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TV Review: 'Starstruck' season 2


The fantasy of dating a movie star has a certain appeal, but what would it really be like? The romantic comedy series "Starstruck" focuses on this very question. Created by and starring New Zealander comedian Rose Matafeo, it focuses on a woman in London named Jessie who lives that fantasy when she starts dating Tom, a popular and very handsome movie star. In the first season, we see the two grow close, culminating in a grand romantic moment wherein Jessie decides not to get on a plane and leave the country as she had planned. In the second season, now streaming on HBO Max, Jessie and Tom have to figure out, OK, what now?


NIKESH PATEL: (As Tom) I'm sorry I booked you a plane ticket home.

ROSE MATAFEO: (As Jessie) I'm sorry I have been having a moderate nervous breakdown for 12 hours.

PATEL: (As Tom) Don't apologize. It's been thrilling. Have I ruined your life?

MATAFEO: (As Jessie) No. I wouldn't worry about that. I have been ruining my own life for, like, years now.

KURTZLEBEN: Pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes is here to talk about this unusual and very charming love story. Linda, welcome.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hi, Danielle. Thank you for having me, particularly to talk about this show that I like so much.

KURTZLEBEN: It's great to talk about something that is so genuinely good. So the United States is just getting this second season of "Starstruck," but as I understand it, it's not an entirely new season. It's been out in the U.K., right?

HOLMES: It is. The first season, which was six episodes, was made for the BBC, and then that started streaming on HBO Max a couple of months later - so in June of last year. The second season, which is also six episodes, aired a couple of months ago in the U.K., and it's just now coming to streaming here. And a lot of people are still catching up with this show. Even critics are. But it does have a very devoted romantic comedy audience.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, there is a lot to like about it, but what else is it about the series that inspires so much devotion among its diehard fans?

HOLMES: Well, for one thing, Jessie, who is played by the show creator, Rose Matafeo, is a kind of rom-com heroine we just don't see nearly enough. She's very funny. She has this big personality. She's just this wonderful, high-energy lead. And the character just finds it very hard to believe that this movie star is interested in her. And that movie star, named Tom Kapoor, is played by the extremely handsome and charming Nikesh Patel. But I think like a lot of romantic comedies, it runs on that chemistry between the leads.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. And one of the most fascinating things about this show is that one of its central conflicts is, in a big way, in Jessie's head. It's that Tom is famous and famously hot, and she just doesn't see herself as a natural partner for somebody like that. So I'm wondering, what do you think "Starstruck" is trying to say about fame and being famous?

HOLMES: Well, we always see a lot of hot famous people dating other hot famous people. And this is kind of a show about what it would be like to try to date a huge movie star if you saw yourself as a regular person not accustomed to fans and publicists - Minnie Driver has a great small role as Tom's agent - and just sort of ended up adrift in that celebrity world. It's insightful about the fact that it could mess with your head and how it could force you into this kind of universe of unreasonable expectations. And that's on top of the fact that actors travel a lot. They're busy a lot. It touches on that, too. And then, of course, she just feels unglamorous when she's next to this very glamorous celebrity.

KURTZLEBEN: That was NPR pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes joining us. The second season of "Starstruck" is streaming on HBO Max. Thank you so much, Linda.

HOLMES: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NORSE FOUNDRY'S "SAPPHIRE LOTUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.