Over the past decade, the beloved genre that gave us Moonstruck, When Harry Met Sally..., and Notting Hill has been repeatedly buried, eulogized, mourned, and very nearly resuscitated. In 2013, The Hollywood Reporter investigated why the industry had soured on rom-coms, while a writer for The Atlantic wondered "Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?" A year later, Vanity Fair declared that indie films would be "the future of rom-coms." Rom-coms were alive and well, said The New Yorker, at least on episodic TV series like The Mindy Project, Catastrophe, Lovesick, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Huffington Post debated whether 2015's Trainwreck might signal the end of the drought. (It didn't, and in fact was the only wide-release rom-com of 2015; by comparison, 12 were released wide in 1999, with two of them alone starring Julia Roberts.) As recently as last year, The Guardian was saying that Love, Actually murdered the rom-com, while Vanity Fair and Variety countered by crediting Kumail Nanjiani with having saved the genre with the surprise 2017 indie breakout The Big Sick.
But this year has been a very good one for romantic comedies. While Crazy Rich Asians is the only major theatrical rom-com release of 2018 so far, Netflix has been churning out a steady stream of movies that would fit in the "Lighthearted Love Stories to Make You Giggle and Sigh" category. The Netflix surge started in May with The Kissing Booth, a critically reviled movie that internet teens adored, and then continued with the well-received workplace rom-com Set It Up and the delicate, John Hughes-quoting romp To All the Boys I've Loved Before. According to a report in the Washington Post, Netflix had noticed that people were rewatching rom-coms and decided that it was an area worth investing in. "We wanted to dive into this space," explained director of acquisitions Matt Brodlie, "that had been abandoned but was still a desire for people to see."
While Netflix is famously stingy with data, just knowing that the data exists and had spurred a renewed interest in financing romantic comedies has been heartening for the writers and producers who love the genre. I caught up with Aline Brosh McKenna, writer of The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses, at the Television Critics Association press tour and she said, "What's great about it is as a female filmmaker is you can't convince people that people want to see that stuff without research. In case anybody was wondering, Netflix is putting them on so that means they have research which shows that people watch them."