The holy grail of TV shows for me these days is a half-hour comedy that both surprises and delights. If it has a rom-com angle to it? As Tom Cruise once famously uttered to Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, you had me at hello.
This Delightful TV Rom-Com Is Like ‘Notting Hill’ in Reverse (and It Scored 96 Percent on Rotten Tomatoes)
Enter Starstruck, which is now in its second season and streaming on HBO Max. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more discerning about my rom-coms as I’ve aged (gracefully). But I was raised in the Julia Roberts heyday and still have the ticket stubs from classics like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Runaway Bride and Notting Hill.
That’s what makes Starstruck such a stand-out in my book: It’s Notting Hill in reverse, but it’s less saccharine and sweet. Instead, it’s infused with a delicious combo of British quirkiness and whip-smart humor and I just can’t get enough. Oh, there’s also the more overt role reversal in comparison to the OG: In this case, he’s the movie star.
Here’s the basic premise: A drunken New Year’s Eve hook-up gets complicated after Jessie (played by Rose Matafeo, who also created the show) realizes her one-night-stand is with A-List movie star Tom (Nikesh Patel). Although she dismisses the encounter as a hilarious story she’ll laugh about later with her friends, it appears to be something more and she has to decide if combatting the pressures of Tom’s celebrity status is worth it for the sake of love.
Formulaic-sounding? OK, yes. But it’s also modern and charming thanks to the casting (which we all know is the secret sauce to the best-ever rom coms).
You’ve got the quirky roommate (Emma Sidi) and the toxic ex (Edward Easton). But you’ve also got something incredibly brilliant in Jessie: Solid chemistry with Tom and the most natural and hilarious comedic timing. (Let’s just say there’s a season one joke that references The Daily Mail that made me spit my wine out from laughing so hard.)
Minnie Driver also has a cameo role, popping up in a handful of episodes as Tom’s pushy, but dedicated agent. She’s in a league of her own, as always, and makes me miss seeing her in more on-screen roles.
More than anything, the show is smart and binge-worthy, and with Matafeo at center-stage, you really can’t miss. She makes everything funny, even when she’s ruminating alone in her London flat.
Now, the good and bad news: Season three is still unconfirmed, which means you’ve got time to dive in and catch up. (It’s just two seasons! Super low commitment.) Don’t trust me? Trust the Rotten Tomatoes score. You won’t regret it.