IIt’s a bit like Scrooge-y Christmas season for all of us, and so Shonda Rhimes gave us Regé-Jean Page, as a little treat.
Page is the male leader of Bridgerton, the new period soap opera that marks Rhimes’ first project to air under his massive Netflix deal.
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The series itself is like a thought experiment asking, “What if Jane Austen had seen Gossip Girl and then was asked to write a frenzy-worthy TV series that’s supposed to be consumed with a vibrator in hand? “And Page is the answer to that question, an actor whom one of my colleagues – whose identity I will not reveal in order to protect her from future restraining orders – resolutely deemed” the sexiest man I’ve never seen ”.
But Page as Simon Basset, the brooding and emotionally tortured track stalking the outer circles – not to mention libidos – of Regency London’s company season, is just a fantastic draw from Bridgerton, especially with its release date on Christmas Day at the end of this cursed pandemic year.
Surely that’s not what Rhimes or Netflix intended when it came to how and when to launch this very expensive and very elusive new show. But, just as it is, he arrives with some serious vibes of, “You have nothing to do on vacation?” Here are the sex and corsets of the Grey’s Anatomy Lady. “And, really, God bless us, each one.
Bridgerton takes place in this era of British society which we celebrated to the point of making historical fiction in our minds, when balls were held for the sole purpose of matching the adult daughter of a family to the eligible bachelor of a other. In an age where decorum is such a priority, it can only be a breeding ground for salacious gossip, which Bridgerton grabbed.
Enter Lady Whistledown, an omniscient character voiced by Julie Andrews who writes Grosvenor’s Square version of Page six. (If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Julie Andrews is the new Kristen Bell.) She’s in everyone’s business, so much so that even the Queen is watching who’s in favor of Whistledown. and whose scandals she rakes in the mud.
Whistledown’s main concern is Daphne Bridgerton, the company’s “diamond” of the season; it’s Tinsley Mortimer, if you will. After a stressful few minutes of “you can’t tell me it’s not Sansa Stark” watching Phoebe Dynevor’s performance, you will be swept away in her extremely complicated love affair with Simon Basset.
If you have read any of the advance covers of Bridgerton, you will have heard that this fuck show. As there is sex. A lot. And not like Scandal “It’s a little hot and then the camera cuts” the sex. There are cigarette ends! And the breasts! And at Christmas! Oh, come all faithful, indeed.
The series takes a few episodes to get to everything you’ve heard of. At first I wondered, where was all the sex I was promised? And then he appeared. And came over and over again. It was so incessant that I needed to take a break and spend a few minutes with God.
At one point, two characters have a heated argument over the state of their life together, they stop briefly for a violent round of cunnilingus on a staircase, and then continue their discussion.
“At one point, two characters have a heated argument over the state of their life together, they stop briefly for a violent round of cunnilingus on a staircase, and then continue their discussion.“
This is a big fuss over what is, ultimately, just one element of the series – though it’s undeniably important. But it highlights how Bridgerton actually does good on the plot of a legendary network television creator who takes her universe – literally Shondaland – to a streaming service.
It’s not just the explanation of the love scenes, or even a no-brainer like the budget she gave to make a show that looks like this, like PBS sent everything Downton abbey through a Snapchat filter Baz Luhrmann and that’s what came out on the other side.
Too many of these major streaming offerings have found their creators to do essentially the same schtick, just with longer uptimes, more narrative bloat, and some say diminishing return to quality. With Bridgerton, Rhymes seems to really capitalize on doing narrative things – not just from a production standpoint – that she never could have done on TV.
A Regency soap opera thrilling with lust? This is the conundrum of the industry towards 2020 where it will be an undeniable and massive success for Netflix, but would never have existed anywhere else.
I mean, folks, it’s not perfect. There are story threads that range from boring to maybe even offensive. For the whole celebration of the inclusive and seemingly gender-blind casting, there’s such a timid shift to a queer storyline that you wonder why you bother. And the playfulness of the production can go from cute to twee pretty quickly.
But honestly… whatever. It’s a juicy show that will make you hard and cry – a true capture of life in lockdown – while serving such a stacked cast of attractive actors that by the time legendary British hottie Freddie Stroma shows up, he starts to look almost ordinary. Let’s all just be grateful.
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