Since its premiere on Christmas Day 2020, Netflix’s Bridgerton has continued to make headlines for its high viewership. In late January, Variety reported that the show became the most watched on Netflix ever with 82 million people having watched (approximately 41% of Netflix’s subscriber base). What about the show could have drawn such a large viewership? Using EmotionalDNA, we can start to understand the unique appeal of the series.
The show, whose first season is based on the first book in the Bridgerton series, The Duke and I by Julia Quinn, tells the story of the oldest Bridgerton daughter as she falls in love with the Duke of Hastings while navigating her debut on the “marriage market” in a fantasy Regency-era England. With its combination of dreamy romance and colorfully reimagined period sets and costumes, it’s no wonder that Sexy, Romantic, and Glamorous are among the Top 5 Attributes for the show.
Not only is Romantic the show’s highest attribute, but Bridgerton is also the #1 most Romantic show in the database. It surpasses both dating reality shows like Love is Blind and staples of romance in the TV landscape like Outlander and Jane the Virgin (the former by a margin of 8% – which is highly unusual). Outlander, consistently the most romantic show in the landscape, has fallen to second for the first time in two years.
Not only is it the most Romantic show in 2021, but Bridgerton is the most Romantic show ever tracked in EmotionalDNA. While many romantic shows have taken multiple seasons to increase their Romantic score over time, Bridgerton has come right out of the gates at 63.3%, the highest ever.
How did a show achieve such a high score so quickly out of the gates?
One theory surrounds Bridgerton’s depiction of intimacy. Intimacy has always been a staple component among the top Romantic titles. However, it is not enough to just include explicit intimacy. Due to the high proportion of women who watch Romantic shows, intimacy scenes with equal power dynamics are more likely to accrue a high Romantic score. Other premium cable titles like Game of Thrones and Billions aren’t even in consideration for their romance – intimacy is a plot device, and often used to explore power dynamics. Bridgerton makes these scenes positive, light, and equal between partners.
As the world opens up and shows go back into production, it’s worth wondering if other shows will go for the same approach. Bridgerton appears to have conveyed Romance in such a resounding way that it may be a tough act to follow. There’s even a question that Bridgerton itself won’t be able to recreate the same magic as Regé-Jean Page, the breakout star and main player in much of the romance and intimacy, will not be returning for a second season. Without him, many fans are wondering if Bridgerton will remain as sweepingly romantic as it was. Regardless, if series are hoping to put love and romance at the center of their show, taking cues from Bridgerton’s first season may be a step in the right direction.