“Of all bitches dead or alive a scribbling woman is the most canine.”
What more could we want from a period drama than what is offered by Bridgerton? Set in an aristocratic English society, it features a house-filled with siblings who count on the eldest daughter, Daphne Bridgerton, to find herself a suitable match which would help step up her sisters’ respective games in the marriage market. The oldest brother is a preserver of traditions but secretly beds his mistress. There is a dashing young Duke who, despite brimming with sass and trauma, eyes only the beautiful, virginal Daphne. The neighbours try to outdo the Bridgerton clan in the marriage market. However, all plans are thwarted, and all scandals are brought to light by an anonymous woman named Lady Whistledon, who exposes the conspiracies and scandals of this ostentatious society.
With raunchy sex scenes and bodacious hunks, Bridgerton, which is the newest major success to Netflix, emerged has one of the streaming platform’s biggest triumphs. Here, Jinny Howe, the head of the Netflix drama section, explains just how she did it.
By Jinny Howe.
During my Netflix interviews, I remember being asked: “If you could make any show, what kind would it be and why?” I dared say the truth – that in a pop culture world dominated by sci-fi and fantasy, I’ve always loved beautiful, lush romances. Being direct paid off though little did I imagine that the first project I would help bring to life at Netflix would be Bridgerton.
Witnessing the fervour that the show’s producers, including the inimitable Shonda Rhimes, showrunner Chris Van Dusen and executive producer Betsy Beers, have created has been surreal (hello, TikTok musical!). And to be able to announce that Bridgerton is now the biggest series ever on Netflix is a dream come true.
A record 82 million households around the world chose to watch Bridgerton in its first 28 days. And the show has made the top 10 in every country except Japan – hitting number one in 83 countries including the US, UK, Brazil, France, India and South Africa. Indeed, the success of Bridgerton propelled the books into The New York Times bestseller lists for the first time, and 18 years after they were first published.
There are many lessons that I learned along the way, but these are the three most important:
All kinds of audiences love romance
Romance books have always sold incredibly well. But these stories have rarely made it onto the screen. Daphne and Simon’s “will they/won’t they” love affair, combined with the opulent costumes and settings, created a world into which members of all backgrounds and ages could escape. Bridgerton has shown that romance can be smart, dynamic, bold and yes – universally appealing.
It pays to be bold and to take creative “risks”
Bridgerton, like The Queen’s Gambit, defies tradition, and demonstrates that period dramas are not limited in scope or audience. The show is a fictional portrayal of London in 1813 that lifts the facade of Regency life. Chris Van Dusen and Shondaland’s Regency reimagined isn’t meant to be history. It’s designed to be more lavish, sexier and funnier than the standard period drama – and that’s what so surprised and delighted our members.
More people want to see themselves reflected on the screen
Shondaland’s fans have come to expect diversity in all her shows. Bridgerton took a seed of truth about Queen Charlotte’s background to reimagine her as a Black monarch using her power to affect broader change in British society. The empowerment of people of color and women made Bridgerton feel accessible and contemporary, resonating with audiences all around the world. Like The Queen’s Gambit and Emily in Paris – two other hugely popular Netflix series – Bridgerton draws upon themes that are universal yet speak directly to women because they feature independent-minded female protagonists in lead roles.
And now… for season two!
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