When you find the theme week you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. Thankfully, The Ringer hereby dubs this week Rom-Com Week, a celebration of one of the most delightful, captivating genres in film. Head to the top of the Empire State Building, order what she’s having, and join us as we dig into everything the rom-com has had to offer over the years.
There are a few genres of television we can always count on to be in the rotation: the ensemble sitcom, the docudrama, scandalous teens (maybe there’s a murder), surly detective on a dangerously personal mission (there’s definitely a murder), workplace mockumentaries, prestige fantasy, hot but jaded doctors, cowboys dabbling in the supernatural, and whatever Shonda Rhimes is up to. In recent years, true crime has been the hottest TV ticket in town, whether it’s about (yes, more) murder or the white-collar misdeeds of Silicon Valley. But even more recently, there’s been much discussion of a vibe shift: a mysterious cultural reckoning headed our way as the result of the worldwide social pause put in place by a global pandemic and the ever-persistent wheel of time. What will that vibe shift ultimately look like, you ask? No one is totally sure—just make sure you don’t miss it, lest you stumble into a group of teenagers dressed like Jerry Seinfeld on a street corner and get absolutely roasted because of your ankle boots …
But allow me to wager a guess at this shift: for you, for me, and for an entire generation of young British actors just waiting for their big break, my greatest hope is that we’re about to find out that TV is finally ready to transition into its rom-com era. Unlike the erotic thriller, the romantic comedy never really died. It just keeps being reincarnated into different subgenres, and doled out to us on different viewing platforms and with different levels of urgency. Yes, gone are the days of grossing $350 million on the power of love and Windex alone, but romantic stories that are comedic in nature remain sought after by both audiences and creators. However, as the rom-com moved from the all-consuming star power of Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts in the ’90s, to the successful mid-budget Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lopez vehicles of the early aughts, and on into the “I’m sorry, I’m supposed to feel what about Justin Timberlake?” phase of the 2010s, the category as a whole took on a certain level of cynicism that proved unsustainable. At which point, the rom-com took a little time off and recalibrated before finally finding a home on the king of rom-coms for the last decade itself, Netflix (swiftly followed by little rom-com princes Hulu and Amazon Prime). For a time, Netflix originals like Set It Up, Always Be My Maybe, and Someone Great functioned as the platonic ideal of prolific but fleeting chunks of content. But, folks …
It’s time for the rom-com to start fuckin’ again—because, frankly, it’s been a long time since its last good relationship, everyone is worried, and the time has come for it to start seeing (making content for) new people (TV). Take one look at the actually-very-good Plus One and you’ll see that the movie would be way less underrated if it were simply given the fan-fiction treatment, wherein each wedding that these two old pals (Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine) attended together as “platonic” (yeah, OK) “plus-ones” (mm-hmmm) got its own episode to luxuriate around in. Just give us a rom-com candle with enough time and space to burn slowly, but enough chemistry to light the coffee table on fire by Episode 8—it’s all we ask for in this transitional time in rom-com history! I refuse to accept that we can now get our romantic comedy fix only from 116 minutes spent with the third-most-interesting streaming platform, the G-plot of a superhero movie, or the sixth season of Summer House (where, to be fair, Lindsay Hubbard and Carl Radke are giving us the slow-burn friends-to-lovers trope of the century, buried under a thick exosphere of sparkling hard tea and Fireball). With the declining cultural fervor for streaming rom-coms and the flop of “return of the rom-com” marketing ploys by Marry Me—my apologies to J.Lo, whom I still think of every time I step over a manhole cover in heels—one can only conclude that the time has come for yet another genre shift. And I’m here to tell you that its horny chariot has already arrived: In the spring of 2021, a little show named Starstruck dropped in the U.K., eventually making its way over to the States on HBO Max that same summer. In a tight six episodes, Season 1 tells the story of Jessie (Rose Matafeo, series creator and multi-hyphenate supernova of charisma), a cinema clerk who happens to have a one-night stand with hottie Tom Kapoor after meeting him at a New Year’s Eve party … only to find out the next morning that he’s a very famous movie star.