Warning: contains spoilers for Starstruck series two.
There’s a good reason that Jane Austen novels and Shakespeare comedies end with weddings; they’re where romance ends. Everything after the cheese course and ‘New York, New York’ is pretty much admin and social work, and who’d document that?
Weddings are the end of the rom-com hunt, where the dripping pelt of your kill is pegged out to be admired by your Aunty Sandra and your least worst work colleagues. Next up: making a will and maybe a child, optional divorce and, less-optional, death.
After the series two finale of Starstruck, the BBC rom-com series created by comedian, actor, and soon-to-be host of Junior Taskmaster Rose Matafeo, a wedding seems like the logical next step. Jessie (Matafeo) and Tom (Nikesh Patel) have spent two series falling for each other and messing stuff up before things culminate in a big romantic declaration in a London pond. Kissing! Applause! The End.
Not quite the end. In the opening moments of series three, Starstruck fast-forwards through what happens next for Jessie and Tom in a montage that’s essentially the first ten minutes of Pixar’s Up!, but if love had died instead of Ellie.
Too much time apart (Tom’s a movie star whose job keeps him away from home for long stretches), too many fights, and a difference on opinion on the wanting of children means that Jessie drags her suitcases back to housemate Kate’s. A couple of years pass, and a wedding eventually arrives, but it’s not Jessie and Tom’s.
The wedding is though, where Jessie and Tom encounter each other for the first time in a long time. How, asks Starstruck series three, does this work? How do you safely re-absorb the feelings you sweat out when you meet an ex? Where do the sadness, anger, pain – and horniness – go?
“I think it would be great to learn how to have a normal conversation with you again,” Jessie tells Tom in the series three opener. Finding out how to do that feels like the mission statement here. There are plenty of shows and movies about finding the one; this is about how to have found them, let them go, and moved on to what’s next.
It’s also about that time in your early thirties when your friends’ previously normal relationships start exploding like seed pods on a warm wind and morphing into marriage, parenthood and – for some early adopters – even divorce. Jessie is surrounded by engagements and pregnancy. Will the avalanche speed at which everybody else is suddenly moving push her in a direction she doesn’t need to travel?
Wherever the rest of series three takes Jessie, trust that it’ll take her there in funny, clever style, led by Matafeo’s winning lead performance. Not just a talented writer who’s alert to cliché and alive to original possibilities, she’s also an excellent comic actor who sails miles over the heads of some of her fellow comedians-turned-sitcom stars. And she’s surrounded by similarly strong talents, from New Zealand comedian and co-writer Alice Sneddon, to cast-members Al Roberts from Stath Lets Flats and Emma Sidi from Pls Like, and more.
Starstruck series three feels like a revised prospect. If you adored the first two series because you were invested in Jessie and Tom’s love story, then adjust your expectations. Based on the first episode, something says that this one won’t end with disposable cameras and a three-tiered cake. It’s chosen to tell a different, and dare say it, much more useful story.
Starstruck series three airs on Friday nights on BBC One and is available to stream on full on BBC iPlayer now.