Bridgerton is that rare show that successfully takes a familiar genre like period romance and totally turns it on its head: In addition to amazing costumes, beautiful locations and sizzling chemistry between the two will-they-or-won’t-they leads (Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page), it features a diverse cast, pop music and explicit sex from a female gaze. From the romance novels by Julia Quinn and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes in her first Netflix production, this delicious concoction hits audiences’ sweet spot as the frothy, fun television escape viewers are looking for right now—63 million of them, according to Netflix.
But what are viewers to do after bingeing all eight episodes of Bridgerton? While we wait for a yet-to-be-confirmed Season 2, check out these shows like Bridgerton with a similar appeal.
Bridgerton harkens back to the era of Jane Austen—so what’s more fitting than revisiting the OG author herself? Based on her final, unfinished manuscript, this story takes place in the seaside resort of Sanditon, where innocent country girl Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) meets the brooding rake Sidney Parker (Theo James, in a role not unlike Bridgerton’s Simon). Sanditon also features Austen’s only Black character, Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke), an heiress from the Caribbean.
The gold standard for female-gaze sex on the small screen, Outlander broke barriers with its no-holds-barred depiction of the romance between 18-century Scottish laird Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and time-traveling World War II nurse Claire (Caitriona Balfe). Like Bridgerton, Outlander defies genre descriptions, with strong character development following the dramatic ups and downs of their relationship.
Before the Lady Whistledown of television (voiced by Julie Andrews), there was Gossip Girl, the anonymous millennial blogger voiced by Kristen Bell, who held sway over the upper class of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But who exactly is Gossip Girl, and how does she know everything about their secrets and scandals? Unlike Lady Whistledown, whose real identity is revealed at the end of Bridgerton’s first season, viewers have to wait for the series finale at the end of Season 6 for the Gossip Girl reveal—and in the books the show is based on, her identity is never uncovered. A reboot of the show will premiere on HBO Max sometime in 2021.
If you’re looking for a passionate love story between opposites-attract main characters similar to Bridgerton, check out the 18th-century romance of Poldark. Thinking he has perished in war, the first love of Captain Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) marries another—but can Poldark’s revenge sex and marriage with his new kitchen wench Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) turn into the real thing? Although the lovemaking is not explicit like Bridgerton’s, there’s no denying the intensity of their relationship.
Bridgerton features England’s real-life Queen Charlotte—for more of the inner workings of the British royal family, check out this hit Netflix series featuring the current UK monarch, Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy in the first two seasons and Olivia Colman in the second two). Viewers can go inside the lives and loves of the Windsor family from the early days of the Queen’s marriage to Prince Philip (Matt Smith, later Tobias Menzies) to the stormy relationship between Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin).
Bridgerton isn’t “race blind” in its casting; instead, it imagines a world in which Black people are integrated into upper-class society in Regency England. This non-musical version of Victor Hugo’s massive novel Les Misérables, about the plight of the poor in 19th-century France, also features a diverse cast, but puts them in traditionally white roles without discussion of race. It’s a different, more inclusive approach to the source material than has been seen before. Lily Collins, Dominic West and David Oyelowo star.
As in Bridgerton, the rules of society—and its requisite scandals—are front and center in this period drama based on the novel by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. The scandalous sex in the show isn’t explicitly shown, but plays a huge part in the plot of the story. Interestingly, though, the young love interests, Lady Maria Grey (Ella Purnell) and Charles Pope (Jack Bardoe), take a backseat to the show’s mothers, new money Anne Trenchard (Tamsin Greig) and old money Countess of Brockenhurst (Harriet Walter).
Speaking of Downton Abbey, any collection of period romances would be incomplete without the upstairs-downstairs saga of the aristocratic Crawley family. Taking place more than a century after Bridgerton, societal rules are still in full effect for the English elite—an early episode has unmarried Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) enlisting her mother and her lady’s maid to help cover up the death of a man who mysteriously died in her bed. And that’s only the start for this soapy six-season series.
If you liked the revisionist look at history and genre-bending twists of Bridgerton, watch The Great, a satirical look at young 18th-century Russian empress Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning). Legends about Catherine focus on her sexual prowess—but could such tales actually be gossip invented by those threatened by a powerful woman? This anti-historical series plays with that notion, as she plots to murder her doofus husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult).
For more Shondaland intrigue, watch the political thriller Scandal, which ran for seven seasons on ABC. Crisis management expert Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), a “fixer” for politicians’ scandals, deals with corruption, unabashed power-grabbing, and even murder behind closed doors of the highest offices of the U.S. government in Washington, DC. The show also tackles issues of race and gender equality.
Like Bridgerton, this is a historical drama like you’ve never seen before—except Gentlemen Jack is based on a true story. Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) is ahead of her time: She’s a female property owner, businesswoman and lesbian in early 19th-century England. There are those who don’t particularly like her bucking social conventions, but perhaps the most unconventional thing about Lister is how sure of herself she is. With a cheekily irreverent attitude, occasionally breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience, Gentleman Jack takes a humorous approach to a time of prejudice.
Period romances are often set in England, but this one instead takes viewers to India in the 18th-century colonial period. The locations and sets are beautiful—but instead of simply romanticizing colonialism (although some critics argued there was still too much of that), this show from creator/director/producer Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) features fleshed out Indian characters as well as English as it explores issues of class and race—and whether the people of India should be governing themselves.
If you’re wondering where you’ve seen Bridgerton’s leading lady, Phoebe Dynevor, before, it could be on this comedy series. The show, which takes place in the world of New York City’s publishing industry, is a far cry from Regency England—but still deals with social norms, secrets and gorgeously outrageous fashion. Viewers, though, have to wait until season three to spot Dynevor, who plays Clare, Josh’s Irish baby mama/green card wife.
For the People
And what about Simon, the Duke of Hastings—where can you see more of Regé-Jean Page? Check out Rhimes’ short-lived ABC legal drama For the People. Page was part of an ensemble cast portraying a group of young lawyers in a New York federal court, both for the defense and the prosecution. The show followed their high-stakes cases as well as their private lives outside of the courtroom.
If you liked the fresh, contemporary feel of Bridgerton, this innovative take on the life of poet Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld) will be right up your alley. It might be set in the the 1850s, but this show is unapologetically anachronistic, with teens using modern dialogue, twerking to hip hop music, and experimenting with drugs. Add in Death played by Wiz Khalifa, and you’ve got a totally unique take on a literary legend. Season 2 also adds more Black characters to the diverse cast as the show moves toward the Civil War.
The Spanish Princess
The life of famous English king and womanizer Henry VIII is well-trodden territory, but this series looks at the Tudor era from a different, female perspective: that of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope). The two-season series (and sequel to The White Princess and The White Queen) also features some pretty hot sex between the young king and his bride, until their passionate love story descends into resentment, madness and, eventually, divorce. Notable secondary storylines include Catherine’s lady-in-waiting Lina (Stephanie Levi-John) and her soldier husband, Oviedo (Aaron Cobham): Based on real people, the couple faces racism and religious intolerance, as they are Black and he is Muslim.
Social-climbing, flawed antihero Becky Sharp (Olivia Cooke) has always stood out from her fellow 19-century literary heroines for her devious schemes and wily ways, so she couldn’t be more different from Bridgerton’s Daphne. But like Bridgerton, the latest adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel plays up the story’s contemporary themes, and Cooke’s performance gives a potentially unlikeable, amoral character just enough humanity for viewers to thoroughly enjoy her ride to the top. Plus, Bridgerton’s Claudia Jessie (who plays Eloise Bridgerton) also appears as Becky’s best friend.
The English Game
If you enjoyed watching Bridgerton with your significant other (sex scenes are definitely a way to get men to watch period love stories) try this series from creator Julian Fellowes. Instead of sex, though, this show lures male partners with a sports story—in this case, specifically soccer, or “football,” as the English say. The series, set in the sport’s early days in the late 19th century, also encompasses class struggles as well as the social and gender issues of the time.
This is the most outrageous female-driven show about dueling brothels in 18th-century England you’ve probably never heard of. The three-season series features lots of sex, albeit mostly of the paid-for kind, but it’s not gratuitous—the entire show is done from a female perspective. While Bridgerton and most period pieces focus on the threat for young women of being banished from good society, Harlots actually depicts the lives of these “fallen” women, who beat the patriarchy at their own game. The diverse cast also reminds viewers that it wasn’t just white people who lived in England at the time.
From brothels to Buckingham Palace: This series takes a look at the young Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman), desperately in love with her husband, Albert (Tom Hughes), but who also doesn’t want to be a just a baby-making factory at a time when the main job of royal women was to birth heirs. Although the show follows more traditional period storytelling, Victoria isn’t the stodgy widow of her later years—and in fact, her real-life diaries, which the series is partially based on, reveal a perky, fun-loving girl whose innermost thoughts might even make Lady Whistledown blush.
If you enjoyed the family dynamics of the Bridgerton brood, check out Ava DuVernay’s drama Queen Sugar. Set in present-day Louisiana, it’s not a period piece like Bridgerton, yet explores some of the same complex feelings of sibling rivalry, as the Bordelon brother and sisters come together to take over their family’s sugar cane farm after their father’s death. The show also focuses on issues of racial injustice and the legacy of slavery.
Pride and Prejudice
Bridgerton’s Simon and Daphne owe their greatest debt for their witty banter and tempestuous relationship to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice. So no curated list of Bridgerton-like shows would be complete without a mention of perhaps the most famous P&P adaptation (which has absolutely nothing to do with a dripping wet Colin Firth emerging from a lake), the 1995 miniseries. Although the graphic sex is, well, nonexistent, the sexual tension between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is palpable—and one can only imagine what these two get up to on their long-awaited wedding night.
Can’t get enough Bridgerton? Find out how the Bridgerton show is different from the books—plus author Julia Quinn shares her favorite change!