Bridgerton: The Regency Romance We Never Knew We Needed
Craving romance, lavish costumes, breathtaking sets, and an all-star cast? Look no further than Netflix's newest hit-show, Bridgerton.
Though the series might have botched some major themes, the show’s accoutrements make up for the drawbacks — and keep the watcher coming back for more!
Unsplash, Sidharth Bhatia
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With Chris Van Dusen as its creator, TV legend Shonda Rhimes as an executive producer, and a plot line based on Julia Quinn’s beloved book series (averaging four and a half stars on goodreads!), Netflix's new series Bridgerton was destined to be a hit. Even so, the first season of Bridgerton has been met with enthusiasm and critique in equal measure. Although the regency romance brings up issues of class, sexism, homophobia and racism, critics have said that the commentary falls just short of the mark. Rather than a genuine dialogue, scenes feel more like a nod of acknowledgement —recognizing that these social issues exist, but not dealing with them head on. Yet for those simply looking for a regency-era romance, this series is the perfect escape from the toils of your everyday pandemic life.
Despite its critics, Bridgerton has earned a score of 90% on rotten tomatoes. The season is set in 19th-century London as viewers watch the introduction of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) into high society. Quickly following her induction is a riveting scandal involving one Lady Whistledown, the voice behind a mysterious new gossip column, and a slanderous label Daphne is keen to shake. Meanwhile, the newly appointed Duke of Hastings, Simon Bassett (Regè-Jean Page) returns to London to manage his dying father’s affairs. Though the season's most eligible bachelor isn’t looking for a wife, the young duke can hardly walk outside without being attacked by a young lady’s mother seeking to secure a match. In a twist of fate, Daphne and Simon meet and decide to make a deal —they will pretend to be a couple so that Daphne might seem more desirable and Simon can get some peace from the ladies. Talk about a win-win. Yet this drama is just the start; from boxing matches, gambling and duels, to balls, gowns and gossip, Bridgerton has all the makings of a fantastic period drama.
Netflix pulled out all the stops for their newest regency romance. The gowns are ethereal, the balls are lavish, the score holds a delightful surprise, and the cast is superb. Emmy award winning designer Ellen Mirojnick spearheaded the costume department for the show — you might recognize her work from other cinematic masterpieces like The Greatest Showman (2017) or Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019). Mirojnick’s work in previous movies pales in comparison to her costume design for Bridgerton; she and her team of over 200 people spent five months preparing the pieces for the show — over 7,500 pieces, from overcoats to feathered hats! The looks she curated nod to historical 19th-century London without succumbing to the historically accurate, but drab, smock and bonnet getup. However, tantalizing costumes are just the start of Bridgerton’s charm.
Production Designer Will Hughs-Jones teamed up with set designer Gina Cromwell to create the extravagant, whimsical stage for Bridgerton. Cromwell is well known for designing sets for other hit period pieces including Downton Abbey, Outlander, and Mary, Queen of Scots. Bridgerton’s candy-colored palette makes for a delightful atmosphere that reflects the wealth, innocence and beauty of the debutants perfectly.
The show is an auditory hit as well. For those listening closely, you might just recognize the tunes playing at the grand balls: Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next and Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy for example. Performed by the Vitamin String Quartet, these tasteful renditions make 19th-century dance scenes much more entertaining. Creator Chris Van Dusen told Opera Magazine that the soundtrack “...was kind of an evolution we found when making the show... Whether it’s music or the world of the show, the scripts, the sets, the costumes; it all comes back to infusing things through our own unique modern lens and making things feel relatable to whoever’s watching.”
The diverse cast is yet another reason to love this series. In Bridgerton, the wealthy class is depicted as being both black and white. I didn’t recognize many of the actors (though Julie Andrews features as the narrative voice for Lady Whistledown), but I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing their tremendous talents exploited in the future — both talented and attractive!
Whatever you want in a period drama, I promise Bridgerton has it in spades. So, put Bridgerton on your must watch list if you haven’t already binged it, and keep an eye out for season two — I certainly am!