Bridgerton: Pride and Prejudice Meets Erotica – Netflix Review

It’s got all the stuffy parties but also sex under the bleachers.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s the Regency (the period from 1811 to 1820 when King George III was still king but too crazy to rule) and all of the upper class Londoners are preparing for “the Season” (the time from March-August when the wealthy move into the city to party together). However, this year, there appears to be a new guest at all of the parties: the mysterious author Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews), who seems to be dispensing all of the gossip, despite her (or his) anonymity. 

Meet the Bridgertons. They’re like you, but rich and classy.

The series focuses mostly on the Bridgerton family, consisting of mother and Viscountess Violet (Ruth Gemmell), and her many children: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth (Jonathan Bailey, Luke Thompson, Luke Newton, Phoebe Dynevor, Claudia Jessie, Ruby Stokes, Will Tilston, and Florence Hunt). They interact frequently with the Featheringtons, consisting of Baron and Baroness Featherington (Ben Miller and Polly Walker) and their daughters: Philipa, Prudence, and Penelope (Harriet Cains, Bessie Carter, Nicola Coughlan) and the daughter of a cousin, Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker). Desiring an eligible suitor for marriage, Daphne Bridgerton enters into an agreement to fake a courtship with a rakish Duke, Simon Basset (Rege-Jean Page), and the lives of both families will never be the same. 

END SUMMARY

This show is like crack to me and I both hate and love that fact. On its surface, this show would seem to be a guilty pleasure, teeming with lurid scenes of sexuality which can be enjoyed by people of any gender and preference (except possibly asexuals, but they still get to enjoy the awesomeness that is Eloise). However, much like with Game of Thrones (prior to the last season) or Perry Mason, the erotic scenes are only the icing on a cake comprised of fantastic writing, excellent performances, and some of the best costume and set work I’ve seen in a while. You’d think I would recoil from comparing erotica to icing, but such a thing is for people with shame, not people like me.

This is not an erotic scene, but… abs.

Speaking of shameless, it’s hard to describe this show without using the word “horny.” Everyone in this show is pretty damned hot for someone else, but live in a society where anything more than the most innocent contact is considered to make one a pariah. This is despite the fact that, naturally, a ton of people break the rules in secret. So, a lot of the series is focused on keeping up appearances versus giving into one’s natural desires. Particularly between Daphne and Simon, the main focus of the first season.

If you’ve watched the show, you know why I put a staircase here.

I don’t know if it’s the quality of the actors or just pure luck, but the chemistry between the two central characters is exactly what you would want for this kind of show. They play off of each other naturally both physically and verbally and they absolutely scream “want to bone” in almost every scene. If you’re not shouting “JUST F*CK ALREADY” by episode three, you probably are watching the wrong show. I also appreciate that their relationship is not a typical TV “will they/won’t they?” The pair move forward at a reasonable pace and come to a satisfying conclusion. My understanding is that this is because each of the books in this series focuses on a different member of the Bridgerton family, so this season was Daphne’s. Hopefully next season they do Eloise, as she is the most interesting of the sisters. 

They are so damned good together.

At first I was going to give this show credit for its race-blind casting, only for the show to reveal that it isn’t really race blind, it’s just that a historical event went a little differently and race relations in England have dramatically improved. I don’t know that it was necessary to actually explain the reasons, but either way I credit the show for being able to cast a show from the Regency without having it look like every other historical drama. 

This is the queen. She rules.

Overall, really good show. Recommend it strongly. 

THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN THAT LIVES ON MY SOFA

I’m not a period piece person. I never saw Downton Abbey. I will go to the Renaissance Faire to support my friends, but if we’re going to cosplay a more regressive age I’d rather wear a 1950s dress and drink whiskey. (Incidentally, the only period TV show I can recall being seriously into is Mad Men.) The stiff way characters speak and conduct themselves on these shows can be hard for me to relate to. Also, everyone was actually very dirty and peed on the floor at royal events in this age (seriously, look it up!) But my Twitter feed was lighting up about Bridgerton in the early days of this year, and so I wanted to check it out.

You’ll have strong feelings about Marina.

Bridgerton felt perfect for quarantine (pre-insurrection, at least.) Pretty dresses, fancy parties, gossip, insatiable longing, all the things we can’t have right now, except for the insatiable longing. It’s great television: it has razor-sharp dialogue, it’s funny, it’s sexy, it has gorgeous costumes and sets, it employs women writers and a diverse, talented cast. There’s definitely a lot going on in the subtext, but the show does get to some real conversations about navigating a patriarchal society, the dire consequences of a lack of sexual education, how out of touch the ruling class is with the regular people…oh, and sex. They do get to have sex on the show, so that’s fun.

Oh yeah.

There are some question marks. It’s so exciting to see a period piece with a diverse cast, and originally I assumed they were going for “race-blind” casting and I was like, okay, sure! Just cast people who aren’t white in some of these roles they wouldn’t previously be considered for! And then they drop a line in the show that suggests race *is* a factor in the world of the show? Not sure where that is going, since it wasn’t really followed up on in this season. There is a notoriously controversial plotline that involves consent, having honest and open discussions with a potential partner about your expectations, and the consequences of a lack of sexual education. It’s a little frustrating that they bring up all this stuff and it’s resolved in a way that doesn’t really emphasize the importance of open communication. The chemistry between the characters is so strong that it didn’t really bother me in the moment, but it’s obviously struck a nerve for a lot of people, and rightfully so. Overall I think the show has a very strong start for a first season, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 7 “Kerblam!”

The Doctor investigates a definitely-not-owned-by-Jeff-Bezos property.

SUMMARY

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) receives a package containing a familiar fez from Kerblam!, the galaxy’s largest supplier of consumer goods. Which galaxy, I don’t know, but one of them. Inside the package is a note requesting help, so the Doctor and the TARDIS Trio (I will never stop fighting for this) head to the main distribution center for Kerblam! and sneak in claiming to be new employees. It’s revealed that 90% of Kerblam! is automated, but, by law, 10% of the workers are organic life. It’s also revealed that Kerblam! wasn’t exactly happy about having to hire 10% human workers, because, as the largest employer in the galaxy, they’d rather just use robots. Graham, Ryan, and Yaz (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill) meet three of the workers in the facility: Dan (Lee Mack), a stock man and literal poster boy for the company who works for his kids; Kira (Claudia Jessie), a member of dispatch noted for her clumsiness; and Charlie (Leo Flanagan), a maintenance worker in love with Kira.

E7 - 1Dan.png
Admittedly, it’s not the best poster.

While the Trio is meeting the rest of the staff, the Doctor meets with Judy and Jarva (Julie Hesmondhaigh and Callum Dixon), the HR managers, who deny any involvement in the recent string of workplace disappearances. The Doctor suspects that it may be the plant’s artificial intelligence trying to get rid of all of the human workers or a malfunction. Dan disappears in the middle of an order, leaving behind only the unbreakable necklace he received from his kid. When Kira goes missing, the Doctor tracks her to the main delivery floor, where she finds evidence of numerous murders and an army of delivery robots, called TeamMates, holding packages. The Doctor speaks directly to the Kerblam! AI, which reveals that it was actually the one that called for help, suspecting that someone was trying to kill off the workers and sabotage the workforce.

E7 - 2Twirly.png
She talks to the AI through “Twirly” and it’s adorable.

Yaz, Ryan, and Charlie find Kira just in time to watch her blow up after playing with the bubble wrap, something Charlie clearly knew would happen, even if he didn’t want it. The Doctor realizes that the army of TeamMates is delivering weaponized bubble wrap which will kill millions of people. Charlie reveals that he’s the one behind the plan, believing that if he causes a massive death from the automated workers that people will demand more human oversight and involvement in the company. The Doctor realizes that this was what the AI was trying to prevent and uses the AI to cause all of the TeamMates to pop their own bubble wrap, destroying the facility and killing Charlie who refuses to leave. After the incident, Judy and Jarva resolve to try to rebuild the company with more human workers.

E7 - 3Army.png
Unsurprisingly, half of those boxes contain drunk purchases.

END SUMMARY

So, it’s the Doctor in a dystopia, which we’ve seen used to varying levels of success in the past. This one is definitely in the upper half in terms of quality, but not the best.

First, the pros:

The fact that this is a clear parody of Amazon comes through immediately, but the truth is that Amazon becoming a mostly-automated monopoly and wrecking any number of industries is a completely understandable concern as of this writing (if you’re reading this in the future, Hail Emperor Bezos). So, the fact that they’re basically just showing us a slightly-sci-fi version of a real and imminent problem makes the dystopia feel much more grounded and relevant. The episode even hints at the idea that the corporation is evil or that the technology is evil or that the HR people are secretly evil, then rejects all of the expected answers. They don’t give us the easy message of “big company bad,” but instead they have the Doctor explicitly point out that the system itself isn’t bad, it’s how people use it that needs to change. I give them credit for acknowledging that the service that Amaz-sorry Kerblam!- provides is actually useful and efficient, even if it can be misused in the name of profits.

E7 - 4Kerblam.png
Yes. This totally doesn’t resemble any other company. Lawsuit averted.

The supporting characters in this episode are all great. Charlie is a complex antagonist, both because he has real emotions that are unrelated to his plan and because his plan isn’t born out of malice but out of desperation and concern for the future of his people. Is he a terrorist? Absolutely, by definition, but he also is shown to at least have some logical reason to believe what he does, which makes him more than just a mustache-twirling bad guy. Kira and Dan, too, are both likeable and portrayed realistically, both being people who are just trying to do the best that they can for themselves and their families. That’s what makes it so much more devastating when both of them die horribly to Charlie’s plan.

And btw, that’s a pro in my book. This episode was willing to make us like two characters, kill them both off, then got us to kind of understand why the guy who killed them was willing to do it even if he regretted it a lot. And yeah, this is brutal, she’s literally torn apart.

Each of the companions and the Doctor herself each got nice scenes exploring their histories or personalities while they interacted with the new characters, with Ryan being able to talk about his past work in a similar position and Graham being able to talk to Charlie about his past experience with love. They’re all solid elements of the episode.

Also, booby-trapped bubble wrap is hilarious and messed up at the same time and just… brilliant.

E7 - 7Bubblewrap.png
WHO COULD RESIST????

Now for the cons:

Kira’s death gets mostly overlooked, emotionally. I can get that Charlie is used to making compromise, but he pretty much gets over killing her quickly because the episode is running out of time. I mean, we spent much longer on establishing that he’s in love with her than we spend on him even reacting to his accidentally murdering her.

The designs of the TeamMates joins the “too creepy for the job you gave it” category in Doctor Who robots. These things look creepier than the generation 1 drone that used to deliver everything and I think if one of them showed up at my door I would empty at least 2 rounds into it just out of an abundance of precaution. It helps when they end up doing some creepy-esque things, but since they aren’t the ultimate bad guys and, honestly, are trying to help, it seems like no one would ever have made them look this way.

E7 - 8Teammate.png
KILL IT WITH FIRE AND BULLETS!!!!

Everything that’s slightly over-reaching about the company itself, including making employees wear GPS monitors, doesn’t really get followed up on much. I guess because, as the show points out, companies now do that in real life and no one seems to care much.

The finale implies that Charlie’s act of terrorism works and convinces two people to change Kerblam!’s business practices and now people will have jobs and puppies and unicorn wands, etc. This is somewhat unsatisfying in an episode that prior to now had been fairly realistic in how the company had worked. Now, I’m not saying that Judy and Jarva hadn’t learned something, but I am saying that the company is much bigger than them and, if they decided that 90:10 was the best ratio of workers before, the company’s overseers will likely want that ratio back, but with more security. Hell, arguably, they should lobby to get rid of the humans because the AI tried to SAVE people while the human tried to commit MASS MURDER. It just didn’t sit right with me.

Overall, this was a pretty solid episode. There are some great images, some great concepts, solid guest characters, and I admit that I love the company name “Kerblam!”

I give it an A-.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.