Bridgerton is a British historical streaming TV drama produced by Shonda Rhimes and created by Chris Van Dusen. The series is based on the multi-book novels written by Julia Quinn. The series is set in early 19th century Regency England during the reign of King George III, well known as the era of romance writers Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.
The series revolves around the Bridgerton family – primarily the widow Bridgerton and her eight children – as they negotiate the competitive world London high society during the season, when debutantes are presented at court. The Featherington family are also featured to provide a measure of conflict and contrast to the proceedings.
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The novel series has been updated significantly and reflects the concerns of modern culture, especially from the perspective of casting. Thus, Bridgerton features a more racially diverse cast than is usual in similar period dramas. In particular, the Hastings family is presented as of African descent which is in itself a controversial decision, though understandable during these divided times.
Taken as artistic license, the creative decision to present a diverse cast of characters is perfectly justified as historical fantasy though harsh reality would probably not uphold such a liberal interpretation of that epoch. There is some historical suggestion that Queen Charlotte – who plays a significant role in the series – had African ancestry but that is a tenuous link at best.
In the final analysis, I would argue that this racial component is largely irrelevant (and should be) in the context of appreciating the story on its merits. What I am more concerned about is whether the story succeeds in engaging its audience. In my assessment, the series has delivered a mixed result overall.
For the first five episodes or so, the plot is focused on the relationship of the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) and Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and their ruse to trick society into thinking their affections are mutually engaged. This plot device is utilised to good effect but ultimately the sexual tension between the couple is too much for either to bear.
The rest of the first season falls apart after that as a ridiculous conflict is introduced between the couple to create a non-sensical tension that fails the logic test. Thus, on that score, the series falls flat. The sub-plots involving various members of the Bridgerton and Featherington families never quite rise to any reasonable level of interest.
Thus, the show is then reduced to the base titillation of copious amounts of sexual activity to sustain engagement. Which certainly modernises the period drama setting for contemporary audiences but somewhat loses the emotional resonance of the romance tropes, typical of the era.
If you are a fan of classic period drama and adaptations of Austen, Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy novels then I cannot recommend Bridgerton to you. However, if you are looking for a sexy romp built around the trappings of this popular romantic epoch with a twist, then certainly Bridgerton is bingeworthy enough for your consideration.
Bridgerton is streaming on Netflix.
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