Let me preface this by making it clear, I would die for Shonda Rhimes and the content she produces. Her mix of drama with soap and comedy is something that I have always loved. The way she has been able to navigate the world of television and create one of the most lucrative television empire is something that I always found amazing. So when she left ABC for Netflix, I was excited because it was clear that Netflix would provide her more freedom and the content she would make would be probably a lot more in line with who she is than it probably was on ABC. She might not be the showrunner behind Bridgerton but from the very first frame, it is clear that this is as Shonda Rhimes as a show can be. It’s the perfect blend of drama with soap opera storylines that is over the top and yet works. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t but it is probably the most Shonda Rhimes show we have gotten in a long time and I will not be mad about that.
When the first trailer for Bridgerton arrived many compared it to Gossip Girl but set in the past. That comparison is simple to make because of the unknown narrator that also controls the gossip of the town but Gossip Girl didn’t invent that idea, it just made it popular to my generation. Narrated by Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews), Bridgerton follows Daphne Bridgerton (Younger’s Phoebe Dynevor) and her powerful family as she makes her debut onto Regency London’s competitive marriage market. Considered the diamond of the season, Daphne finds herself stuck in a lie with the mysterious and rebellious Duke of Hastings (For The People’s Regé-Jean Page) and must navigate her attraction to him and the expectations that her society has put onto her.
Based on the Bridgerton series of books from Julia Quinn, it is clear that the show sets itself for a multiple season series, with the possibility of following the numerous kids in the family. It’s why some of the kids feel like they are underdeveloped and maybe an afterthought. But just like other Shonda Rhimes show that have a big assemble, Bridgerton knows how to navigate its multiple characters, giving them moments to shine when they need it. Sure, it took me a few episodes to remember everyone’s name but that is normal and once I got used to everyone, it became very easy to follow everyone. Daphne is the center of the show for this season, but the show sets the other children perfectly for their own season and it is easy to see where the show wants to go with them.
Two of my favourite tropes in television is enemy to lover and fake dating, Bridgerton manages to combine both and it was exactly what I wanted. The flow of the drama screams soap but because the show knew exactly what it was it never felt cheap. It’s fast-paced, going through stories like they are nothing. I have not read the books so I have no idea how they go but I felt like the show never felt the need to stay on plot points longer then it needed, instead choosing to advance the story at a nice pace, resolving what needed to be by the end of the season but also introducing so many more ideas for the future. It’s probably what makes the show resemble a soap the most, by the sheer amount of drama and storylines that are compacted in one season, it’s easy to see that the show is inspired by those shows that never let you breathe. And for Bridgerton it works extremely well.
Everyone on the show knows their characters and there isn’t a real weak point in that aspect. Dyvenor and Page both shine and their chemistry elevate their story, making the show central focus their relationship and the development of it all. But it’s the scene-stealing Adjoa Andoh (Invictus) as Lady Danbury that had me crying with laughter during the whole show. Every time she was on screen, I couldn’t help but be excited because she brought so much to what could have been a very small character that she made every scene she was in so much better.
Bridgerton isn’t going to top people’s list of television for the end of the year. But it’s dangerously easy to watch, a show that once you sit down you can’t stop. In that aspect, it is very Shonda Rhimes and that is so okay. She has a brand and something we expect her to produce and Bridgerton falls in that category. Enjoyable, with some great moments and surprises along the way, Bridgerton will probably become your guilty pleasure and you should have no shame about it.