We all have those moments. What the hell did I do to land myself in this exact situation? What on earth am I doing with my life right now, because this sure is no good. You know: real, raw self-reflection that can only come from an all-time low. Sitting front row by yourself at Magic Mike Live with only a 4ft stuffed toy banana for company is exactly the type of scenario to trigger one of those epiphanies, and would probably prompt a stare from even the least judgmental onlooker.
This is the situation in which Jessie – our beloved, messy millennial, played by award-winning comedian Rose Matafeo – finds herself in the first episode of the new season of Starstruck (also co-written by Matafeo). The highly anticipated second season picks up exactly where we left off: Jessie and her famous actor love interest, Tom, are sitting on the top deck of a bus, The Graduate-style, coming to terms with the gravity of the decision they’ve just made. In the last episode, after everything had crumbled – as it sometimes overwhelmingly can, all at the same time – Jessie had quit her job, moved out of her east London flat and was preparing to return to her native New Zealand.
A floundering late twentysomething juggling two dead-end jobs, Jessie met Tom in a men’s loo in a club on New Year’s Eve and after a one-night stand realised she had accidentally slept with one of the world’s famous actors. You can guess the rest: in the most unlikely of situations, they developed the feels and spent the duration of the first season’s six perfect episodes in a stubborn, will-they-won’t-they circle of hooking up and avoiding their feelings, culminating in Tom escorting Jessie to the airport. In unspoken agreement that they have fallen in love and are wanting more, she never gets off the bus.
What happens after happily ever after? This is exactly the sentiment explored in the next chapter of Matafeo’s television gem, firstly debunking one of Hollywood’s favourite romcom tropes: chasing someone through an airport. After the music swoons, the record scratches, and in the cold light of day, it’s actually awkward as fuck. Um, so I didn’t want you to leave the country because I liked the way we were going but also, woah, this feels like a big step. Jessie and Tom sit in a cafe and make small talk and the reality hits that she needs to get her old flat and job back, and also explain to her parents that she isn’t coming home – not for a boyfriend or anything but a guy with whom it’s actually way too early to tell. Also, after the big fanfare of someone leaving your life has settled, everyone…generally moves on. Jessie goes back to her Hackney flat to find her housemate Kate (brilliantly played by Emma Sidi) in an uncompromising situation, shagging her boyfriend.
Then the freak-outs start. The fact of the matter is that all of Jessie’s friends act weird around Tom because he’s a celebrity. Making awkward small talk, one of them says to him, in Jessie’s absence: "Things are moving fast right? If you’re thinking of buying a ring, I know a guy." Tom's face says it all. The sheer weight of commitment starts bearing down and he begins to second-guess himself, feeling like he’s pressured her into staying: "You’d tell me if you wanted to go home right?" Later, at an arcade, he reveals he’s bought her a plane ticket. It’s like a death knell and Jessie closes in on herself, storming off to see Magic Mike Live (as you do) with the banana she won at the arcade. If you’ve watched the first season, you’ll guess that Jessie isn’t there too long before handsome Tom saves the day.
The breakout success of the first season was due to its unassuming charm and comedic timing, steered by the plot-propelling cohort of genuinely funny, drunken, gross women you want to be your friend IRL – akin to Fleabag, Girls or Catastrophe. Minnie Driver returns as Tom’s caustic, chain-smoking agent and there's a dash of even more star power with Being Human's Russell Tovey joining the cast as a kooky male auteur. And those seriously laugh-out-loud pop culture gags are fired up even more. Highlights include when Tom gifts Jessie a Joni Mitchell album for Christmas and she proclaims loudly: "He’s Alan Rickman'd me!" Or Jessie straight-faced telling a pensioner: "Men know nothing about film. I mean, name me one male director!"
The premise was never meant to be realistic but the question looms larger this season: how exactly does a world-famous actor make it work with a completely ‘normal’ person living in east London – especially when the pair are stubborn commitment-phobes? They don’t, and then they do. And that’s the beauty of the show. For all the fairytale plot lines, the same relatable themes of our 20s are there: the constant freak-outs, the magical feeling at the start of any given night that the possibilities are endless, and the power of friendship and being foul-mouthed.
Starstruck season two will air weekly from 7th February on BBC iPlayer