A record 82 million households around the world chose to watch Netflix’s Bridgerton in its first 28 days. That’s bigger than Stranger Things. Bigger than The Queen’s Gambit. Bigger than The Crown. Get the point?
The show has reached 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 best seller lists for the first time, and 18 years after they were first published.
Bridgerton follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family as she makes her debut onto Regency London’s competitive marriage market. Hoping to follow in her parent’s footsteps and find a match sparked by true love, Daphne’s prospects initially seem to be unrivaled.
But as her older brother begins to rule out her potential suitors, the high society scandal sheet written by the mysterious Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews) casts aspersions on Daphne. Enter the highly desirable and rebellious Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), committed bachelor and the catch of the season for the debutantes’ mamas.
Despite proclaiming that they want nothing the other has to offer, their attraction is undeniable and sparks fly as they find themselves engaged in an increasing battle of wits while navigating society’s expectations for their future.
During her Netflix interviews, VP of Original Programming Jinny Howe remembered being asked: “If you could make any show, what kind would it be and why?” She 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.”
Here are so of the lessons that Howe 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!
(Note: This interview first appeared on the Netflix Company site)