Starstruck review: A gloriously funny take on modern romance – 3 reasons to watch

Still missing Fleabag? We think you’ll love Starstruck, the BBC Three relationships comedy from award-winning comedian Rose Matafeo.

By Becky Gamester-Newton Published: 25 April 2021 - 7.36am
BBC Rose Matafeo stars in BBC comedy Starstruck

If you’re still pining for Fleabag, then help could finally be at hand in the form of Starstruck – the six-part comedy series from Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning comedian Rose Matafeo.

Co-written by Rose and Alice Snedden, Starstruck follows an East London millennial called Jessie (Matafeo) who sleeps with Tom (Nikesh Patel) - a man she discovers is actually a famous film star.

What starts out as an amusing tale to tell friends like flatmate Kate (Emma Sidi) soon becomes more as we watch the relationship develop throughout the six episodes.

Rose, Nikesh and Emma spoke to about why the show should be on your watchlist.

1. It makes awkward subjects normal

Rose Matafeo and Nikesh Patel star in Starstruck BBC

The show’s basic premise is familiar – girl meets boy, a relationship ensues. But Starstruck is very much a modern take on the romantic comedy genre, reflecting the fast-paced lives of city-based millennials navigating modern relationships.

For example, when Jessie first meets Tom and they sleep together, they have a brief conversation about consent. On their second hook-up, Jessie tells Tom straight away that she’s on her period.

These subjects are rarely talked about in such a frank way on TV as a whole, never mind in romcoms where they are usually avoided at all costs. But the genius of Starstruck is that while they seem awkward, they’re not discussed in a cringey, hide-behind-the-sofa-cushion way. The terrible timing of the consent discussion makes the scenario funny rather than awkward.

But Rose said she didn’t set out for the show to be groundbreaking in this way and that she talks about these subjects freely in real life.

“There is no intention there. I overshare to a degree, which I feel like there’s nothing weird about that,” she laughs.

“[People say] ‘it’s cool you talk about periods’… oh I’m not supposed to talk about that normally!

“In my style of comedy, I love naturalistic performances and stuff that feels lively and real world. It’s got quite a lot of truthfulness in it because I think there’s so much heart in this story and you’re asking the audience to invest in this love story. There has to be a large element of truth in these characters.”

Nikesh says the directness of the script really drew him to the role.

“It’s great to see the recognisable tropes of this genre play out but with people who talk about them very openly and frankly.”

Emma adds: “I feel like so much of it is revelling in the awkwardness and the surprising stuff that people come out with as opposed to some of those tropes you get in old romcoms.”

2. There’s true chemistry between the characters

Emma Sidi and Rose Matafeo are real-life flatmates and star in Starstruck BBC

Starstruck feels like a ‘natural’ romcom, without cliché or forced relationships – partly thanks to Rose Matafeo’s warm and witty scriptwriting.

Nikesh says: “That’s what really drew me to it, reading the script was like ‘oh, this is how people talk’.”

Rose admits that she didn’t have much practice when it came to Jessie and Tom kissing, but it doesn't show on screen.

“Nikesh is the only person I’ve kissed in a year. So that’s cool, that’s awesome and that’s the worst thing of my life,” she quips.

Jessie and Kate’s bond as flatmates is also amusing to watch – and it helps that the two actors who play them actually live together in real life.

“So we were flatmates and I’d say maybe even best friends,” Emma laughs. “On top of that there’s lockdown. Now we’ve literally been living together relentlessly every second of every day for months and months and months. So that’s an extra factor on top of it that is, we’re both like prisoners together as well as actors.”

Rose adds: “I’d be like ‘see you at work’ then we’d go home together and talk about the day that we’ve just spent together. So we did that and then we went into lockdown halfway through filming so it just extended that for four months.

“Basically we are one unit now. We are a blob. We do everything together.”

3. It’s laugh-out-loud funny

Rose Matafeo stars in Starstruck BBC

There’s a caveat here: the first episode of Starstruck is more of a warm chuckle and scene-setter than a proper belly laugh.

But that starts to change in episode 2, with Jessie’s imaginary performance to Mark Morrison's Return of the Mack following a one-night stand set to go down as one of the show’s iconic scenes. Watch it and we challenge you to remain stoney-faced.

There’s also a glorious cameo from Minnie Driver, who plays Tom’s agent.

Rose laughs: “I’m just furious that I wrote that scene, and I went ‘why didn’t I write myself in it?’. Why the hell is Nikesh the one who gets to do a scene with Minnie Driver? Holy sh*t!’ Really upsetting.”

She added that much of the scene was improvised, with Minnie really going for it.

“We got so much good improv from her. It was coming from a true place of experience, I think with her.”

Emma Sidi, who plays Jessie’s flatmate Kate, said having to film in between Covid lockdowns in 2020 meant there was a fun atmosphere on set which is reflected in the end product.

“There was definitely a Covid atmosphere in a good way. Everybody hadn’t got to socialise or meet anyone new, or just get to laugh about something random with someone they’d never met before.

“There was this energy. People were barely on their phones… I think you can see it in the show, this sort of energy.”

Starstruck is available on BBC Three on the BBC iPlayer from Sunday, April 25. It also airs at 10.40pm on BBC One on Monday, April 26.

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