‘Bridgerton’ Is An Intoxicating Romantic Fantasy Dressed Up Like A Period Piece

Dearest reader, the time has come to consider “Bridgerton,” a Shondaland/Netflix original series adapted from Julia Quinn’s beloved Regency romance series.

The novels feature the heart-throbbing, bodice-ripping high society adventures of the eight children of the Bridgerton family and their match-minded mama, Violet. We begin with Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter (they are named in alphabetical order, making her the fourth child), as she enters the marriage market and seeks a titled husband. But unlike most maidens on the circuit, she has a romantic for a mother ― Violet loved her husband, the late Viscount Bridgerton, passionately ― and Daphne has always been encouraged to marry for love. And, OK, yes, also money and status. Why not all three? And this, dear reader, is where Season 1 of “Bridgerton” opens.

Shonda Rhimes’ first Netflix Original has all of the markings of a modern dramatic hit: High-stakes intrigue, cheeky one-liners, plenty of titillation (sans the pesky male gaze) and compelling central characters. It just happens to be set in Regency-era England.

HuffPost reporters Claire Fallon, Erin E. Evans and Emma Gray binged the full eight-episode series ahead of its Christmas premiere, and broke down all of the scandalous gossip ― and cute butts ― at the center of “Bridgerton.”

The Bottom Line

“Bridgerton” has all of the signature Shondaland drama coupled with Regency-era romance. It’s a delightful, visually stunning, bingeable series perfect for holiday viewing and beyond. 

First Impressions

Claire Fallon: As the resident Regency romance buff here at HuffPost Culture, naturally I have a long-standing affection for the Bridgerton family and was eager for this series to finally arrive. I’m ready for the film and TV industries to give me what I find in the romance section of my local indie bookstore: all the wit, sensuality and historical escapism without the gore such bawdy period pieces usually come packaged with on-screen. Erin, Emma, what were you both hoping for or expecting from this series, and what were your first impressions?

Emma Gray: Well, Claire, as someone who has not read the novels that “Bridgerton” is based on, I arrived to this series bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I am a huge sucker for period pieces, but most of my Regency-era pop culture intake has consisted of Jane Austen novel adaptations. And as much I love a good retelling of “Emma” or “Sense and Sensibility,” it was a thrill to see Netflix and Shonda Rhimes take on a less … er … chaste period drama. 2020 has been rough as hell, to put it lightly, and “Bridgerton” delivers a visually sumptuous, extremely sexy, well-acted bodice-ripper straight to our small screens. What I’m trying to say is that I absolutely loved it. And I loved seeing romantic fiction get treated with the seriousness that it deserves in an adaptation. (Also… Julie Andrews!!)

Erin E. Evans: Well, I’m a huge Shonda Rhimes fan, so I was super excited to hear she had booked a deal with Netflix a few years back. I have watched “Grey’s Anatomy” since the second season aired on ABC, dabbled with “How To Get Away With Murder,” and held on through the wild ride of “Scandal” until the very end. “Bridgerton” showrunner Chris Van Dusen wrote for “Grey’s” and “Scandal,” so I knew we’d all be in for a treat with this series before I really even knew what it was about. Now, when I heard “period drama” and “19th century,” I was definitely thrown for a loop and wasn’t immediately excited. I wanted it to be sexy and gossip-y and fun like the early days of “Grey’s,” and it was all of those things.

CF: Erin, no one gossips harder than a society scandal sheet in a romance novel! Gossip is the true heroine of “Bridgerton” ― it’s narrated by Lady Whistledown, the pseudonymous figure behind the most indispensably vicious gossip rag of the ton (that’s a term for British high society of the era, for the uninitiated). Whistledown seems to see every flirtation, every snub and every romantic machination in the balls and drawing rooms of these eligible young men and women, and her gimlet-eyed observations force the central problem of the season.