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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Modern Love is a series based on the New York Times column of the same name -- it's an anthology series that tells a different story about love with different characters on each episode. Messages and the amount of mature content varies with each episode, but since the series is about romance, expect lots of talk about love, dating, and marriage, including same- and opposite-sex kissing and implied sex (though the camera cuts away just after the kissing). Characters refer to being horny, and some are interested in casual sex. In one vignette, a women gets pregnant and considers an abortion (but winds up raising the baby). Language tends to be infrequent, but various episodes have words like "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "ass," "bastard," and "bitch." Many scenes take place at bars, with characters drinking; sometimes the alcohol appears to have little effect, at other times, characters seem to use the alcohol to bolster their courage to make romantic moves, and appear out of it and sloppy. Themes of courage and communication show through as characters learn to better understand each other and improve their relationships.
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What's the story?
Based on (and named after) the long-running column in The New York Times, MODERN LOVE focuses in on an individual quirky tale in each episode: a young woman (Cristin Milioti) whose unexpected pregnancy and complicated friendship with her doorman launches her into a new life; a dating site CEO (Dev Patel) pining for an ex; an attorney (Anne Hathaway) suffering with bipolar disorder who wonders when's the right time to tell people about what she's going through.
Is it any good?
It's really hard to pull off a believable half-hour love story, so perhaps this anthology series can't be blamed for being uneven. Think about it: You have to build a world, introduce two characters, and make a story arc out of the connection between them, all moves that eat time. So it shouldn't surprising that Modern Love has its ups and downs, just like the column that spawned it (that's kinda hated even by those who read it regularly). At its best, this show is radiant and painfully romantic: Hathaway's turn as a charming young attorney who's been hiding her mental health diagnosis from her friends and family in "Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am," is perhaps the season's high point. As we meet Lexi, she's riding a manic wave, wearing sequins at the grocery store, picking up a handsome man at the fruit counter, running on all pistons at work; she's so exuberant that the camera pulls away for a Broadway-style number and a Mary Tyler Moore-style hat-throwing moment.
But moments later, she's fallen into the trench, showing up for work and for dates with messy hair and a monosyllabic mumble. No one knows quite what to make of her -- until an honest admission of her struggles sets her back on the path to both a happy life and steady love. It's a simple, quite satisfying story about a woman who finds herself and is then able to seek love, instead of a woman whose redemption is found in the arms of a man. It's true, not all of Modern Love's episodes are as fulfilling, with their whiny (mostly) rich and white people, and gratuitous "THIS IS FILMED IN NEW YORK" shots of yellow taxis and subway stops and the Central Park Zoo. But when this show hits the target, you'll feel the love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about anthology shows (which have different characters on each episode), and what dramatic or comedic possibilities they hold. Do most anthologies focus on romance, or is there another genre that's more popular? Why do you think this style of storytelling has gotten more popular?
Adapting the written word into a cinematic narrative can be a difficult process. Try reading one of the essays that Modern Love was based on. How did the creators change the story for TV? What is added or left out? Do the changes improve, or weaken the story?
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