Bridgerton (3 stars)


Visually exciting but narratively beige adaptation of a popular period novel series

A lavish Regency drama launched entirely on Christmas Day: what could be more festive? Bridgerton should really fit lots of bills with its diverse cast, a mystery at its core (exactly who is the anonymous Lady Whistledown whose gossip columns about high society figures are a constant source of embarrassment?) and a score featuring modern tunes being played by chamber orchestras (plus two healthy slices of Max Richter's recomposed Four Seasons). But despite its obvious attractions, all that seems to be going on throughout its eight episodes is a line of ostentatiously-dressed people trying to cop off with some other ostentatiously-dressed person.

Julia Quinn's series of novels from 2000 onwards about the Bridgerton and Featherington families certainly found a readership with one fan happening to be Shonda Rhimes, who has produced this version as part of her shiny new Netflix deal. There are various strands to the main will-they-or-won't-they 'intrigue' between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and the troubled Simon Basset aka Duke Of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), but they pretty much all involve a chap and a lady trying to hook up. The only thing stopping this from getting unbearably tedious in the opening few episodes are gloriously framed and shot scenes, one after the other, each one infused with almost every colour in the rainbow.

Amid a cast of mainly young-ish types, there's sterling back-up provided by veterans such as Polly Walker, Adjoa Andoh, Ben Miller and Ruth Gemmell, while the narration from Lady Whistledown comes from Julie Andrews (the final revelation of her actual identity is a genuine surprise). Shondaland might be reaping the rewards of a blockbuster slice of fluff such as Bridgerton, but many sections of its audience might feel a little short-changed.

Netflix, Friday 25 December.