How Modern Love is Letting Me Down, Even Through All The Good

When I first saw the commercials for Amazon Prime’s Modern Love I was intrigued to say the least. Tina Fey, Dev Patel, Anne Hatheway, and so many other big names signed onto a show meant to showcase all the complex ways love works in the modern world.  

I had hoped it would be a way to get past the cliches and shallowness of traditional feel good love stories that so often end with the first kiss, the marriage beginning, or in a world where the relationship promises a happy ending in whatever world it exists in. In other words, what was promised to me is something I have had to learn through trial and error: love is HARD. Love takes work. Love exists outside of the honeymoon phase of any relationship.  

So, I was not disappointed in a few ways:

The show includes modern storylines, online dating destigmatized, mental illness, some failed relationships (although mostly successful ones, or yet again ending on the promise of an ‘inevitable’ successful one).

But, there are some major problems with the show:

The formatting.  Thank god for the Oscar worthy casts, because without them, I don’t think 30 minutes is nearly enough for me to get to know and care about the characters. Even with the on screen talent, I barely do.  Many of the storylines felt way too thick for the short format and the all to often missing plot holes resulted in the emotional effects of an episode falling flat. 

 

Prime Example (no pun intended):

 

Both Tina Fey and John Slattery are genius actors who’s episode had so much potential, but got lost in uninteresting dialog and poorly written (and intense) subplots about their children.  There was little to no background. I felt like I was supposed to know these people, but they were barely introduced as individuals, let alone as a couple. 

These topics that drive the plot are inherently complex, but they don’t often don’t land that way.  The grief of being cheated on and the struggle to retrust are glossed over only to end in a potentially happy ending for Patel’s character in episode 2. The result is a kitsch rom-com feel-- a.k.a the exact opposite of what I had hoped for this show. 

Some episodes just land as pointless.  “At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity” comes off as a much worse version of Hatheway’s piece, with a worse and less helpful representation of mental health. There doesn’t seem to be a discernible chemistry or deep meaning behind the characters or the hospital visit. The episode drags and often just feels uncomfortable, even in moments where the two are supposed to be teasing each other playfully. 

So.. Why did I even keep watching? Why did I waste my time? 

 

Well apart from the promise of huge hollywood talents….

I kept waiting for it to get as good as Episode 1.  “When the Doorman Is Your Main Man” told me an unexpected and complex story I fell in love with. While again, some of the characters and writing fell flat, the parts that mattered were the ones were the ones that stood out and delivered.  If you are to watch any of this show, watch this episode. It is fun, creative, and sweet. There is meaning and joy and heartbreak and they fit it all into 30 minutes. This is what the show was meant to be and I hope season 2 can live up to this singular episode. To do this, it's going to have to remember that romantic love is only one type of modern love. Self love and the love of family, friends, and support systems in our lives deserve the same kind of passionate and emotional storylines.