For most shows, this would have been simple:
One of the actors couldn’t get there, due to Covic concerns. It was time to write her out and move on.
But that’s not how “Better Things” (shown here) works. For its final season, it took elaborate steps — peaking with an episode that airs at 10 p.m. Monday (April 18), then moves to Hulu. “This would have been woefully incomplete without it,” Adlon said in a Television Critics Association virtual press conference.
Celia Imrie, 69, plays the mother of Sam, played by Adlon, 55. (They’re shown here, at the left.) As Covid tightened – especially on her age group – she wasn’t making any plane trips from England to the U.S. “Celia was locked in an apartment wit her best friend, Fidelis,” Adlon said. “And she went outside to post a letter and broke her wrist.” Eventually, a two-part plan developed.
–First, Adlon flew to London alone. She filmed scenes – scattered through the season’s early episodes – that looked like they were back home. Imrie praises “the masterfulness of the set designer, who (re-created my California) house in London. It was very spooky.”
–Then the entire cast flew there for the April 18 episode, the second-to-last one in a five-season run, spread over seven years. It’s partly a joyous romp through Liverpool and London, laced with some vital moments for Sam’s mom and for Max, the oldest of Sam’s three daughters. “Max has been sort of in this limbo of uncertainty about her life and her future,” said Mikey Madison, 23, who plays her. She’s had “to make a lot of big choices that really dictate her future.”
There have also been turning points for Duke (the youngest daughter) – and for the actress who plays her. “I just turned 8” when the show began, said Olivia Edward, 15. “So this has been pretty much half my life.”
As the daughter of TV psychic John Edward, she’s been around show business for much of her life – something Adlon can relate to.
Adlon’s father, Don Segall, was sometimes a TV producer (including the early “Dave Garroway Show” and Jim Bouton’s short-lived “Ball Four”) who also wrote comics, erotic novels and occasional TV episodes. By 16, Adlon had a recurring role on “Facts of Life.” Her own career has been steady, partly through a deluge of voice work in cartoons.
She even starred as Bobby Hill in “King of the Hill.” During the pandemic, voice work never slowed down … but did shift to her home.
“A lot of us had to learn to be engineers,” Adlon said. “And I can tell you, it broke a lot of us. I remember doing a four-hour tech check with people in Ireland, and in the end I was like, ‘I give up.’”
Throughout it all, she kept writing, directing and starring in “Better Things.” It’s about someone like her – an actress with three daughters, a late father (Jewish with Russian-Ukrainian roots) and a mother from England.
“My mother is this woman who moved out of her house when she was 17 years old and traveled all over the world,” Adlon said. She met Segall at a USO in Paris “and converted to Judaism and then got pregnant with my brother.”
She’s an eccentric soul … which Adlon now sees as a good thing. “I stopped letting her drive me crazy and (instead, would) listen – just listen to her.”
She became an essential part of Adlon’s real life – and, in fictional form, part of her show. It became worth risking some trans-continental, pandemic flights to include her in the final season.