Two contestants on 'Written in the Stars
Two contestants on Written in the Stars. All photos: discovery+

I Went Behind the Scenes of the UK's First Astrology Dating Show

“Written in the Stars” is like “Love Island” meets “Married At First Sight”, but with horoscopes. I flew to Greece to check it out on set.
Daisy Jones
London, GB

It's a scorching 40 degrees in the Greek mountains. Lizards are wriggling their leathery bellies across the dry, cracked earth. Cactuses are oozing translucent mucilage in the blazing sunshine. Fat bumblebees are hovering, nectar-drunk, beside swaying lavender plants. It's the sort of remote countryside location usually only inhabited by farmers, wild goats and the odd passing truck, rumbling from one tumbledown village to the next. 


But wait – lean in a little closer and look, there's an enormous villa. And right outside the villa is what looks like a giant blue and gold astrological wheel made of wood, hammered into the ground. And on top of that wheel stands a buff, tattooed man in little white swim trunks. And next to him is a bronzed young woman in a sarong, the sunset glinting off her expectant and slightly apprehensive face. 

The couple look as if they're about to be sacrificed to the gods, or beamed up into the sky or something. Surrounding them are other people in beachwear, gathered into the shape of a half moon, the sound of waves crashing down below. To an outsider, this strange scene might resemble a cult ceremony. But it is, in fact, a new reality show, Written in the Stars, launched by discovery+, and a new couple is being initiated into the villa. 

The premise of the show is simple: six couples share a home for the length of a lunar cycle (around 29.5 days). They've each been matched by a team of astrologers based on their birth chart compatibility (sun, moon, rising etc). There are no eliminations, winners or losers, but contestants can leave if they're not feeling it and are replaced. Think Love Island meets Married At First Sight, but with zodiac signs. Some contestants are cynical. Others are semi-believers. Everyone is, apparently, genuinely looking for love.

The villa from astrology dating show 'Written in the Stars’

Image: discovery+

Rewind a few days and I’m sat in a hotel conference room with Rosie Bray, Lucy Golding and David Mortimer – the brains behind the show. They're slick and personable – like how you'd imagine “television people” to be. Before this, Mortimer produced successful shows like Dragons' Den and Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends. He was there for the inception of “my money don't jiggle jiggle / it folds”. Today though, he's branching out into the world of astrological dating. Creative directors Bray and Golding convinced him to get on board after becoming interested in astrology themselves. And so, Written in the Stars was born. 

“We could see it was a massive trend, and thought: we'd like to harness it in some way,” says Bray. “We thought dating was the obvious match, because people were starting to use it on their dating apps. The biggest thing that people go to astrologers for is for love advice. And they match people based on their birth charts.” ‘So why aren't we doing that on TV?’ they thought. 

The villa from astrology dating show 'Written in the Stars’

Image: discovery+

It may seem odd that there hasn't been a major astrology dating show from a UK team before this. Astrology has become so commonplace over the past five years that it's now a meme to ask for someone's time of birth – particularly among queer communities, and particularly among women (although it’s worth briefly mentioning here that there are no lesbian couples on the show for some reason; did no lesbians apply?? This is our bread and butter!).


There was a moment, in the late 2010s, when it felt as if pop astrology was absolutely inescapable. Accounts like Astro Poets and Not All Geminis were gaining thousands of followers daily. Meanwhile apps like Co-Star and The Pattern were rapidly becoming go-to apps for young people – by 2019, the latter had around 5.3 million users worldwide, and $6 million in investment. Astrology was a booming business, and entrepreneurs were taking note. 

But UK television companies famously don't like taking risks, and astrology still hadn't reached the screens in our parent's living rooms – until now, that is.

“I think it's because the top layers are never into it,” says astrologer Francesca Oddie, when I catch a moment with her later in the hotel lobby. She's one of three in-house experts who helped match the contestants, and continues to give them astrological dating advice throughout the show – although I recognise her from Instagram, too. “Maybe it's an age thing?” she adds. “They're old-fashioned? But astrology's been trending since around 2017, which is five years.”


Astrologer Michele Knight-Waite – charismatic and adorned in a long billowing dress and silver jewellery – expresses a similar sentiment. “I think that nobody had the… ovaries to do it before now,” she says. “No one had the courage to do it. And why would they? My experience in commissioning is that a lot of people are too cautious to take risks, even if something is really popular. The patriarchy is not wanting to commission shows that are… you know.” 

Presenter Clara Amfo isn’t sure the show would have even had a chance of success six or seven years ago. “I guess we're at a point in culture where [astrology] is more accepted,” she says. “Whenever there's a meme made by a straight man about something women enjoy, then it's cut through to [mainstream] culture.”

The contestants from 'Written in the Stars', a new reality astrology dating show.

Group shot of contestants from Written in the Stars, a new reality astrology dating show

In many ways, the astrologers are the beating heart of the show – similar to the role of the “experts” on Married At First Sight, if you've ever seen it. The three of them – Oddie, Knight-Waite and Colin Bedell – each bring something different, personality-wise, but clearly work in tandem. Bedell is polished, American, like someone who'd thrive on Queer Eye. He doesn't get emotionally invested in the couples because “I'm a Capricorn moon, and that's not our role”. Knight-Waite, meanwhile, is a force of feelings. You can feel them coming off her in waves. “I’m like a proud mother,” she says. “I have all the feels.”

For Knight-Waite, astrology is no joke, and the premise of the show is no gimmick. It’s in her blood. “My mother was a psychic and I grew up in a magical household,” she says. “It changed my life, it saved my life, it transformed my life. I had a very traumatic childhood and I 100 percent believe that astrology guided me. My birth chart was the parents that weren't there for me – it really is that deep.”


Bedell, meanwhile, remains a lot more detached and level-headed, frequently referring to the couples’ twists and turns as “evidence” and “data”.

“I'm a qualitative researcher, so the fact I get to watch relationships unfold in real time is an experience that I never thought I would get,” he says. “Because at my core, I'm a researcher. And this is what this reality show allows me to do.”

Group shot of contestants on 'Written in the Stars'

Image: discovery+

The villa itself isn’t dissimilar to the Love Island villa – sun loungers, a pool, various outdoor seating areas – except for the fact that each couple has their own bedroom (they’re also careful not to call it a “villa”, preferring the term “house”). While I'm being given a tour, the contestants remain shut inside a bedroom. I can see them through a TV screen in a blacked out viewing room where producers wear headphones and watch their every move. They're playing games to pass the time. “They're getting restless,” someone says, just as they gather into a circle and start playing hacky sack with a random object.

Later, for the new couple initiation, I watch the scene unfold from behind a tree where the camera lens can’t catch me. They film the initiation once, then twice, then three times, the sun gradually setting behind the cliffs while Amfo, a professional, says her lines with equal enthusiasm and gusto for each new take. “If you could just stand a little closer!” shouts someone from the sidelines. The contestants shuffle together, their taut, tanned flesh sparkling beneath the lights.


For all the talk of astrology, I am reminded that this is first and foremost a television show. “I came straight here from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK,” one of the runners tells me, passing over a bag of Haribo Tangfastics. “It all sort of requires the same thing.” Across the cliffs, in the distance, is another huge white villa, where I’m told they are currently filming Polish Love Island. It’s clear that reality TV has moved way beyond the fly-on-the-wall style of Big Brother in the 2000s – it’s an institution, with a carefully constructed and failsafe formula, meticulously honed over years of trial and error.

Group shot of the contestants and astrologers on 'Written in the Stars'

On my final night in Greece, I am told that I can have a birth chart reading from an astrologer of my choice. I go with Knight-Waite, who I meet in a darkened room in the hotel, the AC on full blast. She has tarot cards scattered around her and my birth chart loaded onto a screen. “Your Mars is in Cancer,” she says. “Very interesting.”

We’re in there for an hour or so, first going through my birth chart and then reading my tarot. At one point Knight-Waite pauses, her hand hovering over the deck. “I feel like something’s going to happen,” she says, ominously. “A new love or… wait, no. It looks like a marriage proposal.”

I laugh, skeptical suddenly. “Yeah, I don’t think so. When would it be?” “It’s going to happen in the next six months or so – the near future,” she says, gathering up the cards and glancing at me from across the table. I feel even more skeptical. We say our goodbyes. I go about my day, catch a flight home and forget about what she told me.

Five months later, I end up getting proposed to. And Michele Knight-Waite’s face pops into my mind, clear as day. Ha! She said this would happen, I think. Would you look at that. It was written in the stars, as they say.

Written in the Stars premieres on discovery+ on the 27th of November, 2022.