'Bridgerton' Season 1 Review: 'Downton Abbey' meets 'Gossip Girl' in this fun, sexy take on Regency romance

In the first season, we meet the Bridgerton siblings, with special focus on Daphne Bridgerton who is looking for a reputable husband


                            'Bridgerton' Season 1 Review: 'Downton Abbey' meets 'Gossip Girl' in this fun, sexy take on Regency romance
(Netflix)

Spoilers for 'Bridgerton' Season 1

It's Christmas Day, a great day to spend with family, yet it is 2020, which means many of us are in isolation as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on. But worry not: Netflix's latest release is just the right watch as you spend Christmas without any plans. Shondaland's adaptation of the first book from Julia Quinn's bestselling 'Bridgerton' novels is finally out on Netflix, with the first season being based on the first book 'The Duke and I'. The 'Bridgerton' novels follow the Bridgerton siblings — all helpfully named in order from A to H as they were born — as they get ready to get married and settled down if only such a pesky thing such as love was not in the way.

In the first season, we meet the Bridgerton siblings, with special focus on Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), who is now out in society and looking for a reputable husband. While she is declared the most beautiful woman in the town by the queen herself, her meddlesome older brother, Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) can't help but be overprotective and reject every match that comes her way. And so, Daphne finds herself at the center of unwanted attention from a man who is desperate to marry her, but whom she is not interested in.

Enter Anthony's best friend, Simon Bassett (Regé-Jean Page), a duke who is being pressured to marry, but has no interest in doing so because he does not want a family. Simon and Daphne come to a mutual agreement — they will pretend to be courting. This will help Simon ward off unwanted advances and help Daphne garner better proposals. But along the way something unexpected happens (not for the audience, of course — their chemistry is exemplary) and they fall in love.

Now, one would not expect to be enamored with 19th-century British high society romance. While 'Downton Abbey' had its fans, there may have been others who found it too stuffy. And yet, 'Bridgerton' manages to take in all the pomp and glamor of 'Downton Abbey' and mix it with some scandal and sex a la 'Gossip Girl', add in the inimitable Julie Andrews giving voice to the mysterious Lady Whistledown (aka the Gossip Girl of 19th-century British Regency) and you get 'Bridgerton'. 

What's fun about 'Bridgerton' is that it subverts your expectations in many ways. This is probably because it comes from Shondaland, but in this series, we get to see a whole different England — one where the people of color are not relegated to the roles of servants but are put right up at the top. And 'Bridgerton' is all the better for it. Daphne could be pushed aside as an ignorant young woman, but Dynevor's performance adds layers to a character that we must not forget is written for a time when there were very few things expected of women. Rege-Jean Page excels as the troubled, aristocratic Simon, and we could not see a better man for the role.

The supporting cast — some of whom will in the future become main characters as each new season follows a new book — excels as well, in particular, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton and Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte. We also especially loved Eloise's and Penelope's friendship, and we hope we get to see more of their own stories in the future.

Season 1 of 'Bridgerton' is now streaming on Netflix.

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