On December 25, 2020, the first season of “Bridgerton” was released on Netflix with eight episodes. According to the streaming service, the show garnered an estimate of 82 million views in its first 28 days, surpassing “The Witcher” which received 76 million views, as the most-watched original series. After binge-watching the show before the first full week of classes, I am not surprised by this remarkable achievement.
The show was inspired by Julia Quinn’s romance-drama novel series of the same name. Each book is dedicated to a different Bridgerton sibling and his or her journey to finding love. Both the first book and the first season of the TV show focuses on Daphne Bridgerton, the fourth-born and the first daughter in the family.
“Bridgerton” is set in 1813 during the Regency era, a time period when King George III was deemed unfit to rule due to an undisclosed illness and kept away from the public eye to preserve the monarch’s image, resulting in his son becoming the prince regent. The plot centers around Great Britain’s high society, “the ton”, who gather in London for the social season, the competitive and luxuriant time for debutantes like Daphne to find an aristocrat husband. She looked forward to this moment after witnessing her parents’ relationship when her father was alive.
In the first episode, Daphne was endorsed during court presentation by Queen Charlotte, who complimented the young woman’s appearance as “flawless”. Normally an approval from the Queen would make her the most eligible bachelorette; however, Anthony, the first-born and head of the Bridgerton estate, used his status as a father figure to drive away potential suitors to protect Daphne’s best interest. In the beginning, Daphne was naive and appreciated the viscount’s protectiveness but after a while became frustrated when no man showed interest in her. A debutante who was not asked for her hand in marriage by the end of the social season would be classified as a failure and undesirable for marriage.
To solve this problem, enters Anthony’s friend, Simon, the newly-inherited Duke of Hastings who strikes a deal with Daphne to enter a ruse. They pretend to court for each other’s benefit. For Daphne, by spending time with London’s most eligible bachelor, she’ll return as desirable for the marriage market. On the other hand, it will stop power-hungry mamas from pestering Simon with their daughters; he was not interested in marrying due to his father’s neglect and abuse growing up.
Not to spoil anything but if you ever watched or read stories about similar love schemes, you know how it ends, but this romance-drama series is like no other. Sprinkle in the mysterious Lady Whistledown, who published daily newsletters on the latest scandals that kept everyone on their feet, especially the Queen’s.
While watching the first episode, I was interested in the director’s choice in casting black actors in a time period where aristocracy was majority, if not entirely, white. The executive producer of the show, Betsy Beers, told Entertainment Weekly that it wasn’t color-blind casting but an attempt to “…imagine history and the world in the way we wanted to see it.” In episode four, Lady Danbury, Simon’s guardian growing up, praised the marriage between the King and Queen as it united the divided societies and paved the way for black people to hold high status and wealth.
The main downside of this show is the frequent second-hand embarrassment during Daphne and Simon’s rocky ruse. It was clear that both parties were infatuated with each other but instead of confessing their love for each other, they were both self-centered in their trauma and desires, respectively. At the same time, the communication in personal matters may not have been as accepted as it is today.
“Bridgerton” is a show that isn’t meant to be historically accurate but with its generous touch of drama, it was a good watch especially during these unprecedented times. It was to the point that I wished our society kept the Regency era fashion and the concept of attending extravagant events without the presence of technology or specifically social media.
For those interested, “Bridgerton” is available on Netflix. And great news, almost a month after its release, the show was renewed for a second season with production set to begin this spring. This time, the season will be dominated by Anthony and his pursuit for love.