Roush Review: New Romance on ‘Bridgerton,’ Same Old Gossip | Entertainment News

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Beware of the romantic hero who declares, “Love will have no place in my marriage.” These are not fight words, rather eating words.

Not that anyone is hungry in Bridgerton, a jam-packed assortment of Regency period pranks masquerading as a steamy love story. Based on the novels by Julia Quinn, this deliberately over-the-top Shondaland series was a pandemic-era hit. While still beautifully produced, admirable in its color-blind diversity, and generally fun to watch, the show often feels like biting into fluffy cotton candy only to come away with a mouthful of sickening marzipan.

And here is a special truth about Bridgerton, dear gentle reader. Wealthy, inactive Bridgertons tend to be the most annoying people in any given ballroom. (That was pretty clear in Season 1, when the insipid Daphne Bridgerton was finally swept aside by Simon, the dashing Duke of Hastings, who is sadly nowhere to be found in Season 2, Régé-Jean Page having decided to take his eyes elsewhere. .) In Season 2, the focus now shifts to Daphne’s older brother, the pompous and arrogant and intermittently shirtless Viscount Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), who keeps saying that marriage is a business and has nothing to do with his closed heart. .

More fools him (and anyone who falls for the act), once he sets his sights on the new “diamond” of the social season, the wise Edwina (Charithra Chandran), an ingenue imported from India and prepared for the occasion. She longs for declarations of love, but Anthony’s beating heart (among other organs) is much more stimulated by Edwina’s stubborn sister, Kate (the fiery Simone Ashley, this season’s standout performer).

Like they’ve been channeling Shakespeare’s Benedick and Beatrice ever since A lot of noise for nothing (among other influences), Anthony and Kate constantly bicker, fueled by her fury at having listened to her amorous bluster. (I was in Kate’s corner from the moment she announced her contempt for British tea.) Before long – although “long” is in the eye of the beholder of those long-running Netflix series – Anthony begins to realize that he’s at least as excited as he’s made worse by Kate’s provocations. Plus, she rides a mean horse.

(Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix)

And that’s only half. Alas.

Plenty of other subplots await the kind viewer, most involving the unfortunates of nearby Featherington Estate. As the widowed and nearly penniless Baroness Portia, Polly Walker presides over her grotesque progeny of Featherington girls with a mercenary vulgarity so transparent I expected them to enter Rodgers & Hammerstein character songs. Cinderella. The sympathetic outlier in this house is wallflower Penelope (Nicola Coughlan), revealed at the end of season 1 as the anonymous author of Lady Whistledown’s infamous gossip dispatches (told by a funny Julie Andrews), a kind of Sneaky 19th century blog that keeps all ‘Tons on their toes.

The season’s other dominant line, besides the Anthony-Kate-Edwina melodrama, is Penelope’s desperate desire to keep her Whistledown identity a secret, especially from the vindictive Queen of England (a devious Golda Rosheuvel) and also of his Bridgerton BFF Eloise (Claudia Jessie), the family’s progressive upstart who becomes an increasingly boring business.

And this is the real scandal of Bridgerton: Try as he might, it’s no substitute for Jane Austen.

Bridgerton, Season premiere, Friday, March 25, Netflix

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