Bridgerton brings Shondaland Sensibility to Regency England

Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton

Bridgerton is the first Shondaland series produced on Netflix. It’s already set for a second season of proper society, steamy sex, secret sins, and a racial equality rewrite.

Bridgerton is based around a high society family named Bridgerton. The family includes many children. For season 1, the focus is mainly on Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and her romance with a handsome Duke, Simon (Regé-Jean Page).

Presenting young ladies as they search for suitable husbands forms the backdrop for the season. A mysterious gossip publication from the unknown writer Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews) keeps the turmoil and scandal going.

Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton
We will pretend to be in love because we don’t want to admit we are in love.

Daphne’s siblings get lesser storylines of their own. Her eldest brother Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) tries to micromanage Daphne’s search for a mate. All the while he’s engaged in a scandalous romance with an opera singer (Sabrina Bartlett). How disreputable!

Nicola Coughlan and Claudia Jessie in Bridgerton
I rather loved Eloise and Penelope

Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie) was good friends with Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan). These two were great fun as characters and I hope will get more attention in coming seasons. Eloise wanted a life of her own without a man. She was investigating to learn who Lady Whistledown was.

Penelope, whose family was on the brink of disaster due to her father’s gambling, just wanted Eloise’s older brother Colin (Luke Newton) as her very own.

Benedict Bridgerton’s (Luke Thompson) adventures with the art world, sex orgies, and open marriages bring in hints of homosexuality.

A distant cousin of the Featheringtons, Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) arrives on the scene already pregnant. I hope we see more of her scandalous life.

Adjoa Andoh and Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton
Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) raised Simon because Simon’s father was a real a**hole.

The reason offered for people of color being in the upper levels of society was that the King married Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) and that made everyone equal. I would have loved it if there had be no explanation at all – just people being people. But I applaud Shonda Rhimes for putting a needed twist on a period drama. It helps normalize the idea of racial equality. There are still plenty of class issues simmering under the surface, however.

Chris Van Dusen created this drama based on novels by Julia Quinn. It has all the trappings you expect from a drama about this period. Beautiful gowns, grand candlelit halls, horses, carriages, and opulence tinged with desperation.

Four of the eight episodes were directed by women: Sheree Folkson and Julie Anne Robinson. With so many characters and potential stories to tell, I think Bridgerton could go on for many seasons in soap opera-like glory. You might as well get in at the beginning.

Bridgerton season 1 poster

Have you watched this one yet? What was your reaction to it?

Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. She's Old Ain't Dead!

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