Why I’ll never watch Netflix hit Bridgerton

It's a Bridgerton too far - I will never watch the Netflix period drama. No matter that millions are streaming it, or that my close friends are raving about it, I just can't do it.

I am a period drama purist. I like them dry; I like them true to original classics. The less that happens the better, in my book. I want them classy and subtle and packed with repressed emotions and longing looks.

What I do not want is a modern spin with bare bottoms and bonking. So I can safely say, without watching it, that something which has been described as "a rampant rollick" and full of "pomp and romps," is definitely, absolutely, not for me.

In the words of Pride And Prejudice's Lady Catherine de Bourgh: "I am most seriously displeased."

I realise I'm in the minority and fast becoming out of date and that Bridgerton is just the sexy offspring of Downton Abbey. Plus, the trend for modern adaptations of classics is here to stay.

I am for inclusive casting and a more sensitive interpretation of outdated content; the thing I object to is the endless fiddling with the stories.

Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix
Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix

I had to switch off last year's The Personal History Of David Copperfield halfway through because even Armando Iannucci, in his gorgeous movie version, couldn't resist taking Charles Dickens' autobiographical, and my favourite, novel, and meddling with it. What the Dickens?

It's some feat to take a master storyteller's work and make it worse. Just tell the thing as he wrote it, that's why it's a classic and we're still reading it two centuries later.

Similarly, I like to get lost in Jane Austen precisely because I can enter her taut world of drawing-room dramas and escape from today. I don't want modern life to come with me and mess it all up. That's like watching Home And Away in Empire-line frocks.

Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix
Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix

One British newspaper reviewer stated that the BBC's 1995 TV series of Pride And Prejudice with Colin Firth had put him off period dramas for life, that is, until Bridgerton, based on Julia Quinn's novels, came along and cured him by blowing up the "buttoned-down, stiff-upper-lip, no-sex-we're-British Regency nonsense".

Keep your shirt on, mate. Literally. I want those buttons glued up - that's the beauty of the genre. Give me Cranford over Bridgerton, any day.

Theo James in the TV series Sanditon. Picture: BBC Australia
Theo James in the TV series Sanditon. Picture: BBC Australia

But alas, I fear I have lost the battle and like an old bluestocking, will have to dust off my VHS recorder and watch The House Of Eliott in peace.

Bare bottoms are de rigueur in any modern period drama - as the fuss over 2019's Sanditon proved.

Admittedly, Theo James cut a fine figure in the TV adaptation of Jane Austen's unfinished novel and I did kind of enjoy it, but I have to confess I never got to the end of the series.

While Jane Austen didn't actually shy away from sexual content, the beauty was in her subtlety - scandal generally happened off the page, as opposed to being confronted by someone's arse bonking a music hall singer against a tree, in Bridgerton's opening scenes.

Or, worse, a three-minute sex scene to the soundtrack of Taylor Swift's Wildest Dreams. That, right there, is my absolute nightmare.

It's not exactly art, is it?

The only exception I will make is last year's beautiful Emma, with actor-of-the-moment Anya Taylor-Joy and a marvellous Johnny Flynn as Mr Knightley, who also stripped off, because he is bound by Modern Period Drama Law.

The movie looked very 2020s, with its Instagram-worthy colour palette and obsession for piles of pretty pastries, but it was actually extremely true to the original novel; Mr Knightley's pant-free moment notwithstanding.

That's the way to do it, if we must include a free bum with every bonnet.

I realise Bridgerton is more Mills & Boon than Bronte, more Downton than Dickens and I'm sure it's very entertaining. But not for me.

Maybe I'm proud, maybe I'm prejudiced. Maybe I just don't get it.

As Emma Woodhouse said: "One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other."


Originally published as Why I'll never watch Netflix hit Bridgerton