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Dig into more historical dramas with a romantic twist
Lady Whistledown will not be rushed. If you're pacing through your tastefully decorated gardens waiting for Netflix's Bridgerton to come back for Season 3, you should know the Regency-era romance hasn't set a return date just yet. Following a second season focused on the slow-burn romance between Kate (Simone Ashley) and Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), the third season will stray from the order of Julia Quinn's book series, jumping ahead to Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin's (Luke Newton) love story. It'll be worth the wait, but in the meantime, dear reader, you might be on the hunt for more shows like Bridgerton to pass the time.
Bridgerton grabbed us with all of its frothy, sexy romance, high-society D-R-A-M-A, and instrumental covers of Billie Eilish songs. We've curated a list of shows that feature many of the elements found in the hit Netflix series, like lustful hookups, copious amounts of scandal and gossip, and surprisingly modern historical dramas reworked for today's audiences.
If you like Bridgerton, you already know its prequel series is not to be missed, but let us make the royally obvious suggestion anyway. Queen Charlotte is the origin story of the young ruler (played in the Bridgerton era by Golda Rosheuvel and as a young woman by India Amarteifio) during the early days of her marriage to King George III (Corey Mylchreest). The relationship is as steamy, complicated, and tragic as you'd expect from Shonda Rhimes, who produces Bridgerton but takes a much more hands-on role as creator and writer here. You'll be thinking about the ending for days. -Kelly Connolly
This is an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' scandalous and timeless 18th century novel, which was something like the Bridgerton of its day in terms of how sexy it was. The series stars Nicholas Denton as Pascal and Alice Englert as Camille, impoverished lovers in Paris in the years just before the Revolution. Pascal has a plan to improve their fortunes that involves blackmailing Madame Geneviève de Merteuil (Lesley Manville), an older woman who rents his services. As you might expect, things do not go according to plan. It's a sexy historical drama that feels like it was greenlit in response to Bridgerton's popularity. Starz renewed it for Season 2 before Season 1 even premiered in 2022, but then changed its mind and canceled it. So there's only one season available, but if you love historical dramas, you may want to check it out anyway. -Liam Mathews
When Bridgerton first came out, people online could not stop talking about the fact that it was basically a pulpier version of Sanditon. Based on Jane Austen's final, unfinished novel, the Regency-era drama follows Charlotte (Rose Williams) as she moves to Sanditon, a small seaside village, and meets Sidney (Theo James), who she immediately clashes with in true Austenian fashion. There are so many things about this show Bridgerton fans will love, from the dramatic twists to the sexy romance to James' charming-yet-brooding performance as Sidney. Fun fact: The surge in popularity Sanditon received post-Bridgerton was actually pretty instrumental in saving the PBS series from cancellation. -Allison Picurro
If you're really into the Bridgerton time period but you're looking for something a little grittier, you should make Harlots your next watch. The series revolves around Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton), a brothel owner and mother of two daughters who relocates her business to a posh area of London in the hopes of attracting wealthier clientele. That move puts her directly at odds with a rival madam, Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), who runs an elite brothel that primarily serves the rich. There's plenty of scandal and rivalries and romance, but Harlots is also interesting for the way it normalizes sex work.
It turns out that 100 years after the events of Bridgerton, people were still horny in England. Amazon Prime Video's The Pursuit of Love is a three-episode miniseries written and directed by Emily Mortimer that stars Lily James and Emily Beecham as cousins and BFFs who come of age between the World Wars and drool over boys together, despite their wildly different personalities. Like many period pieces recently — especially Bridgerton — The Pursuit of Love is injected with modern sensibilities and zippy energy (Andrew Scott's character is introduced like he's the second coming of David Bowie), as well as an anachronistic soundtrack featuring New Order, T. Rex, and more. The lust of Bridgerton isn't nearly as present in The Pursuit of Love as it settles for crushes and chooses friendship over romance as its main focus, but the emotions are still there.
The show on this list that's probably most like Bridgerton — on paper, at least — is the Spanish series The Cook of Castmar, which debuted on Netflix in July 2021 after airing in its native country earlier in the year. Both shows are set in the days of wigs and extravagant dress (Castamar is set in 1720 Madrid, Bridgerton is set in 1813 London), and both are awfully frisky, with lust the preferred hobby of its wealthy, privileged characters. In The Cook of Castamar, a duke mourning the loss of his wife finds solace in a new cook who begins working in the manor's kitchen. She's an agoraphobe — she's scored of open spaces and the outdoors — so hopefully they get it on inside. While the sex in The Cook of Castamar is plentiful, there's a lot less actual nudity, so if that's what you're looking for, you might leave unsatisfied.
Hulu's The Great is a, uhh, great follow-up to Bridgerton, particularly if you're into the unexpected humor of Bridgerton. The series comes from screenwriter Tony McNamara, who previously proved that period pieces could be fun with his Oscar-nominated script for the film The Favourite, and follows a young Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) as she's shipped to Russia to marry Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) and ultimately overthrow him and rule on her own when her fantasies of a royally good time are crushed. It's not as steamy as Bridgerton, but it is a whole lot funnier, especially Hoult, who shines as the spoiled doofus bro emperor.
If corsets and puffy shirts (and the process of lustily tearing them off in a fit of horniness) get your juices flowing, then it's hard to top the steamy romance of Starz's Outlander. The adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's novels was gobbled up by rabid fans when it premiered in 2014, all eager to see pure-chunk-of-hunk Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a Scottish Highlander in the 1740s, grab World War II nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) in his arms and re-enact cover photos of romance novels that you see in the airport. A World War II nurse in the 1740s, you say? Yes, Outlander also has a bit of time-traveling sci-fi thrown into the mix, as Claire and Jamie's romance cannot be contained by the space-time continuum. The whole series (thus far) is on Starz, while earlier seasons are on Netflix.
Bridgerton is full of sex, scandal, and ladder-climbing, but what keeps it all chugging along is the voiceover from the anonymous Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews), who ramps up the pearl-clutching by feeding the town gossip in the form of a newsletter that tracks all the lasciviousness and comings and goings of high society. Her ability to influence the actions of the characters on screen is reminiscent of the Nosy Parker of The CW's Gossip Girl, a tittle-tattle who ran a blog that recounted the ins and outs of wealthy high school socialites in Manhattan. Bridgerton was wise to mimic the Gossip Girl device, as it constantly puts pressure on its characters to impress, or fail spectacularly trying to do so, while also providing a sip of mystery in determining who the narrator is. Gossip Girl is also worth a watch as it catapulted its young cast — Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford, Ed Westwick, and more — to stardom.
Jane Austen isn't the only author whose influence is plainly seen in Bridgerton. William Makepeace Thackeray took shots at British high society in his 1847 serial Vanity Fair, which was adapted by Amazon Prime Video in 2018's delightful seven-episode series of the same name. Less about the sex and more about the efforts of advancing among the elite, Vanity Fair stars House of the Dragon's Olivia Cooke as Becky Sharp, an extremely cunning and charming young woman who upends every idea of what a lady should be at the time as she elbows her way to the top, and Cooke is an absolute treasure in the role. Of course, Becky's plans get complicated when her heart gets in the way, thanks to leading man Tom Bateman.
If Bridgerton was your first binge of a period piece that's been unstuffed from the rigid stuffiness of the typical old-timey drama, then check out Apple TV+'s Dickinson, which is like a direct wormhole between today's millennials and 19th century author Emily Dickinson. Emily, played by the wonderful Hailee Steinfeld, has aspirations to become a famous writer, while her traditional parents (Toby Huss and Jane Krakowski) prefer she settle down and be a housewife. The timeless story and era-appropriate clothing and sets are injected with modernity through present-day music (full on blasting tracks, not the undercover string quartet covers that Bridgerton did) and dialogue (pretty sure they didn't say "stoked" back then), adding a fresh coat of paint to a genre otherwise reserved for the olds. Also of extreme importance, Wiz Khalifa appears as Emily's obsession, Death.
Another period drama about love in 1800s England, HBO's Gentleman Jack thankfully shows an alternative to the heteronormative romance and sexuality that dominates many of the other shows on this list. In a stirring performance, Suranne Jones portrays Anne Lister, a real historical figure who was a prominent landowner and industrialist. She also happened to be a lesbian, and courts her fellow landowner Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) while recording the courtship through a series of cryptic messages that only she can decode. The first season premiered in 2019 on HBO, and a second and final season arrived in 2022.
If it's sweeping romance with British accents that you're looking for, PBS's Poldark, with its endless sunsets, waves crashing on many rocky shores, and horseback rides along countless beaches, fits the bill. If it's a ridiculously handsome man with ripped abs walking shirtless out of the ocean that you also want, well, Poldark has that too. The series, now five seasons in, stars Aidan Quinn as Captain Ross Poldark, a Revolutionary War veteran who, after he was believed to have perished in the fight, returns home to Cornwall to find his girlfriend engaged to his cousin (oops) and his father dead. The series, based on Winston Graham's novels, moves at a blistering pace as Poldark rebuilds his life and finds new love and more reasons to take his shirt off.
Obviously Bridgerton isn't Shonda Rhimes' first shot at television, but instead of checking into Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, or How to Get Away With Murder, get embroiled in some Scandal. Scandal was Shonda's sexiest broadcast show, starring Kerry Washington as a fixer with her own crisis-management firm whose affair with a governor (Tony Goldwyn) gets even more heated and scandalous when he becomes president of the United States. It's got all the shocks and twists you're looking for, but a little bit more murder and political machinations.