Romantic comedy has, historically, been a tough genre for television. Boy can only meet girl (or boy, etc.), get girl, lose girl, rinse, and repeat so many times before the whole routine starts to get old—not great for an episodic medium that traditionally measures success in longevity. Which is probably why so many of TV’s classic romances, from Sam and Diane to Coach and Mrs. Coach, have made up just one facet of a more expansive story. But the seismic changes of streaming, which favors binge-friendly miniseries and shorter seasons, have helped to create a mini romantic-comedy boom. From Heartstopper and Love Life to Catastrophe and You’re the Worst, these are the 10 best TV rom-coms of the streaming era (i.e., the decade or so since Netflix launched its first original series), plus 10 more recommendations in case you run out.
The Bisexual (Hulu)
Like many of the best romantic comedies, indie filmmaker Desiree Akhavan’s British import The Bisexual begins with a breakup. After a decade with Sadie (Maxine Peake), the significantly older girlfriend and business partner around whom she’s built her whole postcollegiate existence, Leila (Akhavan) is single for, essentially, the first time in her adult life. On her own in London, she’s free to try everything gay monogamy never allowed her the chance to do. Like dating men. Experimenting with opposite-sex partners might not sound so exotic, but for a woman whose social circle is made up of lesbians—and who’s slightly too old to have grown up steeped in Gen Z sexual fluidity—it creates some fascinating conflicts, both internal and external.
Another great rom-com about queer women: Netflix’s Feel Good
An American guy visiting London on business has a steamy one-week stand with a local teacher, but when it’s time for him to go home, they make a clean break despite their obvious compatibility. By the time she realizes she’s pregnant, he’s an ocean away. Yet she wants to have the baby, and he decides to move to England and try to make their relationship work. The central joke of Catastrophe is that these choices don’t amount to one—which isn’t to say that real challenges don’t threaten the couple over the course of four bumpy but hilarious seasons. Both approaching middle age, Rob and Sharon (played by creators Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan) come to family life relatively late, so each brings bad habits and baggage. But the characters’ wicked senses of humor, the genuine care they lavish on one another, and the stars’ electrifying chemistry create a durable bond; as a viewer, it’s impossible not to get invested.
For more chaotic parents who used to be cool: FX’s Married
Alice Oseman’s beloved comic about a bullied, gay high schooler who discovers that his rugby-star crush might actually like him back springs to life in this gentle coming-of-age dramedy set at a British boys’ school. Misfit Charlie (Joe Locke) is rebounding from a secret situationship with Ben (Sebastian Croft) a closeted jock who ignores him—or worse—in public when he meets Ben’s teammate Nick (Kit Connor). A handsome sweetheart who isn’t afraid to have an openly gay pal, Nick quickly becomes the subject of Charlie’s daydreams. But all the time they spend together starts to pull Charlie away from his own circle of pop-culture-obsessed, predominantly LGBTQ friends. Heartstopper is an absolute treat, full of delightful touches like Olivia Colman’s small role as Nick’s mum and little animations that punctuate its headiest moments and call back to the scribbly intensity of the comic.
Another charming teen rom-com on Netflix: Dash & Lily
High Fidelity (Hulu)
Hulu canceled one of its best rom-coms after just one season, and three years later, I’m still kind of mad about it. Even if she wasn’t the lookalike daughter of Lisa Bonet, who played one of John Cusack’s exes in the 2000 film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, Zoë Kravitz would’ve been perfectly cast as Rob, a cool, cranky, bisexual, bohemian record store owner reviewing her “Desert Island Top 5 All-Time Most Memorable Heartbreaks” to figure out why her romances never last. As in previous tellings, music becomes our window into the personalities and worldviews of Rob and her staff—but the gender-flipped element of the story never feels arbitrary. Loving music so much that you build your life around it means something different when you’re a woman, a person of color, or a queer man like Rob’s ex turned employee Simon (David H. Holmes) than it does when you’re the straight-white-male record collector default. This High Fidelity digs into that, and more, with help from a great ensemble that includes Da’Vine Joy Randolph as an aspiring musician and Jake Lacy as Rob’s straitlaced new love interest.
If you prefer jukebox musicals to rock shows: NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Issa Rae’s breakthrough isn’t just a romantic comedy. It’s a story of friendship and ambition, a love letter to Black women and Los Angeles, and one of the very best of the last decade’s many shows about millennials fumbling their way from entry-level, paycheck-to-paycheck aimlessness to 30-something fulfillment. Still, it’s on this list for two reasons: First of all, Issa’s tortured relationship with her onetime live-in boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis) constitutes a uniquely sensitive portrait of two seemingly compatible people who must discover who they are as individuals before they can attempt to build a future together. Meanwhile, Insecure, which punctuated each episode with steamy love scenes filtered through an explicitly female perspective, was also among the sexiest TV shows of the uncensored streaming era.
Another worthwhile L.A. millennial romance: Netflix’s Love
Jane the Virgin (The CW)
Though Jane the Virgin borrows and sends up telenovela tropes more than rom-coms, the show will still scratch that romantic itch. As the title suggests, Gina Rodriguez’s Jane is saving herself for marriage—likely to her sweet detective boyfriend Michael (Brett Dier)—but gets accidentally artificially inseminated with the sperm of a hotel magnate, Rafael (Justin Baldoni). Jane decides to keep the baby and must negotiate the complicated dynamics between the two men in her life. Let the love triangle begin. The self-aware show makes comedy hay out of its dramatic twists and turns: There are famous long-lost fathers, secret identical twins, and plots for murder, while, throughout, a self-aware narrator pokes fun at every revelation. But at its heart this is a sweet series about Jane, her mother, and her grandmother trying to make the right romantic decisions.
Another rom-com-adjacent gem from the CW’s mid-2010s renaissance: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Love Life Season 2 (HBO Max)
Sometimes it’s best not to judge an anthology series by its first season. Love Life, which chronicled the romances of a different protagonist in each season, debuted as perhaps the most anticipated original series to launch alongside the HBO Max platform. But an initial story that cast Anna Kendrick as a plucky young woman finding herself through relationships, and breakups, in New York felt a bit too familiar. Fortunately, the series retooled for season 2 with William Jackson Harper starring as Marcus Watkins, a book editor going through a divorce. Both the novelty of a male rom-com hero, let alone one with a past, and the specificity of Marcus’ struggles with his identity and masculinity, as a bookish Black man who’s often compared to Barack Obama, make for a thoughtful arc. The presence of Jessica Williams as Marcus’ long-running will-they-or-won’t-they certainly doesn’t hurt. If only Max had taken this second outing as proof that Love Life had legs, instead of canceling the show before it could return for a third.
Another fun New York rom-com with a male protagonist: Netflix’s Master of None seasons 1 and 2
This British series sets the gold standard for charming rom-com entertainment. The show centers on a hopeless romantic named Dylan (Johnny Flynn) who gets diagnosed with chlamydia and has to tell every woman he’s ever slept with. Each episode of its early run centers on a hilarious memory of a different ill-suited ex—the German one he couldn’t communicate with but claimed to have a psychic connection with; the one who wound up in the ER after a sexual exploit went awry; the one who got high on mushrooms while camping. But really they’re an excuse to follow the adventures of Dylan with his best friends, Luke (Daniel Ings) and Evie (Antonia Thomas), the latter of whom we quickly realize carries a torch for Dylan herself. Dylan and Evie’s will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic powers the show, and Luke’s commitment-phobia provides plenty of slapstick entertainment. But no one character is purely comedic or purely tragic. We learn why Luke became so cynical, and Evie gets to have plenty of fun even as she pines after Dylan. They evolve without losing their defining traits. Sadly, we may never get a fourth season of Lovesick to conclude Dylan’s romantic journey, but the third offers enough closure that it still serves as a satisfying, swoon-worthy tale.
For more attractive, young Britons playing the field: Peacock’s Everything I Know About Love
Starstruck (HBO Max)
A regular, flailing 20-something meets a famously attractive movie actor at the club on New Year’s Eve. They spend the night together. Only the next morning does she realize who he is. And guess what? He’s a sweet guy who’s actually interested in dating her. It’s a premise straight out of fanfiction, but creator and star Rose Matafeo steers it confidently, and entertainingly, out of the realm of fantasy; in one early scene, Matafeo’s charmingly awkward Jessie exits the home of paparazzi magnet Tom (the dashing Nikesh Patel) to a crowd of photographers… who quickly conclude she’s only the cleaning lady. Although many of Jessie’s biggest obstacles echo familiar millennial-slacker-show tropes, Starstruck, with its high-wire setup and flair for flirtatious banter, feels much more like an updated take on the 1930s screwball comedy.
If you want more Nikesh Patel, even if it means watching a terrible reboot of a classic big-screen rom-com: Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral
You’re the Worst (FX)
Most rom-coms try hard to make us love the central couple as much as they love each other. Not You’re the Worst. Stephen Falk’s black comedy cast Aya Cash as Gretchen, a depressive, hard-partying music publicist who meets caustic, closed-off author Jimmy (Chris Geere) at a wedding where they’re both behaving terribly. Much to their surprise, an impulsive hookup grows into something resembling a relationship, albeit one with many false starts, breakdowns, and self-destructive benders. As in Catastrophe, one of the main selling points is the palpable chemistry between the leads. Also refreshing is Falk’s sly way of expressing skepticism about traditional romance narratives without lapsing into self-righteousness. Offbeat performances from Desmin Borges as Jimmy’s wounded-puppy Iraq-vet roommate and Kether Donohue as Gretchen’s possibly psychopathic bestie complete the irresistible package (which is definitely not a wedding gift).
For more terrible people in love: Amazon’s Mammals
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