Released last Christmas, Netflix‘s Bridgerton was a massive social phenomenon, watched across North America by huge numbers of people and discussed at length on social media and in the press. With a second season on the way, what other shows like Bridgerton are worth checking out?
The first season followed various families in Regency-era London in the 1800s. The well-to-do Bridgerton family is looking to marry off their daughters to maintain their social standing. This leads to a great deal of conflict and scandal. The series is narrated by Lady Whistledown, a mystery socialite who comments on the gossip of the day in her widely-read newsletter, entertaining her readers with the implicit threat that they could be her next target.
Read on for a list of shows like Bridgerton that you might enjoy as we wait for Netflix to release the second season.
Apple TV Plus
Bridgerton is all about how one ought to behave in polite society, and it puts a modern spin on a period drama. In that way, Apple TV Plus’ Dickinson is an absolute must-watch among shows like Bridgerton. The fictional telling of Emily Dickinson’s teen years is a terrific show, with Hailee Steinfeld shining in the title role. While Bridgerton takes place in England and Dickinson is a distinctly American story, they are both set in the 1800s, with contemporary soundtracks and a focus on how young women are expected to behave. The biggest point of crossover is Eloise Bridgerton, who, like Emily Dickinson, wishes to break free from the limitations imposed on her as a young woman. Emily is a poet, but her father wishes to see her married rather than wasting her time and threatening his reputation with her artistic pursuits.
While there’s no time travel in Bridgerton, it does bear some similarities to Starz’s fan-favorite historical romance Outlander. When a World War II nurse finds herself transported to 1700s Scotland, she marries a handsome Scottish Highlander out of necessity. Their marriage of convenience soon makes way for genuine affection and, notably, lustful attraction. If the steamy romance of Bridgerton left you wanting more, Outlander may be for you. The series is full of battles and swashbuckling, unlike Bridgerton. That means you don’t have to worry that it’ll just be more of the same.
The Great is a black comedy about the early days of Catherine the Great as she acclimates to life in Russia with her new husband. Catherine struggles to get used to the bizarre social conventions and strict expectations imposed on her. If you enjoy the historical pageantry of Bridgerton — and the many attempts to circumvent social norms — then The Great is likely right in your wheelhouse. Pitch-perfect performances by Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult make this essential viewing in its own right. But it’s especially worth a watch for anyone looking for shows like Bridgerton.
A little grittier and more risqué than Bridgerton, Harlots nevertheless does feel of a kind with the Netflix period drama. It deals with class divisions, social scandal, and, yes, steamy sexual encounters. A woman running a brothel in 18th-century London decides to relocate to a higher class part of town in an attempt to provide a better life for the sex workers in her employ. The move puts her at odds with a rival brothel madam already settled there, though. Of course, both women have even bigger problems in the form of religious evangelists and ruthless cops. Where Bridgerton explores how young women can rise in society via marriage, Harlots looks at the ways women can take control of their lives via sex work.
One of the most obvious reference points for Bridgerton’s Lady Whistledown is the eponymous Gossip Girl from the iconic teen soap opera of the late 2000s. In Gossip Girl a mystery person posts gossip about their classmates at a Manhattan prep school. Students go about their social lives never sure when they might end up in Gossip Girl’s crosshairs. Like Bridgerton, the show is narrated by the mystery gossipmonger. And like Bridgerton, that narration is provided by an actress other than the eventually revealed pot-stirrer. The 2021 reboot of the show is less invested in protecting the identity of the titular Gossip Girl, but it also bears some similarities to Bridgerton if you want even more.
Based on the collected diaries of the real-life landowner and industrialist Anne Lister, written in code, Gentleman Jack tells the story from her own perspective. Remarkably, Lister was an out lesbian in England in the 1800s. That put her at odds with many moral crusaders at the time. It also meant she got to lead a free and fulfilling life without hiding who she really was. Much like Bridgerton, Gentleman Jack casts a critical eye at social norms and expectations, particularly those imposed on women. It is a celebration of living one’s own truth despite overwhelming pressures and a neverending gossip mill.
From Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey (itself not a bad contender among shows like Bridgerton) comes Belgravia. The Epix miniseries series follows high-society families in London’s posh Belgravia district in 1841. It tells the story of the Trenchards, who, despite an elevated social standing, harbor a secret that could be ruinous. In 1815 in Brussels, on the eve of Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, their daughter fell in love with a lord and sole heir to a family fortune and estate. Years later, the child born of that illicit union and raised in an adoptive family could tip the balance of power and privilege. But not without a major scandal.
Bridgerton and Vanity Fair share more than just a main actor in the form of Claudia Jessie. Based on the classic novel of the same name by William Makepeace Thackeray, Amazon’s Vanity Fair tells the story of Becky Sharp, an unemployed teacher who sets about winning over her friend’s oafish, wealthy brother. Just as Bridgerton offers ceremonies and rituals designed for marrying off young women and winning them a chance at climbing the social ladder, Vanity Fair explores the absurd lengths one must go to for a better life in the early 1800s, just before the more restrictive and oppressive Victorian era.