The Best Romance Shows to Watch While Waiting for Bridgerton Season 2
By Leah Groth
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Period pieces about royals and romance are nothing new. But never have they been quite as addictive as Bridgerton, now streaming on Netflix. The Shonda Rhimes-produced series based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling novels, set during London’s regency era, was streamed over 82 million times during its first month on Netflix, making it the most-watched Netflix show ever.
So what is the secret to Bridgerton’s streaming success? The saucy and scandalous series that introduced us to the epic love story between high society good girl Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and the dark, dashing and mysterious Duke of Hastings Simon Basset (Rege-Jean Page) has pretty much every ingredient needed to capture an audience—from courting at opulent balls and the most amazing costumes and sets to a whole lot of sex and scandal, and even a gossip girl who loves to expose everyone’s secrets.
If you are like most and have already binge-watched the first season of the addictive-as-candy Netflix original series and are waiting (impatiently) for season two, here’s the bad news: You might have to wait until 2022 to get your next fix. However, if you're a fan of the romance genre, historical romance shows, period drama shows and love itself, there are plenty of hot, romantic TV shows ready to fill the void and give your weekends on the couch purpose.
Years before Bridgerton’s NFSW sex scenes steamed up the screen, Outlander, another romance book series-to-show, had viewers blushing. Lucky for you, there are five seasons of this binge-worthy time-traveling Starz hit, that follows modern day married woman Claire Randall as she accidentally stumbles back to the 1700s and falls hard for Scot warrior Jamie Fraser. And, of course, there is a lot of romping going on between the sheets, as she travels back and forth between two drastically different husbands.
Darren Star created this show to satiate our need for a New York City girl power a la Sex and the City. Like Bridgerton, you will be obsessed with the clothes, scenery and scandals following a group of women rising to the top of the publishing world. Along the way they have no problem challenging societal norms and getting involved in some pretty taboo relationships.
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If you haven’t experienced the British aristocracy Downton Abbey-style, you're missing out. This wildly popular 2010 series revived the interest in the English upper crust. While it takes place over a hundred years after Bridgerton, similar societal clashes, scandals and romances will keep you entertained hour-upon-hour.
Just like Bridgerton, True Blood is largely focused on the romance between a good girl and bad boy—only the latter happens to be a blood-sucking vampire. There is no lack of skin in the show, and the chemistry between TV couple and real life husband-and-wife Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer is undeniable.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII, who managed to tally up six wives during his 55 years of life, is enough to keep you hooked on this four-season series. This Showtime gem focuses on his early life and there are a whole lot of sizzling bedroom scenes between the hot actor and Natalie Dormer, who plays his second wife Anne Boleyn—prior to him having her executed, of course.
Netflix’s The Crown pays homage to the British Royal family, starting before Queen Elizabeth II took to the throne and continuing through the decades. While the cast is replaced every two seasons (even royalty ages, after all) the amount of scandal and drama refuses to disappoint. And you don’t want to miss the current Season 4, chronicling the courtship and marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, aka Princess Diana.
Sex sells in this Hulu series that takes place around the same time as Bridgerton, but focuses on how the other not-so-high-society half of Londonders live. It centers around a female brothel owner attempting to give her daughters a better life while managing sex workers and fighting off her ruthless rival, a madam willing to go to any lengths to sabotage her business.
If you haven’t binged Sex and the City in the last couple years, there is no better time seeing as though the revival is currently in production. This show has so many of the same themes as Bridgerton, including friends, fashion, feminism, a witty writer, lots of sex and an obsession with finding Mr. Right.
You won’t be able to stop watching this steamy political series courtesy of Bridgerton producer Rhimes. Kerry Washington stars as Washington D.C. scandal fixer Olivia Pope, whose life is even more taboo than her clients, as she hops in and out of bed with the President of the United States.
An oldie but goodie, Desperate Housewives is a Bridgerton-esque dramedy that follows the women who live, gossip, have lots of sex with men who aren’t their husbands—and kill—on the fictional Wisteria Lane.
There are no ladies and dukes in the Northern California town of Virgin River, where this Netflix series starring Martin Henderson and Alexandra Breckenridge is set. And, the scenery is more trees and rivers than parlors and ballrooms. However, the fireworks between townie Jack Sheridan and newcomer Melinda "Mel" Monroe, who moves to the picturesque small town to escape her big city demons, are explosive. And, like Bridgerton, this book-to-series also has its fair share of scandal, gossip and even crime.
This genre-bending, comedic ride through 18th century Russia stars Elle Fanning as a young Catherine the Great, who refuses to be the heir-producing royal that her hot but dangerous husband, Emperor Peter III played by Nicolas Hoult, desires. Expect lots of big, dazzling ball gowns, sassy dialogue, sex and even a little murder.
While there are no accents in this American legal drama, it stars a real life royal, the Duchess of Sussex. Well, maybe she was simply Meghan Markle back in 2011 when she first started channeling Rachel Zane in the biggest acting role of her career. But, you might become just as obsessed with her onscreen romance with the show’s leading character, Mike Ross (played by Patrick Adams) as well as the feminist force that drives her, as you are with fearless woman who married a prince and refused to sit quietly in the palace.
This whimsical Darren Star series about a beautiful expat in Paris was a favorite of 2020, nabbing a few Golden Globe nominations. Like most of Star’s female-dominated shows, expect fierce fashions, higher heels, witty banter and lots of romance, as Emily (Lily Collins) struggles to find her place in the City of Light’s marketing world.
Jane Austen buffs will appreciate this single-season series based on the beloved Brit author’s unfinished manuscript. It takes place in the same era as Bridgerton, only in the seaside town of Sanditon. While you will still get a lot of the romance and similarly sexy banter and ballroom dance scenes to boot, the show is much more PG in comparison.
Set in England but in the 1950s, Grantchester will appeal to the CSI set who appreciate a good period piece. While you still get a smoking hot protagonist played by the dashing James Norton, instead of chasing tail he focuses most of his efforts on catching bad guys.