TV Review: Bridgerton Series 1

So much to love in the uninhibited Series 1 of Bridgerton, not least the most perfect of roles for the brilliant Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury

“If I were truly courting you, I would not need flowers, only five minutes alone with you in a drawing room”

Created by Chris Van Dusen and inspired by Julia Quinn’s Regency era-set novels, the much heralded Bridgerton arrives on Netflix with the most excitement arguably reserved for the presence of producer Shonda Rhimes. And it’s a presence that we feel rightaway as this version of Regency London is a racially integrated one, starting with Queen Charlotte being a mixed-race woman and trickling down through all levels of society.

It’s a simple innovation but still a radical one in its execution here, of course it took an American woman to do it! The best thing about it is that it offers up a range of roles for actors who might not normally get a look-in – Golda Rosheuvel as Her Majesty, Regé-Jean Page as the Duke of Hastings and best of all for me, Adjoa Andoh as the deliciously wry Lady Danbury. And as with Nikki Amuka-Bird in the recent David Copperfield film, there’s a general sense of knocking it out of the park and regret that it has taken this long.

The series centres on the Bridgerton family, an aristocratic brood of 8 children and their various attempts to navigate the marital market in this upper echelon of society. And this first season more or less settles on eldest daughter Daphne whose prospects are being damaged by her over-protective big brother Anthony and so she strikes out on her own initiative to enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement with the new Duke of Hastings, London’s most eligible bachelor and Anthony’s best friend to boot. He doesn’t want to get married, she wants a boost to her reputation, and so they pretend to be together…what could possibly happen next! 

It’s all very entertainingly, if a tad soapily, done. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is just you haven’t seen a period drama done like this before. It is highly sexed and revels in its raunchiness and so it might not be the show to settle down to with your family. There’s rivalries with the Featherington family next door with three daughters of their own to marry off, plus the gossip column of Lady Whistledown threatening to unearth any number of tumultuous secrets that could wreck the reputation of all and sundry. 

As with most things on Netflix, it is highly bingeable but there’s a sense of quality here too. A witty score sees modern pop songs jauntily reinvented by string quartets, and the youthful effervescence of much of what goes on is matched by the more experienced hands anchoring the drama, so the balance between frothiness and something slightly more substantial makes it feel like a winner from start to finish. Plus, between them, Jonathan Bailey and Regé-Jean Page are delightful in their randiness and willingness to flash some flesh.

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