Netflix’s Bridgerton didn’t premiere until the last week of 2020, but it took only a few days to cement its status as one of the biggest shows of the year. The drama from Shonda Rhimes is set in 1800s London and packed with steamy romance between dapper dudes and gowned gals, all with accents to melt your insides, as they elbow each other on the social ladder of high society. By now you’ve torn through the first season and wondering when you’ll be able to see Season 2, but in the meantime, what should you watch after bingeing Bridgerton?
We’ve curated a list of shows featuring many of the elements found in Bridgerton, whether it be the sexiness of lustful hookups, copious amounts of scandal and gossip, or the surprisingly modern tone of historical dramas reworked for today’s audiences.
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Where to watch: Hulu
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.
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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 (five seasons so far, with a sixth upcoming) is on Starz, while earlier seasons are on Netflix.
Where to watch: HBO Max
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.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
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 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.
Where to watch: Apple TV+
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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 Apple TV+’s Dickinson is like a direct wormhole between today’s millennials and 19th century author Emily Dickinson. Emily, played by the wonderful up-and-comer 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.
Where to watch: Hulu
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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, with a second season coming soon.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
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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.
Where to watch: Hulu
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.
Bridgerton is now available on Netflix.