Starstruck was one of the most charming shows of 2021. There was something just deeply, deeply endearing about the romcom – not “just” in the sense it might’ve been a fluke or coincidence, but “just” in the sense that Rose Matafeo made it all look absolutely effortless. Starstruck has a real flair and a lightness of touch to it, and it’s no surprise that audiences took to it the way they did; there’s something about the series that felt, and still feels, like a real breath of fresh air.
This isn’t, by the way, building to a “but” or a “however” – that’s all still very true of Starstruck series 2. It’s as fun as it always was, and (as importantly) it’s as funny: there’s always something a little difficult about writing and reviewing a comedy, because it’s not like transcribing all the jokes without any of the wit and warmth of their delivery really captures what it’s like to watch the show, but also I’ve just been sitting writing bullet point notes for the past few days about how funny it all is. (Rose Matafeo whenever she’s playing a moment of realisation, always pitch perfect at that “oh!” jolt of awareness. Nikesh Patel’s deadpan delivery. Al Roberts’ physical comedy in the background of a scene. Literally any scene with Emma Sidi.) The headline, anyway, is that you should really just go and watch Starstruck. Maybe right now, even, because you’re surely not doing anything more important – your Succession rewatch or English Linguistics MA (or, you know, a third thing less specific to people I know in real life) are not the priority here. This is!
But (I lied) there’s an interesting sense of Starstruck series 2 as being, maybe, just that little bit less overtly a crowd-pleaser than the first. One of the great things about the first series of Starstruck was, for all that it was about a chance encounter between a normal person and someone unimaginably famous, that it was always thoroughly unimpressed by celebrity. A lot of the discussion of the series framed it as this AO3 fantasy, a fanfiction premise writ large, and that always seemed to miss the point a little. After all, the title is ironic; it’s absolutely Tom that’s starstruck by Jessie.
Starstruck series 2 shares that ambivalence – and if anything, actually, it takes it further. It would’ve been really easy for Starstruck to revisit Jessie and Tom and indulge in the romance again; Matafeo and Patel are, after all, a hugely charismatic screen couple, and they’re always a joy to watch together no matter what. Instead, Starstruck series 2 isn’t so much about the romance as it is the relationship, and all the complications and difficulties that come after happily ever after.
The first series of Starstruck ended on this really great image of Tom and Jessie on the bus to Heathrow together. She’s going to the airport, about to leave London and move home to New Zealand; he helped her carry her suitcases to the bus stop after an impromptu visit, and kept finding reasons to stay just a little bit longer.
They miss the stop, deliberately, and she misses her flight, deliberately, and the camera holds on them as they kiss and it cuts to the credits.
Series 2 opens more or less immediately after that, with Jessie panicked and overwhelmed at the sudden realities of that grand romantic gesture: she spent a thousand pounds on plane tickets, she quit her job, she was about to move to a whole other country and now she very suddenly isn’t again. (Also, she left her suitcases on the bus.) That’s essentially the throughline for series 2, which picks up their relationship again and looks at all the obstacles that the pair would likely face – both practical (Tom is, after all, still a jetsetting movie star with international filming commitments) and personal (even if you’re not a jetsetting movie star with international filming commitments, taking the fumbling chance encounters of the first series and turning it into a relationship would be difficult). It’s not all plain-sailing; there are tears, regrets, and anxieties to navigate too.
As a result, Starstruck series 2 feels at once like a natural continuation of the first series, and as though it’s evolved into something cleverer, something more thoughtful. It’s still very much of a piece with the first series – this is never even close to a Ted Lasso-esque reinvention from comedy to drama, Starstruck is still as funny, and it’s not like the first series wasn’t clever or thoughtful itself anyway – but there’s a real sense of it as having matured too. Starstruck is a show that’s really properly invested in its characters and their lives, and that commitment to its storytelling takes it to interesting – and, again, very funny – new places.
It’s one of those things that’s a little difficult to discuss in an advance review (even in the knowledge that most people are going to inhale all six episodes of the show in a few days’ time), caught between wanting to detail every single clever and funny thing the show does, and at the same time wanting to preserve all of those surprises and punchlines throughout.
Ultimately, though, the most important thing is this: Starstruck is one of the most charming shows of 2022.
Starstruck begins on BBC Three on Monday 7 February at 10pm, and will be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer. It arrives on HBO Max in the US on Thursday 24 March. I’ve seen all six episodes of Series 2 before writing this review.
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