Imagine the most dramatic episode of "Gossip Girl," add some Jane Austen-approved longing glances and witty dialogue, wrap it up in some gorgeous 19th-century ballgowns and stylish suits, then top it off with Dame Julie Andrews' voice promising intrigue and scandal and you'll have "Bridgerton," Netflix's new Regency-era romantic drama.
"Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes produced the eight-episode season (along with showrunner Chris Van Dusen) as the first series in a major agreement she signed with Netflix. The show is based on the popular "Bridgerton" book series, written by Julia Quinn, that revolves around two families during "the season," an annual period where elite families would host formal events to introduce their children to society and find them a suitable marriage.
One of those families is the titular Bridgertons. Led by their recently widowed mother, Violet Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell), there are eight children in the household: four girls and four boys, all named in alphabetical order. The oldest son, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), is in charge of helping his sister Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) find a suitable match following the passing of their father, while younger sister Eloise (Claudia Jessie) is more interested in writing and her own ambition than her societal obligations.
Across the street is another family, the Featheringtons. Their mother, Portia Featherington (Polly Walker), is already dealing with the stress of guiding three daughters Philippa (Harriet Cains), Prudence (Bessie Carter) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) through the season, when distant cousin Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) comes to town.
On top of it all is Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), an anonymous gossip who publishes a newsletter discussing the gentry's biggest scandals, engagements and more. Romance, star-crossed lovers and high-stakes intrigue ensue.
The show's plot lines may seem a little obvious at first. Of course innocent, bright-eyed Daphne Bridgerton is going to express interest in the "rakish" Duke Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), her older brother's best friend who has sworn to never marry or have children. And of course Marina Thompson's arrival in town isn't as simple as it first appears, but Rhimes and producer Van Dusen frequently throw in plot twists and dramatic scandals that liven up the romantic drama. And the relationships between characters give the audience plenty to invest in.
The show takes a color-conscious approach to casting: Unlike many period dramas and romance stories, characters of color can be found in nearly every scene. Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is based on a real-life 19th century ruler, who some historians believe had Black ancestry, and dons a series of glamorous wigs incorporating Afros and dreadlocks.
The costuming and wardrobe work on "Bridgerton" is one of its finest attributes — characters swirl through dramatic ballroom sequences in candy-colored gowns, dramatic cloaks blow in the wind and almost every character is draped in stunning jewelry. The flashy series reportedly features more than 7,500 costume pieces in total.
If you're looking for a colorful, romantic piece to get you through the winter, it's hard to ask for anything more perfect than "Bridgerton."