Netflix’s new drama Bridgerton, which begins on Christmas, has been described as Regency-era gossip.
And see why. It is transmitted by the mysterious lady Whistledown, who regularly writes newsletters full of little things about the moves of high society. Everyone is fascinated by her well-informed recordings – but no one knows who she is.
The year is 1813, and Daphne Bridgerton debuts in London in hopes of finding a suitable husband. Things are challenged by her older brother, whose shrewd eye prevents most male candidates from going far.
“She is the eldest daughter of the Bridgerton family,” explains actress Phoebe Dynevor, “and she conforms to all these crazy social rules and expectations that are set for women as well as men at the time. But she is very young and naive and will soon discover that the world is not exactly what she imagined. “
So that’s the premise. Here’s everything else you need to know:
1. It is based on best-selling love novels
The eight-part drama is adapted from a series of Bridgerton novels by Julia Quinn. In the U.S. alone, they have sold more than 10 million copies and have been translated into 32 languages worldwide.
But there’s a decent chance you’ve never heard of them, which could be due in part to a certain snobbery that exists toward the genre.
“I think it’s a common thought for people to look down their noses at love novels,” says showrunner Chris Van Dusen. “I personally don’t understand why this is so. I don’t think it’s the same with other genres. But in the end, these books are full of compelling characters and interesting stories.”
Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington, agrees: “I think I can definitely be [looked down upon], but it’s kind of part of the secret power of the show, because it’s a genre that hasn’t been much explored on television. “
2. Produced by one of the biggest TV names
Shonda Rhimes isn’t too well known in the UK, but she is one of the most powerful executors in the American TV environment, creating the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy and the political thriller Scandal. She also wrote the film Britney Spears Crossroads, but no one is perfect.
In 2017, Netflix signed a contract with Rhimes and its production house Shondaland
an exclusive deal worth the reported $ 150 million (£ 110 million), which has so far been seen developing Bridgerton and the upcoming Inventing Anna series.
The deal was seen as a coup for Netflix because of Rhimes ’close ties to ABC. Remarkably, the move came because of a dispute Rhimes had with ABC’s parent company Disney over some free family passes to Disneyland, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Anyway, Rhimes took Van Dussen with him to supervise Bridgerton as the pair bounce back.
“We have, yes. I’ve worked at Shondaland almost my entire writing career, ever since Grey’s Anatomy,” Van Dusen explains. “Before Bridgerton, I worked on Scandal, and as the show came to an end, I looked for what to do next. I knew I wanted to do something completely different from the modern political conspiracy in Washington, and that’s when Shonda told me about Bridgerton.”
3. Critical reception is mostly positive
Almost every critic has noticed that Bridgerton’s release is on time, arriving at the end of the awful 2020.
Sonia Saraiya of Vanity Fair described it as “foamy, stupid escapism – the perfect Christmas offer for a fun year”.
“It’s a fun show, at least for a while; the odds of escapism are high,” agreed Judy Berman of Time. But she added: “If the texts matched the production values.”
Aja Romano from Vox was more critical, saying the show “comes like many aristocrats who get angry: without soul and nonsense”.
But Vulture’s diverse cast applauded Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk, who wrote: “Bridgerton is a confusing example of what can happen when a romance is allowed to belong to characters who aren’t all flat and white, and a reminder of the fanfare and confetti the genre can be best at. . “
4. ‘Bridgerstans’ must not be tampered with
After Coughlan was inserted into the show, she “lurked on fan forums online,” which only the bravest actors would do.
“I realized that the fans really loved Penelope, so I felt a lot of pressure and like I didn’t want to let them down,” she explains. “They really wanted Emma Stone to get the role, so I said‘ I’m really sorry it’s me! “
Fortunately, they gave Coughlan a seal of approval. “They were so lovely, when the casting was announced they couldn’t be sweeter,” she says. “But behind the series is a huge fandom.” In fact, Coughlan’s mining on the forum has become useful to other members of the cast.
“I think Nicola was definitely a spokeswoman for the Brigerstans, as they call themselves,” Dynevor says. “We’d go to Nicole’s if we had questions for the fans.” Dynevor, however, chose to avoid forums (“because of his own mental health”), adding: “It’s quite pressure when such a thing already exists.”
5. The series is pure eye candy
British and American viewers are inclined to the drama of a certain period, and especially the Regency period, because “it was a time of excess, beauty and decadence”, according to Van Dussen.
“It was over the top. And I think that’s why the audience loves him so much. You have dancing, costumes, jewels, country homes, gleaming ballrooms and I think it all works to give us an escape.”
Coughlan says she’s glad this kind of “vivid and exciting” show is coming out at the end of an otherwise miserable year. “We don’t need a dark gray drama,” she says, “Bridgerton is in full technical color, so I think it’s going to be nice for people.”
From the first few minutes of Bridgerton it is clear that a lot of time and effort has been invested in costumes, hairstyle and makeup.
“The fitting process was a lot,” Dynevor admits. “I had 104 dresses, all handmade from scratch, which is pretty unheard of, the costume department was amazing. But I also had to fit into the costumes – whenever I wasn’t filming, I was in costume.”
But that wasn’t the only thing the stars had to do in preparation for filming. Dynevor also had “riding, dancing and etiquette classes,” along with learning all the lines. “But you had to throw yourself into it,” she says.
6. There are parallels with today’s entertainment culture
Coughlan notes that today’s audience can feel a new appreciation for how far society has come since the 19th century. “Eloise and Penelope are virgins who don’t know how to drive,” she points out. “But it wasn’t so long ago that young women were still not told all the facts of life.
“It’s fascinating to see, although times have changed, how long human nature survives. The same pressure is applied in different ways. You see the pressure on women to marry, and it still exists. You see the pressure on men to fulfill stereotypical male roles in society and how people don’t want to be a part of it. “
Van Dusen concludes: “Beneath all the glamor and luxury, lies this show’s current modern commentary on how everything has changed in the last 200 years, but nothing has changed, I think that applies to both men and women.
“We explore things like family, sexuality, dating, courting them in the Regency era, and instead of those meeting apps like Tinder, they effectively dragged all night left and right in ballrooms. Finding those modern references was something we strongly It’s fun. “