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We have fallen deeply in love with TV romantic comedies, believing them to be the best thing in our lives.
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We have fallen deeply in love with TV romantic comedies, believing them to be the best thing in our lives.

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This is a passionate love story that spans two decades, featuring an on-and-off again couple. It pertains not only to the new Netflix version of David Nicholls’ book One Day, but also to Channel 4’s Alice & Jack, which premieres tonight. It’s like waiting for a bus and then two love-themed ones appear at the same time. It’s well-timed for Valentine’s Day as well.

The return of TV romance has captured the hearts of viewers. “One Day” has become the most popular show on Netflix in the UK since its release a week ago. Similar to Nicholls’ widely successful novel, the show follows two friends who have an ongoing will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic, revisiting their story every year on July 15th (St Swithin’s Day), the day they first met at their university graduation ball in Edinburgh. The series not only stays true to the book, pleasing fans, but also features a beautiful soundtrack and outstanding performances.

Dex and Em, played by Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod, are the star-crossed leads and deliver outstanding performances. Woodall masterfully portrays the charming yet insecure Dexter, while Mod’s portrayal of the witty and sensible Northerner Emma erases any negative memories of Anne Hathaway’s poor attempt at a Yorkshire accent in the 2011 movie adaptation. Together, they have incredible chemistry on screen.

When I inquire with Nicholls, the executive producer, about the reason behind the highly addictive 14-episode series striking a chord, he humbly expresses confusion. “I am not completely certain,” he admits. “None of us anticipated such a strong reaction. It could be that the novel’s structure perfectly aligns with the format. The story has a built-in sense of anticipation – where will the characters be next year? – which keeps the viewer, like the reader, wanting to continue on to the next chapter. Additionally, Leo and Ambika are perfectly cast. They are endearing yet flawed, making them relatable. It’s incredibly exciting to see two talented new actors in these roles.”

Nicholls gives credit to the success of One Day to the lead writer, Nicole Taylor, and her team. He praises their skill in creating “beautiful scripts that remained faithful to the book while also being full of creativity.” Taylor shares that her goal was to stay true to the characters and story, but also capture the same feeling she had when she first read the book, as did millions of others. She expresses her joy and relief at the impact of the show, and references a tweet that likened the show to shaking the book and having the characters fall out.

The film “One Day” has been added to the must-watch list of every romantic, alongside “Alice & Jack”. The lead characters are portrayed by Andrea Riseborough, who has been nominated for an Oscar, and Domhnall Gleeson, both of whom are also executive producers. After matching on a dating app, Alice, a sharp financier, and Jack, a sensitive scientist, repeatedly cross paths in unexpected ways as they live together.

Created by former Mad Men writer Victor Levin, for whom it has been a long-term passion project, Alice & Jack begins with Gleeson’s character saying: “Love is the best thing we have. Maybe after we strip away all the bullshit, it’s the only thing we have.” The slow-burning six-parter is pretty much a grown-up Normal People, with Gleeson’s enviable hair-and-workwear combos replacing Paul Mescal’s character Connell’s silver chain.

The combination of One Day and Alice & Jack has led to a resurgence of romantic TV shows. Netflix, with titles such as Heartstopper, Bridgerton, and Emily In Paris, has become known for its romantic content. In the last six months, Sky has also released The Lovers and Smothered. And Jack Rooke’s heartwarming sitcom Big Boys on Channel 4 can be seen as a love story about friendship. On the BBC, viewers can enjoy Rose Matafeo’s Starstruck and the delightful Australian series Colin From Accounts. Exciting news was announced yesterday that Gavin & Stacey, a beloved romantic comedy from England and Wales, will be returning this Christmas after a five-year hiatus, leaving fans eagerly waiting for Nessa’s unanswered marriage proposal to Smithy.

According to Nessa, what is happening? Why is television now filled with romantic themes? This is due in part to the current state of the world. As Covid restrictions ease, people are beginning to reconnect in person. Actor Gleeson stated that he only wants to create and watch content centered around love and relationships in a post-pandemic world. After being emotionally stagnant for two years, many have returned to the dating scene. This trend in television reflects this societal shift.

This indicates a desire for solace, rather than disagreement. Becoming immersed in a romantic tale provides a rejuvenating remedy to the constant gloom and aggression depicted on our screens (such as True Detective, Trigger Point, Masters of the Air, Silent Witness, Griselda) – and the anxiety-inducing dramas that characterized 2023 (Succession, The Bear, Beef, Happy Valley). In a world filled with uncertainty, it’s possible that viewers are seeking something more gentle, fantastical, and uplifting.

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The foundation of romance lies in the art of storytelling. Love has been a timeless theme throughout history. With budget cuts in the entertainment industry, romantic plots have become more affordable. There is no requirement for costly special effects, large casts, or extravagant locations. Simply focus the lens on two individuals conversing and strolling (with occasional displays of affection).

It is not as simple as it may seem. According to Nicholls, telling a love story on television is notoriously difficult due to its complicated structure. Unlike thrillers or adventures, which have a constant narrative pull, love stories rely on small details and events, such as a bad date or an argument. Additionally, these stories often end with characters either breaking up or getting together, which may not be appealing to viewers. However, the latest shows have managed to overcome these challenges and keep audiences engaged through their well-cast actors, modern setting, grounded plotlines, and unexpected twists. Despite the difficulty in maintaining this level of engagement, it is possible to create a successful love story on TV.

One Day and Alice & Jack share more than just a loose premise. Both are warm, wise and bittersweetly beautiful. They follow specific couples, sure, but the themes are universal. These are stories of life and loss, personal change and the passing of time.

All the lovers … Alice (Andrea Riseborough) and Jack (Domhnall Gleeson) in Jack & Alice.

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According to Nicholls, “One Day” has a dual impact. It evokes feelings of nostalgia and emotion for older viewers, while also sparking thoughts about the future, the choices we make, and themes of friendship and fate for younger viewers. Love stories have a lasting appeal because they allow us to relate to them and also fulfill our desires. They also blend powerful emotions with humor. Falling in love is a significant and transformative experience, but it can also be seen as silly. It exposes our vulnerabilities and makes us seem foolish.

Taylor also mentions how the show has left an impression on viewers regarding the feeling of being completely disconnected from the world of the 90s and 00s. The nostalgia for a time before mobile phones and the internet is genuine, as those times seem close yet irretrievable.

Instead of Love Island, let’s focus on love stories. Last month, everyone was talking about The Traitors and Mr Bates vs The Post Office, but this month, it’s all about One Day and Alice & Jack. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day viewing!

Source: theguardian.com