is a highly regarded standup comedian. All of these factors gave us high expectations for Atlanta, and Glover didn’t disappoint.

Created with his brother Stephen, Atlanta is shot on location, following the life of Earn [Glover] as he tries to manage his underground rapper cousin Paper Boi past local fame. Glover decides to keep Gambino on the sidelines––which is probably wise because he brings a lot to Earn, the college dropout who has lost the faith of everyone around him and is trying to redeem himself. It isn’t well-trodden territory to begin with, but there is something completely original in the tone of the show; something that’s hard to define.

When press for the show began, Glover described the show as “Twin Peaks with rappers.” While that isn’t a great description of the show, there is something true about that statement. So far, each episode is directed to perfection by music video director Hiro Murai. Each frame is precious, like the work of a master director, such as David Lynch. The other similarity to Twin Peaks is the element of surrealism throughout the series, in the story and its humor. However, Atlanta isn’t a show you can explain with a tidy comparison.

The other important feature of this show is how well it handles race issues in America. The Glover brothers aren’t heavy handed about race; they just show you the problems and don’t feel the need to tell them. That distinction is often forgotten. By portraying  the inequality black people face realistically, even on an often surreal show, there is no need to explain it outright. Even scenes that aren’t directly related to race issues have an underlying theme of inequality. It’s a remarkable achievement.

With all these aspects, one might wonder if the show has enough room for humor. Rest assured, it is very funny. Glover has a past as a comedy writer, so he knows what to do. When the plot of an episode is not humorous [although it usually is to some degree], there is quiet banter that offers some laughter. This show is like no other, now or ever.

The other new show FX offers is Better Things. Starring Pamela Adlon, this show has garnered many comparisons to Louie. That would only make sense when considering that Louis CK is heavily involved with the show and that Adlon collaborated and guest-starred on Louie multiple times. The influence is clear, but Better Things is definitely different.

To start, Better Things revolves around parenting. While Louie often follows its protagonist as a parent, plenty of episodes explored different facets of his life. The children of Adlon’s character Sam are in every episode and are essential to each.

The pilot was truly wonderful, with the humor about parenting being a riot. While the preceding episodes have been quite good, they have struggled to keep up with that initial promise. While Atlanta avoids heavy-handedness, Better Things sometimes falls victim to it, something that is often found in CK’s projects despite their brilliance. When the show deals with bigger issues, it’s sometimes a little too on-the-nose, lacking the nuance Glover has found.

Don’t let all the mention of Louis CK distract you though, because this is just as much Adlon’s show. She co-created the series and writes many of the episodes. Adlon’s talent is well-known to anyone who has followed her career, so it should come as no surprise that she brings great things to the show, both onscreen and off. Her wit is always apparent and she is a great actor. For all its flaws, Better Things is never boring. Both of these shows are well-worth your time.

Atlanta: 4 out of 4 dolphins

Better Things: 3 out of 4 dolphins