Bridgerton

When it comes to TV shows, there are certain things I never go for…

I am not moved by period pieces, nor am I moved by romance. (No matter how many times someone tells me to check out Outlander, I have yet to take the bait. I don’t doubt it’s as swoon-worthy as they say, it’s just not my cup of tea.) So, when Netflix presented me with ad after ad for Bridgerton, the over-the-top 19th-century drama based on the series of romance novels, I was not seduced.

Then one Friday morning I met my friend for our weekly “sanity walk,” where we share tales and grievances and other minutiae, in an attempt to make up for all the in-person connections we once took for granted. Among this friend’s many wonderful qualities is that she always has the best recommendations when it comes to good TV.

“Have you seen Bridgerton?” she asked, as we walked through the park. I nearly stopped in my tracks.
“No,” I said. “Have you?”
“Yes, I watched the entire thing!” She went on to say that while she and her husband poked fun at it, they devoured it in a matter of days.

Later that night, while doing the endless scroll in search of a new series, along came Bridgerton.

“Maybe we should try it,” I suggested. “I’ve heard it’s actually good!”
My boyfriend and I watched the trailer, a two-and-a-half minute confection set to dramatic string crescendos.
“No,” he shook his head resolutely. “Absolutely not.”
(Cue the theme song from Unsolved Mysteries.)

Another couple days went by, peppered with ever more Bridgerton — in banner ads, all over social media, on the side of the nearest bus stop. “Have you seen Bridgerton??” came a text from one friend. “I started it last night and watched four episodes.” “YOU MUST WATCH BRIDGERTON,” said another. “The duke is sexy. Very, very sexy. Quite possibly the sexiest man ever.”

Eventually, it reached a point where I could no longer participate in conversation. And so, I watched Bridgerton.

It was everything I expected — like the curious offspring of a Hallmark holiday movie, a Jane Austen novel, and Gossip Girl — with a handful of gratuitous sex scenes thrown in for good measure. Did I like it? Hard to say. Yet I could not look away.

What exactly makes Bridgerton so compelling? Is it the offscreen narration by Julie Andrews? The beautiful string renditions of contemporary pop songs? The technicolor parade of costumes like something out of a Baz Luhrmann film? Most likely, it’s the ultra-capable hands of creator Chris Van Dusen and producer Shonda Rhimes, who were able to usher this tale into the twenty-first century.

Amid all the jubilance, Bridgerton does bring up some serious topics (and has drawn criticism for its handling of them), particularly where race and consent are concerned (Warning! LINKS CONTAIN SPOILERS). Meanwhile, the women are the ones driving the plot, despite the considerable confines of their time.

Would I sit through it in any other season? Maybe not. But during this one, marked by bouts of upheaval and the appetite for escapism, Bridgerton is a perfect fit.

(Because I am still me, I have been alternating episodes of Bridgerton with the new Fran Lebowitz/Martin Scorsese docuseries Pretend It’s a City, a suitably wry chaser.)

And now, I must continue the chain: Have YOU watched Bridgerton? What’s your take?

P.S. The ultimate TV guide and not-so-guilty pleasure shows.