Every week, the cast and crew of FX’s Better Things — a semi-autobiographical comedy created by Pamela Adlon and Louie C.K., centered on Sam Fox (Adlon), an actress and gnarly single mom of three girls — is taking EW behind the scenes. For each episode, a cast or crew member is recapping, sharing thoughts on what went down, and walking us through the ins-and-outs of the show. Here, Adlon brings us into the emotional season one finale, “Only Women Bleed.”
On the use of Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed” in the very last scene…
I knew I had to have that song — I even called the script “Only Women Bleed” — but when we found out that we actually got the rights, everybody was celebrating. We were screaming, like, “We f—ing got it!” It was myopic. When I get my vision on something, there is no doubt in my head. In the final scene, we were all singing along to Alice Cooper in the car and when we got to the bridge of the song, I had to cover my mouth every time because I felt punched in the chest from this overwhelming feeling. I hope Alice Cooper gets to see the episode and is happy with what we did.
I had the girls start learning the song early. I put a lot of iconic music that’s not typically in the public eye in the show. During the “Hair of the Dog” episode, I take my daughter and her friend to see Joe Walsh — that’s the world I live in. Some people were like, “I don’t believe millenials would be into Joe Walsh,” but my millennials are way into Joe Walsh! I love exposing people to that kind of thing.
We shot that last scene on an open freeway in L.A. with an ultimate crane, which is like this rig with a camera that drives next to you. I was driving without a license and I had a police escort. My key grip was like, “Mama, you gotta slow down,” and I said, “Are you kidding me? I’m free driving, I don’t have my license, and I’ve got a police escort — I ain’t gonna slow down!”
We shot the scene three times and when we went back to base camp, it was a wrap for the girls. They were hysterical! Mikey, Hannah, and Olivia — we all stood bawling in a heap and could not stop. So I said, “Let’s just all drive back in the show van together,” which was about a 40-minute drive. They were each talking about what it meant to them to be on the show and how I was like their mom. It was epic, iconic, and unbelievable.
Pay close attention: It’s not just Sam and her daughters in the car in that final scene. Harvey, Max’s on-again-off-again fling, is there, too…
Here’s why that was such an important detail for me — if I was on a regular network show, they would say that just the family should be in the last scene. But life is messy. This guy did horrible things to Max, but sometimes you can’t fight it. People come in and out of your life. It was important to me that I stick him in the car and don’t explain it. That’s the way life is.
On the first season as a whole…
I have favorite moments, but this episode is my favorite because it’s more like a portrait. It doesn’t overly explain, but it really exposes you to this family and how they just get through the day. That scene in the morning, when everyone comes in and out of the house — it’s more like a feeling. You’re watching what Sam has to deal with.
—As told to Caitlin Brody