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Rose Matafeo’s romcom dares to go beyond ‘happily ever after’


A lot of very high praise was directed at the debut series of Rose Matafeo’s comedy Starstruck – that it had “reinvented the romcom” and so on. I felt like a party pooper for being ever-so-slightly underwhelmed.

Matafeo’s character, Jessie, was refreshingly original for the genre, like a real person with relatable doubts about entering a new relationship (no love at first sight here) but I thought the dialogue could have done with tightening up.

That seems to have happened in series two as we were reintroduced to Jessie, the twentysomething Kiwi adrift in dead-end jobs and a Hackney flatshare, but who had acquired a movie-star boyfriend, Tom (Nikesh Patel), after a one-night stand.

As it opened, the couple were sitting on a Heathrow-bound bus – Jessie headed back to New Zealand before Tom went off to shoot a film in Ireland. And then Jessie didn’t get off the bus and the couple suddenly had to process this momentous decision.

What ensued was some deftly observed comedy of relationship insecurity, as Jessie tried to downplay the true meaning of her decision and Tom made misjudged gestures like buying her another ticket to New Zealand. “Is it romantic sending your date literally to the other end of the planet?” she asked.

Emma Sidi as Kate, Nikesh Patel as Tom and Rose Matafeo as Jessie (Photo: BBC/Avalon UK)

Matafeo’s heroine is immensely likeable and powers the show, but is a much more rounded character than Tom, whose world as a movie star seems more like a backdrop than a fully realised one.

Minnie Driver returned as his agent, Cath, giving an instant caffeine hit to the comedic side of the romcom equation. More of Cath, please.

Otherwise, this was a sweetly worked establishing episode, which, unlike the majority of romcoms, ventured beyond the happily-ever-after stage.

Starstruck continues on Monday 14 February at 10pm on BBC Three. The full series is streaming on BBC iPlayer now

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