Saturday and Sunday, I spent hours watching the new Netflix Series, Bridgerton, based on Julia Quinn’s The Duke & I. There are tons of articles on the Internet that include reviews from mainstream media and entertainment sites. Now I am offering my two cents.
If you haven’t read the book this series is based off, I’ll give you a very quick synopsis. Travel back to the Regency era when the debutantes are presented during the London season. It’s the marriage market, and young ladies are looking for husbands. Duke Hastings doesn’t wish to marry; Daphne is desperate to marry. He wishes to get rid of the mother’s and young daughters clamoring for his attention, while Daphne isn’t getting the attention she needs. They make a pack to act as if they are in love. The duke gets rid of attention; and Daphne gets all the attention, drawing more suitors vying for her heart. Basically, the rest of the story is a soap opera of massive events involving two families – the Bridgertons and the Featheringtons. To add to the story, is an anonymous writer who sells a social newsletter, spilling the latest gossip and scandal about London. Got it?
Story & Setting – Shonda Rhimes’s Netflix version follows the book’s story. However, as indicated at the beginning credits this is “Shondaland,” a vastly different view of the true reality of who composed the English aristocracy. People of color are central in the cast, explained as a result of mad King George marrying a woman of color. Obviously, there are pros and cons that the show deviates from historical reality. In order to enjoy, you will have to re-imagine a world that lives in “Shondaland” and not in fact. The series was filmed in Bath, showing recognizable locales, even though the story for the most part is set in London for the season.
The episodes give all the characters ample focus, but I found myself bored during some of the subplots as they played out. There are over 25 characters in eight episodes. I thought that far too much time was spent on Marina Thompson’s story line and her stay in the Featherington household. Other subplots did not keep my interest either. Frankly, I think overall the series could have been tightened down to six episodes making it more interesting.
Casting – The two main characters of Daphne (played by Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings (played by Rege-Jean Page) are interesting. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that I was not impressed with the casted couple. Phoebe isn’t what I would characterize as a great beauty, but plays the role well of an innocent and pure young lady of impeccable breeding. Rege-Jean, on the other hand, did not float my remote. I’m sorry, but I thought him stiff, making Simon unlikable, unapproachable, arrogant, and unattractive. The way he looks down his nose at you, just about kills any amorous feelings you hope to flourish as a viewer. It has nothing to do with his race, but everything to do with making the leading man appealing to audiences — not just with his clothes off. (Fine body, by the way.) If the term a cardboard character can be used on screen, I would term him as such. I did not feel any longing for him as a man, which is the fantasy women want when reading historical romance. It’s the irresistible rake who you conjure up between the pages of a book that is lost in translation. Although the story is definitely a ruse between Daphne and Simon to begin with, their eventual falling in love didn’t capture my heart in any swoon-worthy manner. I didn’t care about them as a couple or their reconciliation at the end. The remaining cast is acceptable in their roles. I was surprised to see Julian Ovenden. Nicola Coughlan was adorable as Penelope Featherington.
Costumes – I’ve read there were 7,800 outfits worn. Some historically accurate — others a little over the top, including the outrageous wigs. The Featherington family gowns are colorful with bold prints, while the Bridgertons are dressed in more subdued colors with sparkling fabrics. Daphne changes so many times it makes you dizzy. Corsets in Shondaland were a little out of date. If you love men in cravats, you will like their outfits. I’ve never been a real fan of Regency era styles anyway. I’m more of a late Victorian dress-gal myself.
Sex – This needs a category all its own. Had I thought about it, I should have kept pen and paper handy to count the number of sex scenes. As I strain my brain to remember how many transpired between Simon and Daphne, I think there were eight. No frontal nudity but enough in bed to wonder whether the actor’s modesty pieces kept intact during the rambunctious scenes of sexual intercourse. Lot’s of skin and no under the covers. They did it everywhere imaginable, moaning enough to give the servants a good chuckle. On the stairs, against the wall, against a ladder in the library, in the grass, and in bed. Simon had his head up Daphne’s skirt a few times as well, sending her into ultimate sexual bliss. (On the stairs nonetheless with a camera overview – geesh! I’m thinking where are the servants?) Then there is the “no consent” scene, which is disturbing. However, Simon isn’t exactly intoxicated like indicated in the book. He’s definitely more lucid, but is horrified when Daphne gets on top. Anthony Bridgerton has his fair share of scenes in the sack, and the hidden love affair that Henry Granville has with another male touches on the dangers that homosexuals faced in that era but only shows two males embracing.
Season 2 – UPDATE: January 2021 – Yes, there will be a season two. Will Anthony Bridgerton get his love story next? Apparently so, based on the book The Viscount Who Loved Me.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on whether it floated your remote or not. Reviews have termed it as “sparkly,” “scintillating,” “delightfully horny,” as well as “shallow” and “preposterous and cliche-ridden.” Did you enjoy it, or are you sticking with the book instead?