Review: 'Bridgerton' goes where period romances dare not

Series about 19th century English matchmaking exists in a post-racial fantasy

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

“Bridgerton” is a blast, an addictive coiffured period romance that turns downright randy while dancing deftly with racism and misogyny.

The early 19th century England of the show is a post-racial fantasy: The Queen is Black, both the aristocracy and the working class are a mix of all races and nobody seems to notice or care. A clumsy explanation for this pops up eventually but it’s both absurd and unneeded; the fantasy is charming on its own.

Phoebe Dynevor in "Bridgerton."

It is the beginning of the “season,” the time when wealthy families try to find appropriate mates for their offspring at a series of lavish balls. Thrilled to be up for grabs is Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor, blossoming in the role just as her character does), although she hopes to find true love. Also on the circuit, although less enthusiastically, is the dashing Lord Hastings (the dashing Rege-Jean Page).

Monitoring all the romantic turns of the season and publishing her thoughts in a newsletter is the mysterious Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), whose gossip can trigger scandal and heartbreak.

There’s no escaping the period puffery, but this is the first Netflix series from producer Shonda Rhimes and despite the times, subject matter and fantasy it glides right along like peak-form “Grey’s Anatomy.” The show exposes the cattle auction cruelty of families marrying off their daughters and focuses on Daphne’s budding feminist younger sister Eloise (Claudia Jessie) who, like Daphne, has no idea how babies come about.

This naivete becomes central as the show progresses, leading to a thoroughly unique storyline, and there aren’t many of those left. “Bridgerton” zigs and zags in delightful, unexpected ways and may leave you gasping for another season.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'Bridgerton'

GRADE: B+

On Netflix starting Friday