Bridgerton Season 1 [6/10]

Bridgerton,” a rollicking eight-episode adaptation of a best-selling historical romance novel (the first in a series, now nine strong, by Julia Quinn), does not match my reading circles at all. For one thing, it is set in the Regency period of British royal times (the early nineteenth century, a fact I had to establish), part of an extended period of British history of zero interest to me and, I would wager, zero relevance to the modern world. Second, it exudes romance genre of the steamier sub-genres, full of breathy declarations and bared arses. And third, by very definition, this tale of “wealth, lust, and betrayal … seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family,” as a blurb puts it, might be a yawn. Yet somehow, by adding clever mini forks in typically predictable romance plots, by injecting alterna-history through including a few black noble families, by souping up the music, by amping up the glitz and color, by working extra hard at all the romance tropes … by focusing on intelligent escapism, Bridgerton succeeds in freshening up what could have been Downton Abbey with nudity. For every scene that had me cringing at quasi-porn or silliness or affectation, I enjoyed another scene tinged with seriousness or mystery or coolness. Quite a surprise, this one.

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