David Bowie fan that I am, when the show first popped up on my Amazon Prime video menu, I wondered if the show would use Bowie's famous 1983 song of the same name. The cast looked interesting on the icon, but I was never pulled to press the button and watch.
Until after my wife told me about the first episode, "When the Doorman Is Your Main Man." It was about a single woman in New York who lives in a building with a doorman. The doorman looks out for her, disapproving of some of the choices she makes regarding the men she brings home. She ends up pregnant, and the doorman is still there, watching the kid every now and then. When she gets a job opportunity in LA, she takes it. Returning years later, her daughter now grown, the woman brings her new boyfriend to meet the doorman, who gives his approval, with a heartfelt reason why.
In retelling this story, my wife could barely get through it. Her emotions cascaded through her and tears streamed down her face. Wow. If the show affected her that much, perhaps I should give it a watch.
I started with episode two, which turned out to be the most overtly romantic episode of the eight-episode series. The show is based on an essay series in the New York Times, and each TV episode is a dramatized version. Each episode takes a facet of love and explores it. There is romantic love, familial love, friendship love, old love, happenstance love, and more.
Modern Love is excellent, one of the best portrayals of real love I've seen. Not only that, it showcases some great acting that helps show the world what different personalities are like. Take Anne Hathaway's character in episode three, "Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am." Her character, Lexi, is bipolar, and to help illustrate what life is like for her when she's happy, the show breaks into musical numbers. But it's when she's on the other end that your heart is pulled.
In "Rallying to Keep the Game Alive," Tina Fey and John Slattery play a married couple in mid-life with two kids. They fear their marriage is ending, limping along solely for the kids. Counseling doesn't seem to work either, boiling up in a dinner in which Fey lays into Slattery's character about all the crap she's put up with. The ending of that one surprised me.
As did "Hers Was a World of One," the story of a homosexual couple who want to adopt a child. Andrew Scott plays one spouse, the more uptight one whose life is turned upside down when the expectant mother of his child comes to live in his New York apartment. They clash, naturally, because the way she sees life and the way he sees it differ. But in the delivery room, Andrew Scott gives such a meaningful performance about his instant love for the baby that made me think that must have been what my face looked like when I helped deliver my son.
On first viewing, I didn't care much for "At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity." It involved a nerdy guy with anxiety on a second date with a gorgeous blonde. First off was how in the world would she end up with him. When he cuts himself on a martini glass and they rush to the hospital, she stays with him. All night. They talk, gradually letting fall the barriers each had erected. I didn't see that at the time, but the wife showed me the other side, and, retroactively, I came to appreciate it.
The writer in me rejoiced, however, during "The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap," the final episode. It involved an older couple in their seventies finding each other while participating in a 10K race and falling in love. The widow gives a speech about how much like young love old love is, and it grabs your heartstrings and yanks hard. But it's the ending that blew me away.
Margot, the new widow, goes for a run just after her husband's funeral service. As she runs, the show cuts to the pregnant lady from "Hers Was a World of One," and gave a different view of a particular scene. Instantly, I smiled. "If they show all the characters from the other episodes," I told my wife, "I'll love this series even more."
Well, I absolutely love this series and highly recommend it.
Oh, and I went back and watched episode one. Those tears I saw on my wife's face? Mine came, too.
So unfamiliar was I about the New York Times series, "Modern Love," that I also didn't know NPR has a podcast series in which actors and others read the original essays. They're re-running the original episodes on which the TV series is based. Check it out.