WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Based on the popular historical romance novel, Bridgerton follows the story of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the Bridgerton novels, who is making her debut in Regency London society. She is hoping to find a husband sparked by true love. Enter the rebellious Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) who is committed not to marry and everyone is trying to change his mind.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Whether you love or hate romance novels, you cannot deny their power. How many times have you picked up one, just for an easy read, and felt sucked into the world that it creates? Whether you are inclined towards damsels in distress, dashing rogues or swash-buckling pirates, the romance novel world makes all of that seem within reach.
As a fan of the genre, I have read many romance novels, but I tend to lean more towards Regency romance. In that subgenre alone, there are so many great novels, but none stood out for me like the Bridgerton series. There was something within the pages of Julia Quinn's bestselling books that seemed to charm readers into devouring the stories of the Bridgerton family. Each novel chronicles one of the eight Bridgerton children as they find love over a period of about 15 years. You get to know the characters, their quirks, their roles in the family and by the end of it, you almost feel like part of the Bridgerton clan yourself.
This is precisely what the Netflix series cashes in on. Produced by industry heavyweight Shonda Rhimes and created by Chris van Dusen, Bridgerton is a delicious and addictive series that seems modern but seeped in its time. Good luck to those who intend to watch it piece by piece, it pulls you in left, right and centre, and will have you clicking the "next episode" button before you know it.
The first season of the series is based on the first novel, The Duke and I, which follows Daphne Bridgerton, the oldest Bridgerton daughter. The Bridgerton siblings are named alphabetically from A to H, and so Daphne comes after three brothers – Anthony, Benedict and Colin. Daphne is the first of the Bridgerton family to enter the marriage market after their father died. She wants to make a love match like her parents did but because of her meddling older brother and lack of options it doesn't quite work out the way she plans.
And then there is the Duke of Hastings, Simon, who arrives in London for the first time in a while after his father dies and he inherits the title. Because of his social standing, he is the most eligible bachelor on the market, but he has no intention of getting married. Simon and Daphne team up to make her look more desirable to other suitors and for him, to seem unavailable. But as fans of the "fake romance"' trope know, it's only a matter of time before they start falling for each other.
And Bridgerton does well to show the blossoming relationship between the two, which is something I usually have difficulty with when watching period romances. Today they hate each other or don't know each other, the next day they are in love. When did that happen? Taking its cues from many Jane Austen romances, it's all about subtlety – a glance here, a touch there and by the end of it, I was pretty much in love with the Duke as well.
What makes Bridgerton work is that it does not try to be something that it isn't. It never tries to be overly dramatic or take itself too seriously, like Outlander. It leans into the fact that it is based on a romance novel, and I think that is what makes it so addictive. It is like the television form of a page-turner. The women swoon and the men act somewhat broody. There is sex, swearing and over-the-top accents. It does not shy away from the campiness that makes these novels successful.
It is also witty and funny. The narration of the show is done by Lady Whistledown, a sort of Gossip Girl who publishes newsletters about the gossip in London high society. Julie Andrews narrates the show as Lady Whistledown, and her sharp tongue adds to the fun and enjoyment of the series. There is a subplot where Eloise (Claudia Jessie), Daphne's younger sister tries to find out who Lady Whistledown is. It does not distract from the main plot, and it is interesting in that it sows the seeds for future seasons.
A fantastic thing about Bridgerton is that the casting is extremely diverse. Many historians have noted that during this time period, London was a more racially diverse place, but canonically, they provide reasoning as to why there is more tolerance and respect for different races and in my opinion, they did not need this. The show is fictional, and since Hamilton, I think there is less need for it to be historically accurate as well. I think it makes the show feel richer that there is not just one race dominating the screen.
There are many additions to the series that was not in the book, such as the introduction of Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), the real-life wife of King George III, who is enjoys meddling in the lives of London's high society because she is bored. And then there is Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) a distant relative of the Featheringtons, another prominent family that arrives in town under mysterious circumstances and at once, becomes the belle of the ball. The new aspects of the story not only helps to tell different stories about the time period, but also to give more screentime to characters on the sidelines.
Bridgerton is not your average period drama. Even though it is set in a time where women are seen as inferior, it does not treat its characters like that. You can tell that the writers respect their characters and a lot of the social commentary in the series focuses on how difficult it is navigating society as a woman. And even though it is a challenge and there are certain codes that they must abide by, being a virgin on your wedding day while the men are encouraged to sow their wild oats is one of them. They still have agency. The strongest characters in the series are women – Daphne, Queen Charlotte, Lady Whistledown, Marina, and even Marina's cousin and Eloise's best friend, Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan). They hold their own, demand attention and steer the narrative.
This is a show that I think will captivate audiences for a long time if they continue making it a book per season, it has the potential to become a fan favourite. But it is also an extremely fun and sexy show which is perfect for the holidays.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: