Adlon plays Sam Fox, an aging actress and single mother in Los Angeles, struggling to find work while also raising her three daughters of varying adolescence: Max, an angsty teenager, Frankie a tomboyish tween, and Duke, the youngest of the Fox clan. Also in the picture is Sam's mother Phyllis, with whom she has a complicated relationship.
Better Things contains examples of the following tropes:
- Adult Fear: Sam worries about her daughters, especially Max.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: How Sam's daughters often see her. They're often justified in thinking that way.
- The Baby of the Bunch: Duke is the youngest of Sam's three daughters, and is treated very fondly by pretty much everyone.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Max is very dramatic and whiny, which Sam doesn't buy into. Usually.
- The Cutie: Duke, being the littlest of Sam's kids, is naturally this.
- Gender-Blender Name: Sam and all three of her daughters have one. Becomes fairly notable when Sam starts to question Frankie's gender identity.
- Hollywood Old: As an aging actress in Hollywood, Sam struggles to find substantial roles, usually settling for bit parts.
- Immigrant Parents: Phyllis is originally from England, but Sam was born and raised in America.
- Jitter Cam: The show does this a lot.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In "White Rock", Duke notices a Woman in White who could either be the spirit of either her late, great-aunt, or a suicidal woman who once lived in the area. Whether she's real or just Duke's imagination manifested from hearing about these women is left ambiguous.
- Rapid-Fire "No!": In "Blackout", an Almost Kiss with a friend's ex leads Sam to pull off an absolutely epic one, going on for almost two minutes.Sam: ...We calm down. We calm down because this. Is a very. NO.
- Spear Counterpart: To Louie, which co-creator Louis C.K. also created.
- Tomboy: Frankie dresses and acts very tomboyish. It's later suggested that Frankie is less tomboyish and more... boyish.
- Wham Line: In "Only Women Bleed":Max: Mom... Frankie's a boy.