HomeGeneralNBC’s New ‘Bridgerton’-Inspired Dating Show ‘The Courtship’ Is a Regency Riot

NBC’s New ‘Bridgerton’-Inspired Dating Show ‘The Courtship’ Is a Regency Riot

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NBC’s New ‘Bridgerton’-Inspired Dating Show ‘The Courtship’ Is a Regency Riot

 

NBC’s new reality dating competition show The Courtship, which premiered Sunday, is essentially The Bachelorette with Jane Austen cosplay. It’s Bridgerton without the Netflix wardrobe budget and stripped of even the slightest whiff of s3xiness. If any of that sounds appealing to you—or if you’re a sucker for the kind of secondhand embarrassment that makes you want to melt into your couch cushions—you’ll love it.

The premise is simple: 16 male suitors are vying for the affections of Ms. Nicole Rémy, a software engineer and former Seattle Seahawks cheerleader, while wholly immersed in a simulation of Regency-era England. In that description alone, we have our first of several anachronisms, as Rémy wouldn’t have a job if she were truly a 19th-century debutante, not to mention that cheerleaders didn’t exist before the 1950s. But if we highlighted every historical inaccuracy in Sunday night’s premiere, this recap would be longer than Middlemarch, so it’s best to just suspend all disbelief.

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Anyway, nestled in the impossibly verdant English countryside, the breathtaking castle where The Courtship is filmed makes the Bachelor mansion look like a shack. Referred to exclusively as Ms. Rémy—because, you know, properness—our heroine is joined at the sprawling estate by her “court,” made up of her mom, Claire; her dad, Claude; her sister, Danie; and her best friend, Tessa. Since families often played matchmaker for their daughters in the 19th century, Rémy’s entourage is there to help her evaluate the men and even select some of her dates for her. (It will be a tragic missed opportunity for reality TV gold if one of the suitors doesn’t fall for Rémy’s sister or bestie instead.)

There is, of course, an irritating host—British TV personality Rick Edwards—who exists solely to crack bad jokes. “Dating in the 2020s is hard, but it turns out dating in the 1820s was bloody difficult too,” he narrates at the beginning of the episode. Everyone is decked out in Regency-lite apparel, meaning the men wear brocade vests with pantaloons and the women wear elaborate gowns (albeit with a 2022-appropriate amount of cleavage).

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After a montage of the men doing their best PBS Masterpiece auditions while posing shirtless in front of a horse, we’re ready to jump right into the action—by watching Rémy sit on a sofa and read handwritten, wax-sealed letters from her suitors, because that’s how they would have introduced themselves 200 years ago, or whatever.

 

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The letter idea is actually funny; imagine if every himbo on The Bachelorette had to make a first impression by pouring out their souls onto a sheet of paper rather than, like, popping out of a limo in a penguin costume while holding a box of condoms. But they’re just as cringey as you’d expect—one contestant writes that he hopes Rémy will become his “best friend with s3xual tension,” and another tries his hand at an original rap song, despite a letter being a terrifically terrible medium for that.

The men finally get to meet Rémy at a welcome ball, where she delivers a supposedly galvanizing speech. “We’re in a Jane Austen movie. Like, we’re in a fairytale,” she says. “And along with that fairytale is falling in love, and I hope that you guys can envision it with me too, and we can ride away together in a carriage.” It is one of approximately 45 references to the Pride and Prejudice author—made by a person who has clearly never read one of her novels—in the hour-long episode. If this show were truly like a Jane Austen novel, there would be more imperialism and fewer string quartet covers of Top 40 pop songs (another thing the show swiped from Bridgerton).

After Rémy and her family get to know the suitors, they select a few lucky guys for dates, which are really just brief, awkward chats in a different room of the house. It starts to feel surprisingly like a normal dating show, despite the costumes and the fact that Edwards segues into commercials by saying, “Henceforth, on The Courtship…” None of the participants are doing fake British accents (unfortunately) or committing to the bit by using creative, period-specific ways to talk about themselves. They fall into classic dating competition tropes, like questioning who might be there for the “wrong reasons” and bonding over such unique sentiments as, “I love to laugh.”

But when it comes time for eliminations, The Courtship veers completely and delightfully off the rails. The convoluted elimination process is as follows: Rémy makes a “dance card” listing the six men she wants to dance with during the ceremony. The contestants not picked for Rémy’s final dances of the evening are safe until next week, while the ones whose names are called must participate in a Regency-inspired dance-off to prove their devotion to the “heroine.” Three will be sent home.

The jaw-dropping absurdity of this ritual cannot be overstated. One by one, Rémy summons the men to do historical ballroom dances with her while her entire family and the rest of the contestants watch. But the two don’t just dance. Nope, they also have a weird, whispered conversation about why Rémy is considering sending the contestant home, never once breaking from the choreography. As she twirls across the dance floor with a suitor named Mr. Luxe, she tells him between gasping breaths, “Hey, I’m obviously attracted to you. I just need you to show me a little bit more flirtatiousness.”

By the end of the episode, poor sweet Rémy, who was probably just hoping to get a diet tea sponsorship and a few thousand Instagram followers out of this experience, is clearly exhausted from the stress of breaking up with three men while dancing a quadrille for 20 minutes straight. We can only hope that after bidding them, “Farewell, your carriage awaits,” she gets to slip out of her corset and into her 21st-century sweats for a well-deserved nap.

 

 

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