IT has been hailed as Downton Abbey meets Gossip Girl.
Bridgerton, Netflix’s new big-budget series, dropped on Christmas Day and is the gift that has delighted many.
The steamy drama, about wealth, lust and betrayal in Regency-era London in the early 1800s, centres on the posh Bridgerton and Featherington families.
It has reportedly achieved record ratings and is already set for a second series.
A source said: “It’s on track to become Netflix’s most-watched show after The Crown. It is a real bonkbuster and has turned period drama upside down.”
If you haven’t caught the Bridgerton bug yet, then worry not – Kate Jackson gives you the rundown on all you need to know . . .
Setting the scene
BRIDGERTON is an eight-part series which reportedly cost £5million an episode to make and is based on a collection of romance novels by American Julia Quinn.
At its centre are the quests of girls in the Bridgerton family, to marry.
But with Grey’s Anatomy co-creator Shonda Rhimes as an executive producer, this is far from just another Pride & Prejudice.
It features an ethnically diverse cast, including a black Queen Charlotte, sexually charged dances and explicit bedroom scenes. There is even an orchestral version of US teen singer Billie Eilish’s song Bad Guy.
Shonda, who has signed a nine-figure deal with Netflix, was determined to have Bridgerton as her first outing with the streaming service. She said: “I was almost scaring people, like, ‘We have to get these crazy romance novels – they’re hot, they’re sexy and they’re really interesting’.”
FORGET the bonnets and coy blushing of other period dramas – Bridgerton does not shy away from loosening the corsets for some full-on sex scenes. The first, an al-fresco romp up against a tree while a nearby footman looks away explodes less than three minutes into the first episode.
Hold the smelling salts, there is even, whisper it, self-pleasuring. In one scene, Simon Basset, played by Rege-Jean Page, tells naive lover Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor): “When you are alone, you can touch yourself, anywhere on your body, anywhere that gives you pleasure, but especially between your legs.”
Bridgerton producer Chris Van Dusen said: “Period shows tend to be a little conservative and a little traditional. We’re not making your grandmother’s period show.” Rege-Jean, who worked with an intimacy coordinator for his sex scenes with co-star Phoebe, said: “There isn’t a puritan sense of shame about sex in the show.
It’s very unprudish about the fact that romance involves physical attraction and that involves physical encounter. It’s no bad thing to follow Simon and Daphne’s journey to a place where sex is joyous.” Phoebe said: “It never felt like the sex scenes were just there for the sake of the sex. They told Daphne’s sexual evolution and it was really important to get them right.”
WHILE most period dramas hire their vintage outfits, Bridgerton had an army of 238 people beavering away for five months to hand-sew 7,500 costumes.
They were under the direction of New York designer Ellen Mirojnick, who is known for her stunning work on 2017’s The Greatest Showman and last year’s 3D fantasy flick Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil.
She made sure that the nouveau-riche Featherington family looked noticeably different from the much more sophisticated Bridgerton girls.
She said: “We’ve made them overdecorated, overzealous and over the top. It’s definitely gaudy. But if you think it looks ugly, that’s OK.”
YOU will recognise the Bridgerton narrator’s distinctive voice as that of movie great Dame Julie Andrews. The Sound Of Music icon, 85, was reportedly paid £1.5million to play gossipy Lady Whistledown, even though she never appears on screen.
Fans have been shocked to hear her prim tones describing scandals in Regency society in salacious detail. Ben Miller, 54, once half of comedy duo Armstrong & Miller plays Lord Featherington. His wife Lady Featherington is portrayed by Polly Walker, 54, who has appeared in BBC dramas Line Of Duty and Rome.
Nicola Coughlan, 33, has gone from Derry Girls to posh girl and is almost unrecognisable under an auburn curly wig as witty daughter Penelope Featherington. She has two nasty older sisters Philippa and Prudence, played by Harriet Cains and Bessie Carter, both 27.
Kathryn Drysdale, 39, who plays Madame Delacroix, is a familiar face thanks to her role as Louise Brooks in BBC sitcom Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps.
BRITISH beauty Phoebe Dynevor stars in the lead role of society debutante Daphne Bridgerton.
Eagle-eyed Coronation Street viewers will recognise her surname and that petite frame and porcelain complexion. Phoebe, 25, is the daughter of Sally Dynevor, 57, who has played Sally Metcalfe (nee Webster) in the ITV soap since 1986.
Her hunky fella Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, is played by Zimbabwe-born Rege-Jean Page, who has been dubbed the new Mr Darcy, referring to Colin Firth’s swoonsome outing in 1995 movie Pride & Prejudice.
Rege-Jean, 30, who moved to London when he was 14, previously worked with Shonda Rhimes on American TV drama For The People.
THERE is a scene in the sixth episode which is true to the original novels but which, since its publication 20 years ago, some have now come to read as problematic. Daphne’s lover Simon does not want to have children, and his method of contraception is to pull out before, er, completing.
But in this scene, Daphne straddles him during sex and continues to the end despite his clear reluctance. In the book, this is portrayed as a spur-of-the-moment decision by Daphne and her husband is drunk, but in the show it is more calculating and Simon is clearer-headed. On Twitter, many viewers feel it is sexual assault and should have been omitted from the TV series or at least addressed afterwards.
One viewer writes: “Bridgerton has an on-screen rape scene of a black man. Do be careful when recommending it to people and if you plan on watching it.” Another, Sabah Malik, writes: “I am really, really sickened at how they completely brushed past a pretty shocking rape scene. Forced sex and then, boom, we just move on the next day. Super-disappointing.”
Another, Lori Carriere, writes: “Bridgerton makes me realise how we’ve failed to educate folks on how rape happens to men.”
CRITICS and fans alike have been going mad for Bridgerton. One reviewer raved: “Bridgerton is witty, daring, refreshing and may just have reinvigorated the costume drama.”
Another heralded it as “the shiny little stocking filler the world needs this Christmas”.
On social media, one fan with the handle @Bridgertonnow, posted: “All I need is Bridgerton Season 2. I’m begging the heavens to let it happen.”
Another praised it as “simply awesome”.
Rege-Jean Page, as Simon Basset seems to be getting the most attention, though. One social media user posted a shot of him as Simon and gushed: “My guy! God took his time on this one. Ohh!”
Another, called Bella Rosa, posted the same picture and asked simply: “Why is he so cute?”
We have no idea but we will definitely look into the matter ourselves.
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