‘Bridgerton’, Shonda Rhimes’ period romance drama on Netflix, is a scrumptious and lavish escapist delight. Set in Regency-era England, the show follows the passionate love stories of London’s aristocratic elites. At the center of all the drama is one prominent and prolific family – the Bridgertons, headed by Lord Anthony, the Viscount Bridgerton. Season 1 of ‘Bridgerton’ revolves around the romance between Anthony’s sister Daphne and his best friend Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings. As far as romances based on books go, ‘Bridgerton’ (based on the eponymous novels by Julia Quinn) is a fun, sexy romp, which provides a subtle narrative on the social norms of the early 1800s, covering it up cleverly in the garb of frivolity.
While the show is a must-watch for fans of period dramas, there are other similar TV shows of the same genre that do merit a mention if one is listing excellent period pieces. If you’ve watched (and loved) ‘Bridgerton’, and are now looking for something similar to binge, here’s a list of historical drama series that fans of ‘Bridgerton’ are sure to enjoy. You can watch most of these shows like ‘Bridgerton’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
7. The Spanish Princess (2019 – 2020)
A limited series based on Philippa Gregory’s novels ‘The Constant Princess’ and ‘The King’s Curse’, ‘The Spanish Princess’ is a sequel to the Starz miniseries ‘The White Queen’ and ‘The White Princess’. Set in the Tudor royal court in the 1500s, it tells the intriguing story of Catherine of Aragon, the titular Spanish princess who overcame many obstacles to become Queen of England as the first wife of King Henry VIII. Even though ‘The Spanish Princess’ is set 300 years before ‘Bridgerton’, it is an excellent commentary on women’s social stature in medieval times, similar to how ‘Bridgerton’ establishes women’s role in 19th-century society.
6. Harlots (2017 – 2019)
Set in 1763 London, ‘Harlots’ revolves around the lives of sex workers in the Georgian society, serving an elite clientele comprising mostly of the aristocracy. The show tells the story of Margaret Wells and Lydia Quigley, rival businesswomen who run their own brothels and hope to improve their situation in life, for themselves and their families. As it is set only 50 years before the time of ‘Bridgerton’, the way London’s beau monde is portrayed in ‘Harlots’ is very similar to ‘Bridgerton’. In both the shows, the “unspoiled wholesomeness” of virginal gentle-born women is a focal point, while the women who work for a living are considered acceptable to dally with but not to marry. Another similarity between the two shows is that both are color-blind and racially inclusive.
5. Reign (2013 – 2017)
Set in the mid-1500s France and Scotland, ‘Reign’ follows the early exploits of Mary, Queen of Scots and her husband Francis. Mary deals with several political changes and power plays during her reign while building her empire and comes into her own as a monarch, just as her Scottish handmaidens hunt for husbands at the French Court. ‘Reign’ is also set in medieval times like ‘The Spanish Princess’, so it is years apart from ‘Bridgerton’ historically-speaking. But it offers similar insight into the world of monarchs and aristocrats as ‘Bridgerton’ does. Also, both shows focus on women’s position in society.
4. Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015)
The events in ‘Downton Abbey’ happen almost a whole century after the events in ‘Bridgerton’. But even though the shows are set apart by 99 years, polite society norms have not changed much. Certain aspects of the aristocratic lifestyle and their relationship with those that serve them are very much the same in both shows. In ‘Bridgerton’ as well as in ‘Downton Abbey’, noble ladies are shown to have close confidants in their maids and housekeepers, who provide the former with unflinching support. ‘Downton Abbey’ revolves around the country household of Lord Grantham and follows the intertwined stories of the Crawley family and their domestic help.
3. Poldark (2015 – 2019)
Set between 1781 and 1801 (some 20 years prior to ‘Bridgerton’), ‘Poldark’ follows the story of the titular character as he comes home after the American Revolutionary War, returning to his Cornwall estate to find it in ruins and mounting debt. Like the ‘Bridgerton’ series, ‘Poldark’ also tells the story of one noble family and their acquaintances who all deal with love, life, loss, and joy together. The one major difference, though, is that ‘Poldark’ focuses on life in the country while ‘Bridgerton’ is set almost exclusively in London.
2. A Suitable Boy (2020)
‘A Suitable Boy’ is a BBC miniseries based on Vikram Seth’s novel of the same name. The show, featuring an all-Indian cast, is set in 1950s India and follows the story of Lata, a free-spirited young woman on a quest to find her best match out of a pool of eligible suitors. Matchmaking mothers are the same everywhere, be it 19th century England or 20th century India. Lata’s mom and Daphne’s mother feel like the same character, always concerned about their children’s futures and always on the lookout for the most eligible husbands for their daughters. Even though the historical, geographical, and cultural setting of the two shows is starkly different, the basic premise of finding true love/ perfect husband is the same.
1. Anne With an E (2017 – 2019)
‘Anne With an E’ is adapted from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel ‘Anne of Green Gables’. It tells the heartwarming story of Anne Shirley Cuthbert, a cheerful and spirited orphan with an over-active imagination and a love of story-telling. ‘Anne With an E’ is similar to ‘Bridgerton’ in the way that both shows explore the reality of how women were seen in society and the place they held. Themes of “chastity”, “innocence”, and “reputation” run throughout in both the shows, as does the idea that women should not be opinionated in any matters of substance. Close-knit family and familial dynamics are pivotal in both the shows as well.
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