But something we never expected to see was the fairly old-fashioned idea of serialised newspaper columns being turned into hit streaming TV series – because newspapers are dead, right? – until Amazon Prime’s recent release of Modern Love, based on the New York Times column of the same name.
Modern Love – Amazon Prime
Probably the most star-studded show to hit screens this October, Modern Love is an anthology series about love in all its beautiful and complicated forms. The New York Times column has been going since 2004, and invites readers to submit their own love stories. But they’re not all about romance or romantic love.
Episode 1, When Your Doorman Is Your Main Man (read the original column from 2015 here, and find out how all the real-life people from the column are doing today), for instance, is about the impossible-to-define affection between a young New York City editor and her doorman Guzim, who has an uncanny ability to predict the downfall of all of her romantic prospects, and the urge to protect her from unsuitable men.
The column has also been turned into a book, and of course, a podcast, and they’re all equally tear-jerking, but it’s the cast of the show that makes it more charming and touching than any other incarnation. As Rolling Stones writes, “Not every instalment works, but enough of them hit that narrow but satisfying target of being sweet but not overly saccharine. It helps that the actors are so good.”
IMDB rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 83%
More romantic dramas
Diagnosis – Netflix
Another NYT column-turned-TV-show, Diagnosis, like Dr Lisa Sanders’s acclaimed articles, uses social media and established medical expertise around the world to crowdsource possible cures for unusual illnesses and diseases that doctors in hospitals have failed to diagnose.
Each episode deals with a different case, each one more mysterious than the last, from the once-athletic young woman with unexplained severe muscle pain to the 20-year-old man whose heart stops during fainting spells that are preceded by deja vu. But in each episode, Sanders’s subjects get to connect with people from across the planet who are experiencing exactly the same strange combination of symptoms. They may not all find cures, but the one thing they all receive is hope.
IMDB rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%
More medical drama
The columns that eventually got turned into a book of essays by Candace Bushnell – who recently released a follow-up called Is There Still Sex In The City?, about being newly single in her 50s – first appeared in the New York Observer between 1994 and 1996 (here’s an example), about dating in your 30s in New York.
Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) may be a fictional character, but, let’s be frank, her initials are the same as the author’s, and the inspiration for Mr Big allegedly came from Bushnell’s time dating the magazine publisher Ron Galotti.
The full boxset of this seminal (ahem) series is on Showmax, so you can relive the ups, the downs and the incredible 90s/00s fashion choices of Carrie and her friends. Forget, for the moment, the recent revelations about the relationship between SJP and Kim Cattrall and those movies, and just enjoy the aesthetic pleasures and the excellent writing of one of HBO’s most popular series, ever.
IMDB rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 71%
More sexy shows
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) – Netflix
Featuring arguably the greatest Mr Darcy of all time (Colin Firth as Mark, not Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam, and definitely not Matthew Macfadyen as the same – we love him as slimy Tom in Succession, but he’s no Mr Darcy), this movie based on Helen Fielding’s novel first started life as columns in The Independent in 1995, which everyone assumed were based on the writer’s reality, as they didn’t carry a byline.
You can read them all in their glory here – clear your schedule for the day, they are that good.
And when you’re done, rewatch the 2001 movie starring Rene Zellweger as Bridget, Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver, and, of course, Mr Firth as Mr Darcy. Like us, you may never be able to reconcile Zellweger with Bridget, but then, there are these moments that are pure gold.
IMDB rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 81%
More British than Bridget
Tales of the City – Netflix
Pay attention, because the story of how this 2019 limited series came into being is fairly convoluted. In 1974, Armistead Maupin started a weekly column of articles in the Pacific Sun, about love and life and being LGBTQ in California. In 1976, the column moved to the San Francisco Chronicle, where Bay Area readers fell in love with his (fictional) characters, imagining them treading in their own footsteps in familiar places.
The columns got turned into novels – the most recent of which was published in 2014 – and, in the 90s, into a TV series called Tales of the City that made waves for its frank depictions of queer love and sex. Despite winning a Peabody Award, it was cancelled in the face of conservative opposition after six episodes.
This original 90s series is on Netflix, and so is the 2019 reboot, which features 10 episodes and most of the same cast as the original, including Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis, with newcomers including Ellen Page. They all play residents of a boardinghouse turned apartment complex owned by the transgender Anna Madrigal (Dukakis) at 28 Barbary Lane.
The original has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Vulture comments on its relevance to modern audiences: “As perfect in its sly interweaving of multiple narratives as the best seasons of Mad Men or Downton Abbey, yet stranger than either of those concepts.” And IndieWire says of the reboot: “Curling up with Tales of the City feels like stepping into your neighborhood gay bar, where everybody knows your name – and your pronouns.”
IMDB rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 82%
More LGBTQ series and movies
Dirty John – Netflix
This true-crime series is based on the podcast, which was based on a series of LA Times articles by Christopher Goffard (here’s Part 1). They’re about a man called John Meehan who manipulated and conned the extremely wealthy designer Debra Newell into marriage and, eventually, into handing over everything she had to him, including her relationships with her daughters.
It was a story that could only end in violence and death.
Starring Connie Britton as Debra and Eric Bana as John, with Julia Garner as Terra, Debra’s youngest daughter, the series itself got mixed reviews, but critics agreed on the strength of the cast. The London Evening Standard said, “Eric Bana is terrific as Dirty John, so sexy and appealing yet creepy too. He combines those qualities perfectly: you really can believe that when he focuses attention on you, you can hardly resist.”
We’d recommend delving into this twisted tale through the podcast first, and then the articles, and ending off with the series if you aren’t ready to let the sordid story go yet.
IMDB rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 72%