Here’s To Better Things In The New Year

There’s something transitory and singular about “Better Things” that defies easy explanation. Vulture critic Matt Zoller Seitz described the show well when comparing it to the works of John Cassavetes, writing that things that happen on screen don’t feel engineered “to evoke pre-calibrated sensations, but rather like incidents that would have occurred even if the cameras hadn’t been present.” I’ve also written about the show’s verisimilitude, and the way Sam’s motherly presence makes its constant surprises feel like the emotional and instinctual opposite of the current wave of purposely alienating comedy-dramas like “Atlanta” and “Barry.”

But there’s something about “Better Things” that has to be seen, and therefore felt, rather than described. It’s a show that feels exactly like the moment Sam is in, whether that’s a chill weekday night at home with her kids, an exhausting and over-long trip, a frustrating work meeting, or some other daily adventure. The show does make each day feel like an adventure, too, thanks to Sam’s blunt charm and spirit of curiosity, plus the impressionistic warmth with which the camera captures its action.

“Better Things” nurtures a spirit of enthusiasm, whether Sam’s cooking dinner, overseeing a screaming match between her kids, or doing something much less commonplace. One of the best episodes sees the kids preside over a fake funeral for their mom, while another includes a wonderfully surreal dance number to Christine and the Queen’s “Tilted.” Several take place on location during family or solo vacations, and perfectly capture the intangible, transformative, wistful feeling of away-ness. The show captures emotional ephemera that, until I¬†saw it, I never thought could be put to screen.

Casually moving, brilliantly built, and heartfelt above all else, “Better Things” doesn’t feel like anything else on TV, because it feels like life.

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