- Brian Donaldson
- 26 April 2021
Toning down her stage delirium, Rose Matafeo's sitcom debut is a cosily charming breeze
There was a time when winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award meant a surefire route to an instant higher profile and, before long, your own TV show. The 1990s, in particular, feels like a golden age of future superstars created in small rooms across the capital: Sean Hughes, Frank Skinner, Steve Coogan, Lee Evans, Jenny Éclair, Dylan Moran, The League Of Gentlemen, and Al Murray all scooped the gong in that decade and are all pretty much household names today. The 21st century though, has witnessed well-deserved winners of comedy's biggest prize not quite ascend to the same giddy heights. As wonderful as they are in their own ways, it's difficult to claim that the likes of Sam Simmons, Adam Riches, John Kearns, David O'Doherty, and Phil Nichol are known to a wider demographic than the comedy community.
Which brings us to Rose Matafeo, the 2018 Edinburgh Comedy Award victor whose solo shows have been a whirlwind of energy, music, dancing, and over-sharing twentysomething angst. Starstruck, the six-part sitcom she has created, co-written (with fellow New Zealand comic Alice Snedden), and appears as central character Jessie, tones her stage persona down a little (asides from one musical-esque routine where she vibes her way around London to 'Return Of The Mack', all the while being cheered on by strangers). After a messy one-night stand, it dawns on Jessie that her fling Tom (Nikesh Patel) is a bona fide movie superstar, but who we learn is destined to waste his talent on big-budget fantasy tripe.
Working in a cinema café (one excellent scene has her chucking out customers who are taking up table space to craft their first screenplay) and flatsharing with her florist pal Kate (Emma Sidi), Jessie suddenly finds herself at showbiz shindigs and as a person of interest to the paparazzi (another fine moment has her emerging from Tom's flat to a bank of flashing cameras before one snapper announces she's most likely his cleaner). Meanwhile, Starstruck continues a recent trend of British indie TV comedies that feature an actual Hollywood name (Lisa Kudrow in Feel Good and Will Arnett in The First Team for two), with Minnie Driver showing up only too briefly as Tom's haughty agent.
Dubbed in one place as the UK version of Lena Dunham's Girls, it feels closer in spirit to Judd Apatow's Love or Aziz Ansari's Master Of None. Cosily charming rather than in any way daring, Starstruck is the perfect vehicle for Rose Matafeo to channel her devotion to the romcom, and put herself back in the screen shop-window now that her live career is on hold. What she does next will certainly be intriguing to follow.
BBC One, Monday 26 April, 10.45pm; all episodes available now on BBC iPlayer.