Women on TV are finally having it all — including a prescription for Zoloft.
Take Gretchen Cutler of “You’re the Worst,” returning Wednesday for a third bold season on FXX, and Sam Fox in FX’s upcoming “Better Things,” the latest gobstopper from the Louis C.K. candy factory.
“Worst” debuted as a two-hander featuring a pair of selfish slackers who somehow manage to share a bed without hogging the sheets. But creator Stephen Falk realized he had something special in his leading lady, Aya Cash, an actress who can signal callousness and vulnerability in one heart-piercing glance, and he turned over nearly the entire second season to her character’s battle with clinical depression. That focus has come at the expense at the rest of the cast, most notably Chris Geere, who is saddled with playing yet another incarnation of the hard-drinking novelist battling writer’s block.
The war between Cutler’s dark and good angels continues in Wednesday’s episode as she challenges her therapist to a fist fight while trying to muster the energy to wash her legs. While she’s finally able to mutter the “L word” to her boyfriend, she’s also realistic about her limitations as a steadfast companion.
“The only way I can stomach this is knowing I can bail at any time,” she says in what constitutes a romantic moment.
Cutler won’t be the cover story for Psychology Today anytime soon, but she is getting better. The scene in which she tries to salvage her job as a music promoter by luring a Spanish church congregation to a gig with free shrimp is comedy gold in any language.
It’s the kind of ridiculous, yet brave move that would convince Sam Fox to spring for a round of shots. If only she had the time.
In “Better Things,” the C-list actor is so exhausted bouncing from one casting call to another while managing the social itineraries of her three daughters that she’s sneaking catnaps in the back of her SUV.
No wonder she’s going a little bit nuts, screaming for assistance at a big-box store during a fruitless search for graph paper, shooting inappropriate selfies of herself after being cut out of a film and threatening to boot her whiny brood from the car.
In the series’ most touching story line, Fox is so overwhelmed by life’s little challenges that she’s oblivious to the fact she has come tantalizingly close to landing a leading sitcom role.
Any woman who has been told she can have it all — even after deadbeat dad has skipped town — will rally around Fox, played by Pamela Adlon, best known as the unattainable object of affection in “Louie.”
Adlon and C.K are the primary creative forces behind this project and, as in the remarkable “Louie,” the balance between being a respected entertainer and a decent parent takes center stage.
While a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown seems still fresh, the overall premise isn’t. Hey, gang, we know the Hollywood rat race is a grind, but the show would have felt more original if the character was trying to keep her wits in, say, that big-box store — although the David Duchovny cameo would be harder to explain.
Still, Adlon’s performance, bawdy and bewildered, is one to watch, a shining example of how TV continues to do a better job than film in delivering multilayered roles for women.
Perhaps a crossover episode should be in the works, allowing Fox and Cutler to compare notes — assuming they can muster up the energy to set a date.
Njustin@startribune.com Twitter: @nealjustin