Modern Love

Character: Sarah
Episodes: 1x04
Original airdate: October 18, 2019
Episode title: Rallying to Keep the Game Alive
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Running time: 32min

An unlikely friendship. A lost love resurfaced. A marriage at its turning point. A date that might not have been a date. An unconventional new family. These are unique stories about the joys and tribulations of love, each inspired by a real-life personal essay from the beloved New York Times column “Modern Love.”

“We rallied, not with the adrenaline-pumping determination to win at all costs, but with the patience and control that came with not wanting it to be over: not the summer, not our son’s childhood, not this game, ever.”

Cast & Characters

Tina Fey (Sarah), John Slattery (Dennis), Sarita Choudhury (Therapist), Aidan Fiske (Jack), Arden Wolfe (Nancy), Ted Allen (Ted Allen)

Production Photos


Original nyt column: Rallying to Keep the Game Alive

Published on September 26, 2013 by The New York Times |  Written by Ann Leary

When I took up tennis, my husband was happy to play with our two children and me, as long as we didn’t have to play by the rules. As Denis repeatedly explained to us, playing by the rules placed him at an unfair disadvantage because he didn’t know the rules, and he didn’t know how to serve.

Instead of learning the rules, he wanted to play a variation of tennis he had invented with another actor while on location in a tropical country. Their game involved no serving and a complicated but curiously malleable set of rules that often appeared, to me, to change midgame and almost always to Denis’s advantage.

This caused some heated courtside squabbles. I’m ashamed to admit that one year we spent several days of a family vacation not speaking to each other after a game of “Denis Tennis” that I had lost “unfairly” (I repeatedly hissed at our children), until finally our son and daughter had to intervene and coerce a truce between us.

This was a tricky time in our marriage. Though we had found tennis late, we had found each other quite early in our adult lives, and now we were going through a rough patch, one that had lasted for years.

When we met, I was 20, he 25. We were too young and inexperienced to know that people don’t change who they are, only how they play and work with others. Our basic problem was, and is, that we are almost identical — in looks, attitudes and psychological makeup. Two Leos who love children and animals, and are intensely emotional and highly sensitive and competitive with everybody, but especially with each other.

When the children came along, we got caught up in the tallying of efforts, the scorekeeping of who was doing more for the marriage and family and who was being self-serving, unloving and disapproving. We didn’t bicker often, but when we fought, we raged.

Eventually we began to see a marriage counselor, who, among other things, suggested that we have a regular date night. Our apathy was such that our date night was our marriage-counseling night. Afterward we sometimes went to a movie. One of the movies we saw was “March of the Penguins.”

This movie moved us to tears because whatever battles raged between us, however ugly the other often appeared to be, we had these two very delicate fledglings that needed to be protected and carried along carefully, so carefully, because is anything more fragile than a preteenage girl or a growing, unsure boy?

These great children were the reason we were in counseling, the reason we were trying to keep the family egg whole. So we worked hard at playing nice. We had regular family nights and took family vacations. And on occasion we tried to play tennis together.

Despite all of this, the marriage continued to flounder, and the time came when we met in our marriage counselor’s office and I said, “I think it’s over.”

“That’s it,” Denis agreed.

When we left, it felt as if we were floating, we were so calm. We had stormed out of those doors and stomped down those steps in such rages before, but now Denis held the door for me, and I thanked him. When we got to the street, it was snowing. I had boots with heels, and the sidewalks were icy. I couldn’t walk on the icy sidewalks with those heels, so I asked if I could hold his arm, if he could walk me home.

“Sure,” he said. He didn’t care.

Neither did I. I just needed something to hold on to so I wouldn’t slip and fall. I clung to his arm, and we bent our bodies into the wind.

“The thing is,” he said as we walked, “I’m tired and hungry.”

“Let’s get something to eat,” I said.

We went to the restaurant across from our building, a little neighborhood place where the waiters know our names and the chef knows how we like our burgers. We sat in a booth in the back. Denis ordered soup.