Noah Hogan | Staff Writer
Shonda Rhimes delivered a gift Dec. 25, as her television production company, Shondaland, made its streaming debut with a Regency-era romance story, “Bridgerton.”
Written by Chris Van Dusen, a previous writer who collaborated on television mainstays such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” “Bridgerton” is the first scripted material from Shondaland’s multi-year deal with Netflix.
Based on the eight-volume collection “The Bridgerton Series,” the story of the Bridgertons centers on eight siblings placed in upper-class English society in the 19th century. Each volume follows each member of the Bridgerton family, four boys and four girls, as they matriculate through life and find true love.
“Even though 19th century culture is something that I am vaguely familiar with, I appreciate Shonda Rhimes making an attempt to create a show using unconventional actors and actresses in prominent roles,” said Calyx Stover, a Hampton University journalism major from Boiling Springs, South Carolina.
Season one of “Bridgerton” primarily revolves around Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the family, as she begins her journey to find love during a competitive marriage market. Only after attending endless parties and masquerades, each young man makes his rounds to the young women and their families to discuss suitability in marriage.
After gaining favor from Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), making her the topic of conversation in the eyes of Lady Whistledown, Daphne sees her value fluctuate. This leads her to develop a plan using the Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), a man who has no intention of marriage and needs to find a way to keep mothers and daughters from throwing themselves at him.
While the development of Daphne and Simon’s relationship serve as the main focus of the first season, multiple siblings develop subplots over the course of eight, one hour-long episodes. The siblings include: Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), the eldest Bridgerton son, who longs for a relationship with an opera singer; Benedict (Luke Thompson), a painter who seeks to travel across the world; and Eloise (Claudia Jessie), who champions the role of comedic relief and is not interested in following in Daphne’s footsteps of marriage whatsoever.
Serving as the main adversaries to the Bridgerton family, the Featheringtons are trying to find suitable husbands for their daughters as well. As the elder sisters try their best to marry and fit into society, Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) looks to build a relationship with Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton). She loves him from afar, but due to her shyness and Colin’s negligence, he has no idea how she feels. Despite the fact the Featheringtons are preoccupied with marrying their daughters off to the wealthiest bidder, they decide to care for a distant relative named Marina (Ruby Barker).
Maybe the most interesting plot thread of season one is the identity of Lady Whistledown. The mysterious character publishes her scandalous thoughts that somehow involve all the present characters and their deepest darkest secrets.
With Netflix announcing that the series is projected to be viewed by 63 million households within the first 28 days of its debut, making it the fifth-most-watched Netflix Original, it’s easy to tell why the series has gained such popularity.
“It wasn’t until I talked to my friends about the show that I realized that it [Bridgerton] had come out on Christmas Day,” Stover said. “It gave us something to talk about as we caught up with each other.”
For all intents and purposes, Shondaland managed to create a modern-day princess drama with a unique 19th century flair, utilizing a modern score and a plethora of actors and actresses to address the ever-so-real conversations of feminism, race, sexuality and self love.