Modern Love ★★★★
Modern Love makes me want to get a warm drink, sit in a recliner, put a comfy sweater on, and put a blanket around my body. The program is based on the New York Times column of the same name that publishes meticulously selected essays submitted by any writer about “modern love.” Each episode starts with an introduction to the essay topic and guest reader, who has so far been someone in performing arts (typically Broadway, TV, movies). The famous reader actually chooses the essay they want to read, and then lends their voice for about 15 minutes as we follow the writer down a trail of finding love, feeling heartbreak, or something in between. Then we get to hear from the essay writer about what they experienced that contributed to the essay and where their life headed after that snapshot in time – your desire to know “where are they now” will not go unsatisfied for long.
The Modern Love column has been published in the New York Times since 2005. Editor Daniel Jones has managed and curated the column throughout, and his presence is felt in the podcast as he weighs in at the end about why the particular essay struck a chord with him, or what was memorable about the submission. Meghna Chakrabarti, as the main host, has a strong radio voice and deftly interviews the readers and essay writers (for many of whom it has been several years since their essay was published) and we get an update on their story in present day. The podcast started airing episodes in January 2016 but the essays may be from several years ago. Doesn’t matter: love is always relevant.
Jones and Chakrabarti are a good team but one reason this show works so well is because it’s not about the hosts, it’s truly about the story as told by the writer and the guest reader. The most insightful part of these episodes is often when the reader explains why they chose that particular essay out of hundreds. The stories are certainly beautiful-they have made it into the New York Times, after all, but there is something special about an actor letting us in to a special corner of their life, like Connie Britton sharing that she has adopted children and can relate to the writer in “My First Lesson in Motherhood.” It’s something that wouldn’t normally come up when an actor is out promoting a film or show – but of course they’re all people just like us and have the same feelings and reactions we do … it’s nice to hear that once in a while from a famous person whose life feels 180 degrees opposite from your own.
The openness with which the writers let us into their hearts is so warm and comforting (think hot chocolate, blanket and recliner!). There is nothing about these essays that is intending to make the listener feel uncomfortable, and I think that is somewhat uncommon in current podcasting. Many shows push boundaries; this show and these stories simply share true, honest feelings about love, both good and bad, and I love that.
The length of the episodes is perfect and the cadence and flow is pleasantly predictable. Even the sneak peek teaser at the end of each episode is worth listening to – it’s well produced and they always seem to pick just the right clip to make me want to tune in the next week. I hope that going forward the show is able to continue to snag top-notch guest readers – the majority of the actors so far have done a tremendous job with the already incredible material they’ve been given.
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (2 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (4 / 5)
Perhaps my expectations are too high for the performers reading the stories, but on a few episodes I’ve been frustrated with the actor and felt they actually took away from the beautiful writing, like they weren’t honest enough as they read the piece – didn’t sell me on that they were reading as if they wrote it themselves. This could not be further from the truth, however, for the episodes with Jason Alexander, Stephen Bogardus, and Lauren Molina.
Flow & Production Value (5 / 5)
Really perfect flow for me – wonderfully predictable and no single component of the show goes on too long.
Humor (3 / 5)
Investigation (0 / 5)
Storytelling (5 / 5)
I love that Modern Love’s essays are read by famous people, and some of them have been excellent storytellers. My favorite storytelling was done by Jason Alexander in Episode 2: “One Last Swirl” – he slayed the reading of this great essay.
Makes Me a Better Person (4 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (4 / 5)
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The Truth, The Moth, Snap Judgement, The Mortified Podcast, The Heart, Death Sex & Money, This American Life, The Memory Palace, StoryCorps, Love+Radio, The Story Collider, BBC Witness