This fall, skip the safe sitcoms and 'DWTS' in favor of 'Better Things' and Joe Swanberg's 'Easy'

There's a lot of pop culture to sort through week after week. Times staff writer Chris Barton offers his take on what's up and what's down in music, movies, television and just about anything else out there that is worth considering.


Joe Swanberg: A prolific filmmaker who rose out of the hyper-conversational flock of indie movies unfortunately dubbed “mumblecore,” Swanberg has delivered his share of hits (“Drinking Buddies”) and misses (“Hannah Takes the Stairs”). However, his naturalistic, low-key style makes an intriguing match with Netflix’s upcoming sex-and-relationships anthology series “Easy” (Sept. 23). With an open-ended approach to storytelling and scenes that can thrive on improvisation, Swanberg’s shift to TV should yield some memorable moments with a cast that includes Marc Maron, Aya Cash, Hannibal Burress and Orlando Bloom.

“Better Things” on FX: With “Louie” on an indefinite hiatus, TV is missing an uncomfortably honest but still funny comedy about being a single parent. Enter this series co-created by Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon, who appeared as C.K.’s love interest for a few story arcs on “Louie” and also is known for providing the voice for Bobby on “King of the Hill.” With a dryly absurd tone spiked with an unflinching, heartfelt honesty, the series stars Adlon as an actor and single mom trying to raise three kids in L.A. If the early episodes are any indication, look for as many harsh, very funny truths about modern parenting as there are about the industry.

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“Dancing With the Stars”: Eleven years and 23 seasons. That’s how long we’ve been saddled with this quasi-celebrity fame-rehabilitation machine, which returns to ABC this fall in four hours of prime time a week. Though the possibility of physical embarrassment for semi-familiar faces is a tradition dating back to the first county-fair dunk tank, this show clogs what was once a self-cleaning system of celebrity. Ryan Lochte, Vanilla Ice and Rick Perry are among those who will arrhythmically bumble about this season, and though the show’s popularity proves that it must satisfy some public thirst , wouldn’t it be more rewarding to forget these people existed entirely?

Network sitcoms: No offense to fans of the ratings-gobbling “Modern Family” and “The Big Bang Theory,” but your preferred laughter delivery systems are looking pretty tired these days. After a storied bloodline that includes the likes of “Cheers,” “Seinfeld” and even “NewsRadio,” there’s something a bit tragic about the relative anonymity that now comes with today’s sitcom fare — can anyone believe “The Middle” has been on for seven seasons, by the way? But with every loss comes rebirth, and until the major networks find new models for half-hour comedies, we will still have the likes of “Lady Dynamite,” “You’re the Worst” and “Transparent” to upend the form.

Follow me over here @chrisbarton



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Pamela Adlon’s 'Better Things' makes the best out of everyday moments

Louis C.K. may have put his own sitcom on hold, but he is still having a good effect on television comedy, not only by example but as a producer. His Pig Newton production company is home to Zach Galifianakis' "Baskets" (FX), Tig Notaro's upcoming "One Mississippi" (Amazon) and, premiering

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