Bridgerton review: Netflix’s new Regency love story series has its up and downs

The Duke and Daphne in Bridgerton
During the new Netflix series, Bridgerton, Duke Simon schemes with Daphne Bridgerton at a ball. Pic credit: Netflix

Bridgerton enters 1813 England with plenty of flourishes and a bit of revisionist history, too.

Details to come, but first a look at the premise of this new Netflix series from Shondaland’s Shonda Rhimes, known for other steamy shows on network television such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal.

Bridgerton: The plot

Based on the 2001 series of Julia Quinn romance novels, Bridgerton viewers watch as Londoner Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) gets ready to be presented to potential suitors for marriage.

The familiar voice of Julie Andrews narrates her story and those of other members of the large Bridgerton clan.

The iconic English star voices the anonymous gossipmonger Lady Whistledown. She is all-knowing and about as nasty as a writer can get given she talks about the people who can’t wait to devour how she puts them down.

Nearly every member of high society reads Whistledown’s rag, up to and including the Queen of England (Golda Rosheuvel). They hang onto every word, especially when that word spells scandal.

While not purposefully wanting to spoil all that happens during this eight-part series, I will say that an errant duke named Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page) largely figures into Daphne’s story.

In the early stages of Bridgerton, the pair come up with a giant ruse. This is not surprising, really, given those of us who decide to watch expect both high drama and an abundance of romance.

Anyway, the unlikely pair pretend to be in love so Daphne can truly find such a thing without needing to give in to any of the unsavory suitors who beg for her hand.

Bridgerton: The opulence

Since the Bridgertons are privy to such airs and graces as decadent horse-drawn carriages, extravagant balls, voluminous mansions, and a host of exotic jewels, we can deduce that this large family (whose father is no longer living) is well off. Very well off.

Where they secured their lofty lifestyle is not really explained.

Also not fully explained in the Netflix series is how members of elite London in the 1800s can enjoy a lofty society that is fully integrated.

People of color characters are free to interact with anyone they so choose, as witnessed by the actions of Simon, the Duke of Hastings. The same is true for white characters starring in Bridgerton, with Daphne Bridgerton a prime example.

Other misnomers that are seen along the way include English men with pierced ears — enjoyed during The Renaissance but not again until the 20th century — and English women wearing stilettos — which had not been invented until the early 1950s.

Bridgerton: The Music

And then there is the Bridgerton business of music. More specifically, songs by Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish, both artists for whom have created works that have been made into instrumentals, nicely suiting Rhimes’ diverse tastes and mixed-up eras.

That said, the music of Mozart and his contemporaries are also well represented in Bridgerton. So are classic operatic arias.

To say this series goes all out all over the place is perhaps an understatement.

That certainly applies to the costuming, which must have been a blast for the stitching powers-that-be to create.

The ball gowns are seriously special and expertly detailed down to the last sewn-on pearl and the men’s formal attire is luscious and obviously made from the finest fabrics.

Then there’s the architecture, which is astounding to behold, both on the outside of buildings and the inside as well. Outlandish chandeliers and museum-quality frescoes come to mind.

Exteriors are just as eye-catching.

For example, when the potential life couples take to the outdoors to enjoy a promenade, the screen stands out like a landscape by Themistokles von Eckenbrecher or Claude Monet.

While all this eye candy helps move the story along, so does the expected: Sex.

Nearly everyone — both members of high society and those allegedly beneath them including but not limited to great artists and singers — takes part.

Bridgerton: The copulating

Certain dalliances are graphic and more frequent than one might need or expect. In fact, within the first few minutes of Bridgerton, Season 1 Episode 1, a bare booty takes center stage as one participant ravishes another.

That said, a warning mentioning sexual content is upfront before Bridgerton commences. Also during the same warning, viewers are told that “smoking” is also going to happen.

Happily, this is an equal opportunity indiscretion since both sexes in the series enjoy a puff here and there.

Sadly, and largely true-to-form from the period, Bridgerton women have their place, and Bridgerton men theirs.

For the most part, female characters are dedicated to making their male counterparts shine. However, there are rumblings from certain members of the so-called fairer sex that their ambitions do extend beyond this stereotype.

All this said, watching Bridgerton during the holiday season seems as good a respite as is available from our quarantined quarters. Thank goodness for Shonda Rhimes and a hardy thanks for entertaining us once again from the comforts of our own homes.

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