Eight Love Stories
Not all relationships are created equal — and not all eight episodes of Modern Love, Amazon Prime’s new anthology series inspired by the popular New York Times column, were created equally as well. We polled 10 PEOPLE staffers who’d completed their binge of the new series to rank each episode. Click through to see who made use cringe… and who made us swoon.
8. 'So He Looked Like Dad. It Was Just Dinner, Right?'
Our staff’s least favorite vignette was nearly unanimous. The gag-inducing episode might as well be titled “Daddy Issues”: Baby-voiced college student Maddy (Julia Garner), having lost her father at a young age, develops an unsettling attachment to a 55-year-old executive at work named Peter (Shea Whigham). “Basically, he was dad porn,” Maddy sighs in a disconcertingly dreamy voicover as she compares his handsome looks to her father’s. It’s funny at first, but the charm quickly wears. Obviously, Peter interprets her overtures as far from daughterly, even after she asks him to tell her a story while snuggling in bed after a dinner date … “about when I was little.” YIKES! The real 2006 Times essay doesn’t include this cringeworthy line and actually ends after that strange night, but in the series, Maddy’s obsession with Peter — and his half doting, half leering courtship in return — drags on and on. Oh, and there’s a rather ham-fisted Little Red Riding Hood reference.
7. 'At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity'
A second date goes good by going horribly bad when a highly-anxious thirtysomething man attempts to romantically pursue social media-obsessed Yasmine (Sofia Boutella), who he thinks is out of his league. Rob (John Gallagher Jr.) slips and cuts himself on a shard of glass, resulting in a trip to the ER and emergency surgery. An anecdote about how first impressions aren’t everything, the intense hospital experience strips the pair down to who they really are amid the current world of perception versus reality.
6. 'Rallying to Keep the Game Alive'
Tina Fey portrays novelist Ann Leary and John Slattery plays her actor husband Denis Leary in the episode focused on a celebrity marriage that’s approaching its romantic demise and is only intact for the sake of their kids. After admitting that couples’ therapy is their only date night, the pair rebuild their relationship through competitive rallies of tennis. Aside from Fey and Slattery’s on-screen chemistry and that Ted Allen cameo, the story of a couple hitting a rough patch is all-too relatable (hey, even penguins go through the same thing). Read the real author’s essay here.
5. 'Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am'
The story of a woman struggling to find love as she grapples with bipolar disorder provoked mixed reactions from PEOPLE’s staff. Some of us were put off by star Anne Hathway‘s over-acting. But others found her juggling of manic emotions — one day she’s high, charmingly prancing around a supermarket in sequins like it’s La La Land cosplay, and the next she’s low, gravel-voiced, shrouded in blankets and M.I.A. at work — to be a poignant depiction of mental illness. And hey, she gave us the second sexiest reference to peaches in pop culture history. (Here’s looking at you, Call Me by Your Name). Read the real author’s 2001 essay here.
4. 'The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap'
Margot (Jane Alexander) and Kenji (James Saito) connect through running and bond over their shared experiences losing spouses after decades of marriage. They soon learn that “young love” can strike at any age. The episode, the last of the series, concludes with an unnecessary post-script attempting to tie all eight episodes together, which several viewers admitted downgraded this gorgeous, tearjerker installment a bit.
3. 'When the Doorman Is Your Main Man'
When single gal Maggie (Cristin Milioti) gets pregnant, her doorman — the one with a knack for predicting when her dates won’t call her — is the first person she tells. The sweetness of their bond over many years is touching and special and nothing like most relationships New York City tenants have with their door staff. As the first episode of the series, that rare connection sets the tone and reminds us that love comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s not always romantic.
2. 'Hers Was a World of One'
Take the hot priest from Fleabag, give him an equally hunky husband and bam — you’e got an instant hit. Modern Love‘s penultimate episode is also its sole shout-out to the LGBTQ community, but we’re not here to gripe (besides about that random Ed Sheeran cameo, second only to his useless Game of Thrones scene). As Tobin (Andrew Scott) and Andy (Brandon Kyle Goodman) seek to adopt a child from homeless, opinionated Karla (Olivia Cooke), they come to terms with their own privilege. It’s also hilarious: Scott is like a pot of Irish breakfast tea whose whistling grows higher until he boils over, exploding at Karla’s nomadic idealism. And in the end, it’s a touching reflection on family. Read writer Dan Savage’s original essay here.
1. 'When Cupid Is a Prying Journalist'
Inspired by Hinge creator Justin McLeod’s continent-spanning romance, this episode won PEOPLE’s internal poll by a landslide. Joshua (Dev Patel) is a dating app CEO who stumbles when asked by reporter Julie (Catherine Keener) if he’s ever been in love. He has, with a woman who broke his heart by cheating with a high school boyfriend. She has, too — but instead of talking about her husband, she tells the tale of a lover lost to a stolen scap of paper decades ago. Both stories are strong, and the episode ponders the beauty of second chances. One issue: Dreamy Dev deserves better than a wandering eye.