Bridgerton: Jane Austen for the TikTok Generation
Review by Jennifer Ariesta
Regency romance was a term as dated as the dusty novels in the library’s Romance section. That is, before Bridgerton came along. Shonda Rhimes (yes, the lady who created Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) exec-produced the Netflix adaptation of Julia Quinn’s book series and true to form, spiced up the usually demure period piece with modern music, quippy banters and A LOT of sex. The result is a massive hit that puts regency romance back on the cool map, rejuvenates an entire genre and catapults its breakout stars to international stardom.
Bridgerton revolves around the romantic travails of the Bridgerton siblings, a well-respected aristocratic family of the ton (the show’s unique way of calling the English polite society.) The family’s eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) is at the centre of the first season. Entering her debut year in the marriage market, she’s having a hard time attracting suitors due to her restrictive older brother Anthony (Jonathan Bailey). This prompts her to then strike up a fake relationship agreement with Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Simon wants to dismiss the ladies who are after him, while Daphne wants to restore her reputation around the ton. It’s a win-win situation until feelings and misunderstandings get in the way. You can pretty much guess what happens next.
In season 2, it’s Anthony’s turn in the spotlight. Headstrong and pragmatic, Anthony has time only for finding the most perfect bride and none for love. But his plan is upended when he encounters Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley). Similarly headstrong and pragmatic, Kate’s life mission is to find a suitable husband for her sister Edwina (Charitra Chandran). So, when famous rake Anthony tries to court Edwina, Kate makes his life hell for trying. Doesn’t take a genius to guess who ends up falling in love instead.
Launched in the middle of a worldwide lockdown (Christmas 2020), Bridgerton’s pastel-washed, opulently romantic world was the perfect antidote to the bleakness of the real world. The first season was a comfort show that offered up something people hadn’t seen on that scale ever since 2005’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s also tailor made to appeal to modern taste: the faux dating tropes, classical renditions of Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande’s hits for soundtrack, bare abs (and more) everywhere. Combined with the presence of Lady Whistledown, a sort of Regency-era Deux Moi who’s always spilling the hottest tea in ton, and voilà, you’ve got Jane Austen for the TikTok age! The second season came back even better. It improved upon criticisms directed at the first season, like trading season 1’s sex overload for simmering sexual tension that actually added more oomph to the enemies-to-lovers romance.
Every season of Bridgerton will spotlight a different sibling’s love life, another key uniqueness of the show. Season 3, currently filming, is set to portray the friends-to-lovers story between Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and resident wallflower Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan). With this unique format, every season takes on a different subgenre in romance, giving romance fans every single thing they love. So if that is you: warm up your tea and get ready to waltz into the world of Bridgerton.
Published on April 2nd, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.