*taps mic, waits for feedback to die out* Hello? Is this thing on? Anybody still with me? Hellooooo there! Yes, it’s me! Ms AWOL! She Who Hasn’t Posted A Blog Entry Since 2021! How y’all doing? Are you surprised I’m still here? Yeah, so am I, not gonna lie. And yet here I am! I want to talk about why I’m crying…and then I’ll share some news. Hang on—not just “news,” but NEWS! So let’s get to it, shall we?
I may be a few days late to the party, but I neeeed to talk about the ending of one of my favorite series of all time, Better Things. Not Stranger Things, which is also one of my faves, but Better Things, the quiet, moving, powerful, slice-of-life series created by and starring Pamela Adlon. If you’ve never heard of this show, get on it—all five seasons, consisting of around 10 half-hour episodes each, are on Hulu.
But be forewarned: It’s not your typical TV show. It sounds average—Sam Fox, a single mother raising three kids, plugs away at being a working actor in Hollywood (meaning Sam could have a minor role in a period flick one day, direct a TV episode another, and star in a low-budget horror flick yet another…heck, at one point she even has to re-audition for a revival of a TV show, for the part that she originated in the first place). In addition to Sam’s three challenging kids, you meet her difficult, self-centered mother who lives across the street, her uptight brother and sister-in-law, coworkers, and a vast “found family” of friends and her kids’ friends who flow through the open door of her quirky L.A. home at all hours.
But what’s unusual about the show is there isn’t always a plot. Not a straight through-line, anyway. Things happen, of course, but storylines are disjointed and are secondary to an overall mood. Some episodes even feel like dream sequences. Or, more accurately, like you’ve been invited by a friend of a friend to Sam’s house and you’re sitting in her kitchen, surrounded by cocktails and aromatic food bubbling on the stovetop, while her friends and family gather…and you feel like you’re included, just a little bit, because Sam welcomes everyone and makes them feel at home. It’s an amazing vibe.
Needless to say I was hooked from the very beginning. I mean, sure, I started tuning in because who wouldn’t want to watch “the woman who voiced Bobby Hill in King of the Hill navigate what it means to be a forty- and then fiftysomething woman in Hollywood”? If you know me (and my second romcom, Unscripted), I’m alllll about behind-the-scenes life in Hollywood, so this was my catnip. But the show became so much more by the end, because it delivered a powerful message just when I needed it.
A few years ago I shared with you the tale of how my life had upended, with a divorce and subsequent move to live with my mom, whose health then began to fail, all of which caused me to put my writing career on the back burner for a while. Well, to be honest (I am nothing if not an open book, so here it is), over the past year, things got worse. Late in 2020, my mom went into the hospital for an illness during one of the big covid surges. She caught covid there and died one month shy of her 96th birthday in early 2021.
And I didn’t have the luxury of taking time to deal with my mother’s passing, because suddenly being the only person responsible for the house and all the bills meant I had to switch from a part-time to a full-time job (job hunting at 55—that’s a whole nuther blog post right there, lemme tell ya). At the same time I had to help my son as he finished up his senior year of high school and applied to and visited colleges. Soon after he went off to college in the fall, my 94-year-old aunt (mom’s sister) fell ill. She has no family of her own, so I’ve been taking care of her for the past several months.
WHAT? I’M FINE.
Ah, you know how it is. Everyone’s got issues. Everyone’s life has complications. My life? Could be worse. But it’s been kind of tough lately, if I’m going to be honest. And even though I am immensely grateful for my two-romcom deal with St. Martin’s Press, I’m tired, boss. Really tired.
That’s why (behold the circle back!) I was so excited to watch the final season of Better Things. The character of Sam Fox is like a friend, and watching the show feels like you’re getting a group hug from her family and friends. Corny? I guess. But after following this chaotic fictional family for five seasons, the series finale, when you see where everyone’s lives are going and get the sense that even though you won’t be dropping in, they’ll continue on in some fictional universe, demands open weeping. I was sobbing like a leetle girl, sentimental over not only the show, but also how it faced what it means to be a woman in your fifties sandwiched between worrying about your parent and your children, wondering where the road is going to take you next, but realizing no matter what, you’ve got it handled. I hated to say goodbye to Sam and her cooking and her quirks and her kids and her friends (dammit, I want a local friend group like that—all my friends are all over the country and we can only meet on the intertubes), but it ended on such a great, peaceful note, I can’t be mad.
So. I guess it’s time to pay attention to my own fiftysomething life instead of someone else’s. And that means getting on with it. My son is now a highly capable adult, and I’m so proud of him. Just as Sam realizes about her kids in the end, I know he’s going to be okay. The elderly relatives? I’ll do the best I can. And I’ll do the cooking—maybe as not as well as Sam, I grant you—and feed the cats and consider spreading mulch in the yard (no guarantees—sorry, judgy neighbors) and work my full-time job and create funny love stories as long as I’m able.
Thanks to St. Martin’s, I have a new one coming out in January of ’23! Once called Just As You Are, my new baby has been renamed The Rom-Com Agenda! And next January might be a ways away, but in the meantime, how about this lovely cover? And it’s available for preorder on a bunch of platforms if you’re so inclined. Yep! Things will be okay. Sam Fox taught me that.