“Bridgerton” is Netflix’s bold costume making that you will want to put on your face right away

People with a determined heart to spend Christmas Day inhaling the new Netflix series “Bridgerton” would be better served by resisting the urge to compare and contrast their strict interpretations of Jane Austen. Some association is inevitable, as would be true for any story set in the hustle and bustle of London’s Regency society. Austen reigns eternally as the queen of form, and the series of “sensual” novels by author Julia Quinn, from which the series is adapted, follows the model of what she developed.

But “Bridgerton” is a creation of Shondaland altogether – an idealized vision of a world where everyone is a little excited and no one understands the race. Specifically, it is the first product of Shonda Rhimes’ $ 150 million deal with Netflix, brought to us by pupil and series creator Chris Van Dusen. And while it may not qualify as an instant classic, or even a very good one, it is good enough to smooth out the uneven end of 2020.

All the graces and visual splendor that is expected from some version of 19th century England dreams seduce the eyes in the front, but under the neckline of this show beats the heart of “Scandal” and the lust of “Grey’s Anatomy”. In other words, it is a show that is dedicated to launching the widest of networks: a careful social policy informing the movement of each character, interrupted by interludes of knocking behind the scenes and, at first, against a tree.

“Bridgerton” takes the physical longing present in Austen’s work and expands it in true humility during the middle of his eight-episode season, positioning all the exquisite dances, soirees, garden walks and afternoons chastely nibbling on ladyfingers with gentlemen who are marks of Regency era literature as extravagant pre-game stimulation.

Devoted Austenites can be scandalized. They may also want to loosen the ties on the bodice a little and settle down because, honestly, for a while, this garment is all anyone will talk about.

The “Bridgerton” awakens desires – mainly for sophisticated cookies (nobles love their sweets!), But also for pop of wild floral colors and sparkle in all its forms, be it jewelry, fireworks or raindrops on roses. Netflix knew exactly what it was doing by launching this as a holiday bauble – especially this holiday, at the end of a miserable year.

Between the opulent scenography and the sumptuous costumes all illuminated and filmed to inebriate the senses, the production transports us to the center of his fantasy, making the narrative and dialogue secondary to the success of the series. By the way, both aspects fulfill the function and follow the melodic pattern that Austen established on the page; this is just to point out that little has jumped from the scripts that qualify as highly citable.

In other words, “Bridgerton” could actually use his own Violet Crawley. The imperious Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) is as close as we come, as she does not measure words or tolerate fools, but the style she has shows through her fashion. . . which, to be fair, is to die for. (Only his top hats are enough to send a person to the Etsy rabbit’s den.)

As for the story. . . honestly, if you’ve seen any modern films adapted from Austen’s work, you have a sense of what to expect; now amplify the fuss and camp and eliminate the stiffness, except for those old-fashioned ballroom dances. A touch of the sober nature that revitalizes previous films and BBC productions based on Austen’s work remains at stake here, but Van Dusen fixes things to appeal to the “Gossip Girl” audience.

The narration of a society pamphlet writer who uses the feather name Lady Whistledown provides a place for these two audiences to meet; Lady Whistledown has what it takes for everyone in “high society” (the colloquial name of high society at that time) and keeps everyone on the alert.

The fact that the mysterious character is voiced by Julie Andrews further strengthens the so-called bridge between classic and popular taste. Somewhere between the two dances a line of anachronistic details, few more noticeable than versions of classical music by artists like Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift.

But if you don’t recognize the familiar hooks of pop music here and there, it doesn’t matter. The central charm lies in the feeble rivalry between the Bridgertons, whose eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), stuns on her society debut before the imposing Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), and the status-hungry Featheringtons, whose family name it is ridiculous and elegant, extravagant (and yet the mother and daughters are dressed enviably more daring than the Bridgertons; go figure!).

Daphne starts the season in an enviable position, but thanks to the enthusiasm of her older brother Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), her prospects soon fade from an ocean of prospects to a persistent wretch with strange lips and wide gums.

Enter Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), whose emotional unavailability, bad mood and astronomical taste make him the catch of the season. Simon rolls his eyes at all the women throwing themselves at him – except for Daphne, who claims to have no desire for him. Thus, they make a bargain, pretending to court so that the ladies retreat and the eligible men try to keep Daphne from him.

As the experts in negging can guess, their initially Platonic partnership progresses as expected, culminating in marathons in raging heat with very few foreplay in the rooms, on the stairs, even at the top of a lawn or three.

The Featheringtons are not so lucky, especially when their cousin Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) joins them and surprises them for being a beautiful flower, as opposed to the toothy hillbilly they expected. But Marina is not exactly what she seems. The same is true of many of the figures here, from Anthony, who hides a highly inappropriate case with a soprano, to his younger brother Benedict (Luke Thompson), who is drawn to the more licentious side of the aristocracy.

All major roads lead to boinking anon, producing subplots that harness the stifling customs of a patriarchal era, where men are free to roam and act as they please, while for women, the slightest misstep can lead to ruin. Related discussions of honor and the value of marriage take place within each drama, as well as a twist related to, ahem, bodily fluids – everything that takes your hat off Austen’s protofeminist inclination while also taking the subject to places that would likely do so to faint .

It is also important to highlight the way in which the directors execute the romantic scenes shown here. To find examples of the feminine look in intimate scenes beyond what “Outlander” portrays in normal, take a luxuriant look at the end of Episode 5 and the beginning of Episode 6. In terms of adult films, it’s me mapping out how to skip the pesky story and get to the goods. On the other hand, cinematography creates pornography of other types throughout the series, very little you want to miss if you like that kind of thing.

Few jewels are without defect, even the most beautiful of them. I suspect it won’t be long before analysts delve into the deeply suspicious definition of inclusive cast production as manifested here, and they are not wrong.

While Rhimes and Van Dusen strive to break away from the all-white molds that have been the standard Austen storybook for a long time, viewers aware of the role colorism plays in the cast will have a few things to say about the fact that most of the Black characters who play leading roles are fair-skinned, starting with Page and ending with Rosheuvel, Parker and Kathryn Drysdale, who Genevieve Delacroix, a socialite seamstress.

For anyone who says, “But these are four prominent actors!” keep in mind that this is a large set, mostly white, and most of the non-white characters populate the sea of ​​extras and characters without credit from the program. “Bridgerton” in this respect is not a big leap into inclusion, but a leap from total whiteness to a tiny spot on a nearby tile.

That said, climbing Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, the center of power in this hive, can be interpreted as a nod to better intentions. The royal Charlotte is the subject of speculation as to whether she was of black descent, exploited more than a few times before Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry. People who know this story can appreciate the choice of the program. People who don’t like it for sure will love Rosheuvel’s cheerful and intimidating performance. Everyone watching will notice that Queen is, at best, a risky shade of beige.

Calling attention to these points is important, regardless of whether it is argued that these concerns are outside the point of a fictionalized historical tale mainly informed by class rather than race, which is in line with the work of the Regency. This is also an excuse given and heard many times when creatives are faced with homogeneous casting choices.

Another very valid answer to all of this is that perhaps for one (more) day (in a sequence of days, years and decades) those of us who are tired of witnessing the empty result of the so-called crack-free foundry may not attend or perhaps decide not to care. (Again.)

For most, “Bridgerton” just needs to be the fluffy tail in a bestial year. Despite its very real imperfections, no one should be tortured to succumb to any pleasure it offers. Look at it in the same way that you can see the combinations of sugar, flour and fat that we are inhaling with abandon now: eat with appetite, love sweetness and save your worry about the long-term impact of that inevitable post-holiday descent.

All eight episodes of “Bridgerton” are available for streaming on Netflix starting December 25th.