Skip to main content

Andrew Wheeler as Luke and Sharon Crandall as Mia, a newly dating couple with an age gap, in Pillow Talk.Courtesy of Crave

Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you all, even the readers who write to call me ignorant, biased, a tool of the Liberal Party, an enemy of the CBC, or a crank. You’re reading me. That’s love, my friends.

During the height of the Game of Thrones craze I asserted here that it wasn’t the biggest show in the world. Outlander was, I said. It was true, because Outlander is an epic love story; tangled, passionate, bitter, dramatic but enduring. There are five seasons on Netflix. Try it. In honour of the day, here are five other love stories.

Pillow Talk (streams on Crave) is new and a delight. An adaptation of a French series, its drama and comedy take place entirely in bedrooms. It’s all brief scenes with recurring characters, and explores love and relationships in a direct, uninhibited way. At times hilarious and at times deeply poignant, it’s about couples of all ages and types. The list of actors in the series features four real-life couples and one set of roommates. They play “fictionalized versions of themselves” according to the producers, an idea that emerged during the COVID-19 restrictions. The cast includes, Nicola Correia-Damude (Shadowhunters) and Carlos Gonzalez-Vio (The Expanse, Orphan Black) and many others. On the evidence of early episodes, it’s a delight.

Catch up on the best streaming TV of 2021 with our holiday guide

Falling for Figaro (streams on Netflix) is a one-off, one of those small movies that inevitably heads to TV or streaming. An adorable comedy, the romance is in part about being in love with opera. Millie Cantwell (Danielle Macdonald) is a brilliant fund manager at a London company. But, after a promotion, she decides she wants to be an opera singer. It’s her real passion. The fastest way to that is by winning a competition and hiring a teacher to get her to be a winner. Off she goes to Scotland where an eccentric coach, Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley in brilliant form) will hopefully help her. Hilarious culture clash ensues. And there’s Max (Hugh Skinner) another student of Meghan’s. Is there romance there? Well, to find love you must first find your voice.

Hugh Skinner as Max and Danielle Macdonald as Millie in Falling for Figaro.Courtesy of Netflix

The Beautiful Lie (CBC Gem) is a stunningly good drama series from Australia, and heartily recommended for its intense take on doomed love. How do we know it’s doomed? Because it is an adaptation of the central story in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, set in modern, upper-middle-class Melbourne. The visceral emotional weight of it is explicit. And then there’s the excellent cast, with the (doomed) lead played by Sarah Snook, familiar as Siobhan (Shiv) Roy, on HBO’s Succession. She’s wonderful here as the Anna figure who falls hopelessly, ecstatically and tragically in love with an unsuitable younger man. It’s addictive, this thing, and you need neither a weakness for stories of doomed love, nor knowledge of Tolstoy’s novel, to savour it.

Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon Prime Video) is not new but if you’ve ignored it, indulge in it now. It takes us into the wild world of classical music. Rock ‘n’ roll has nothing on these people for lust and bad behaviour. Based on the memoir of the same title by Blair Tindall, an oboist who played with the best, including the New York Philharmonic, it’s a terrific series and there’s a buoyancy to it that is absolutely as seductive as the music. Most episodes are a half-hour in length and there are four seasons. The central character at first is Hailey (Lola Kirke), a young oboist trying to make it into a great orchestra, where a new maestro, Rodrigo (Gael Garcia Bernal) is taking over from the old boss. Rodrigo is young, sexy, European and a genius. He is also, it seems, intent on seducing every female within touching distance. And what of Hailey in this? There is nothing dumbed-down about this portrait of a classical-music institution, or its take on love.

Lola Kirke as Hailey Rutledge and Gael García Bernal as Rodrigo in Amazon Prime's Mozart in the Jungle.Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Barbelle (on the YouTube channel KindaTV) is a great acid-tongued comedy set in the Canadian music world of now. A kind of rowdy anti-romance love story it is officially described as “A lesbian Spiceworld in Toronto, and a love letter to the Canadian music scene.” If it’s a love letter, I’d hate to see the hate letter. It stars Gwenlyn Cumyn and Karen Knox as Alice and Veronica, respectively, the queer duo and music hit makers Barbelle. Things kick off two years into the duo’s fame and hit songs. They announce to their record company that they’re breaking up. That is, as a couple. They are, however, obliged to continue as a music duo. Zinger-filled and flinty, it’s a mad romance told in mostly 10-minute episodes.

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.