I am not usually a fan of romance, be it written or filmed. Sure, I have enjoyed some, but they are the exception rather than the rule. It looks like I’ve stumbled upon another such exception.
In her first production for Netflix under a blockbuster deal, executive producer Shonda Rhimes takes us back to Regency era England for an adaptation of a popular book series by Julia Quinn. Like the books, the show is primarily centered around the titular Bridgerton family, consisting of a widowed mother and her 8 sons and daughters. Also like the books, this first season’s main storyline involves 4th child (and 1st daughter) Daphne’s coming out at court in order to try and land a husband. In an attempt to keep her star on the rise, she hatches a plan with Simon, the Duke of Hastings, to pretend to be courting. He agrees to go along so that he can avoid the attention his status gives him, as he has no intention to ever marry. And well, if you know anything about the romance genre, it should come as no surprise where this is all headed. That being said, despite the foregone conclusion and the obstacles to love occasionally feeling a little too drawn out, this show is consistently a joy to watch.
There are several subplots to keep things moving along, and ample gorgeous period scenery. The cast is universally excellent, with most being given at least a little time to shine, though we should expect all to get more in subsequent seasons, as each of the 8 books focuses on one of the siblings. It’s interesting to see the incorporation of race into this kind of story, as most avoid the topic entirely. There is some debate about Queen Charlotte’s possible African ancestry, and this series occurs in an alternate reality in which it is confirmed, and has opened the world up to people of color. Unfortunately, it isn’t really delved into too deeply (this is no Watchmen), but it still helps to make the series more relevant to our times.
All in all, it’s a very handsomely mounted production. It might suffer from a few of the clichés of the genre, but the show makes enough bold choices and has enough fun telling its story, that it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the romance. ★★★★ – Sean Farrell
Available on Netflix
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor