• Lucas Rogers

Better Things Season 3

One of the sharpest shows in Louis CK’s now dissolved stable, was 'Better Things'. A sharp, erudite, realist yet heartwarming show that presented a fresh take on life as a single mother. Loosely based on co-writer/creator Pamela Adlon’s life, the show captured a unique sensibility and viewpoint: motherhood as a barely rewarding slog through obligation, and self sacrifice to find an ever elusive, if not impossible, moment of rest and satisfaction. It was a delicate balance to communicate and one that was often miraculous to behold. In its third season that balance is lost. The show seems to be lunging for the same notes and missing, too often falling into inverse pitfalls that once previously evened each other out: sentimentalism and fatalism. This, of course, could be due to a natural shift. Shows often lose their way at some point, and it is often impossible to determine what the cause is. But in examining what may be wrong it would be dishonest not to contemplate whether it is the loss of Louis CK in the wake of his sexual misconduct scandal, that has derailed the show. Previously, the shows Louis CK executive produced were generally regarded as either masterminded by the comic genius or benignly curated by him. He was helping these artists “realize their voice” and tell the stories they were destined to make. The patronizing tone of these perceptions was masked by the idea that the true brilliance of the shows fell on the co-creators and stars, rather than solely on Louis himself. Now in the post scandal world, he is the "sick abusive pervert" who could be removed from the series to which he was associated, without affecting the overall quality. What then do we think when the quality of a show he produces dips after he leaves? And as co-writer, where did his imprint lie? We, as viewers, rarely ever get a breakdown of how shows are constructed; whose ideas make it into the final draft, where those ideas come from and how they were developed (despite the ubiquitous and meaningless after-show segments that seem to accompany every scripted program on tv). While the show presents a world weary cynicism towards family that can be found in the comedy of Louis, there was really no mark of his individual brand on the show. What may be the case, was that Louis CK was simply a good writer and collaborator who could add subtle but not insignificant value to a show or script. He was, perhaps, neither Olympian creative genius nor super tasteful cultivator, but an older kind of artistic archetype: a craftsmen. Someone who knew how to tweak a scene; make it shorter or longer, add a beat, inject a healthy dose of levity or gravitas. It’s the kind of quality that wins the respect of professionals but won’t put you on the cover of entertainment magazines. It’s the kind of quality that doesn’t give you power. "Power", of course, is what Louis CK was accused of abusing and was conferred on him because he was believed to be a "genius". But if he were merely viewed as a master craftsmen would he have had the same opportunity to abuse? What Louis and many others caught in the #Metoo scandal shared was the ability to avoid accountability. They did this by using their fame and standings within their industries to shield themselves. Of course, hierarchal power structures exist within every industry, an abusive person in any managerial role will have opportunity. But there is an added level of protection that comes with that fame and title of genius. Prior to Van Gogh and the modern era of artistic genius, great artists were indeed celebrated as craftsmen. People who were consummate professionals, who ran studios, who were measured and rational. As we struggle in a present terrorized by self-professed geniuses run amuck, perhaps we can push for a return to that old perception. 'Better Things' can fix itself with a few good craftsmen. It would be better to leave the genius’s out of it. -Luke Rogers

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