The Reel Review
The first production deal by TV hit maker Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) for Netflix is a revisionist, racially-diverse, early 19th century, bodice-ripping romantic drama based on the Jane Austen-influenced novels from Julia Quinn. The eight episode series, narrated by Julie Andrews, is about two families, the Bridgertons and the Featheringtons, each scrambling to find suitors for their marriage-obsessed daughters during the Regency era’s debutante season. Think of it as The Bachelorette set in the early 1800s.
Historical inaccuracies aside (light bulbs in the early 1800s, really?), this is a gleefully fun, breezy series chocked full of opulent settings and colorful costumes, with modern day pop songs repurposed as classical tunes and over the top melodrama. And there is lots of sex and nudity. The focus in this first season is on Phoebe Dynevor as the love minded but sexually clueless Daphne Bridgerton and Regé-Jean Page (Sylvie’s Love) as Simon, the highly sought after but marriage-phobic Duke of Hastings. Nicola Coughlan (Derry Girls) and Claudia Jessie (Vanity Fair) are a delight as the best friends from the two rival families who roll their eyes at the ridiculousness of it all.
Hardcore fans of historically accurate romantic dramas (ahem, Downton Abbey) likely will be put off by the ridiculous and crass Bridgerton, which often feels like a dumbed down, shallow Jane Austen retread with inconsistent pacing – early episodes drag on with later ones feeling too rushed. But for casual viewers who can lean into the factually loose, predictable crowd pleaser, it is a rollicking good time.
• Bridgerton was already renewed for a second season prior to its first season premiere on December 25, 2020.
• Bridgerton show runner Chris Van Dusen says he was careful to craft the writing of Season One with fun nods to viewers who’d already read the books and knew Lady Whistledown’s identity, without giving it away to viewers who hadn’t read the books, until the season’s finale.
• Julie Andrews was paid $1.5 million to provide the narration as gossip columnist Lady Whistledown for Bridgerton.
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