Witty one-liners, acrobatic sex, saucy gossip, fabulous costumes, sprawling estates, and oh, the backstabbing! In more ways than one, Chris Van Dusen’s adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels delivers.
But the romantic period drama is providing more than just an amusing look at love, marriage, and class in Regency England. It delivered Netflix, the online streaming service, its most-watched hit — that is, until recently when the K-drama Squid Game overtook it in the ratings.
Data made public earlier this year showed Bridgerton series one scored as the number one series based on 82 million Netflix households around the world tuning in during the initial four-week release. That has now been surpassed by the dystopian series Squid Game. Extraction and Bird Box are the most-watched movies.
Netflix, which has over 209 million paid subscribers, is currently the world’s biggest streaming service.
No surprise when it is creating content as compelling as Bridgerton and Squid Game.
“There is a formula for joy in Bridgerton and the show never really strays,” writes Roxana Hadadi on the Roger Ebert film critic site. It displays a “dedication to sexy, smart, popcorn escapism,” writes James Poniewozik in The New York Times.
Opening in the formalized courting season of London in 1813, high-society families scheme to marry off their offspring. Lady Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell) has eight children to find suitors for. Not easy when her eldest, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) is set on marrying for love, not money.
Ever keen to marry on her own terms, she makes a secret pact with the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) to pretend to be interested in him and buy herself time. But all is fair in love and war, as Lady Whistledown, our narrator (voiced by Julie Andrews) explains.
Scandals and seductions come fast and loose, with the kind of explicitness that require a warning.
Women exerting power is a rolling theme throughout, and a racially integrated portrayal of the time, turns an old-fashioned romance, into something modern, fit for the 21st century on a streaming service.
“On the one hand, this is not your great-great-great grandmother’s Regency romance. On the other, it suggests that maybe your great-great-great-grandmother was not as different from you as you think,” writes film critic James Poniewozik.
Either way, Netflix took a bet that period romance was never out of fashion and hit the jackpot.