Bridgerton: Everything you need to know about the Netflix drama

Netflix's new period drama Bridgerton, which launches on Christmas Day, has been described as a Regency-era Gossip Girl.

And you can see why. It's narrated by the mysterious Lady Whistledown, who writes regular newsletters full of tittle-tattle about the dating exploits of high society. Everyone reads her well-informed takes with fascination - but nobody knows who she is.

The year is 1813, and Daphne Bridgerton is making her debut in London in the hope of finding a suitable husband. Things are made challenging by her older brother, whose discerning eye stops most male candidates from getting very far.

"She's the eldest daughter of the Bridgerton family," explains actress Phoebe Dynevor, "and she conforms to all these crazy social rules and expectations which are placed on women, but also men, in those times. But she's very young and naive, and she's about to find out that the world isn't quite as she imagined it to be."

So, that's the premise. Here's everything else you need to know:

1. It's based on the best-selling romance novels

The eight-part drama has been adapted from Julia Quinn's series of Bridgerton novels. They've sold more than 10 million copies in the US alone and been translated into 32 languages worldwide.

But there's a decent chance you've never heard of them, which could partly be due to a certain snobbery that exists towards the genre.

"I think that's a common thought, that people look down their noses at romance novels," says showrunner Chris Van Dusen. "I personally don't understand why that is. I don't think that it's the same with other genres. But at the end of the day, these books are filled with compelling characters and interesting stories."

Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington, agrees: "I think they definitely can be [looked down upon], but that's part of the show's secret power in a way, because it's a genre that hasn't been explored much on television."

2. It's produced by one of the biggest names in TV

Shonda Rhimes isn't hugely well-known in the UK, but she's one of the most powerful execs in the US TV landscape, having created medical drama Grey's Anatomy and political thriller Scandal. She also wrote the Britney Spears film Crossroads, but nobody's perfect.

In 2017, Netflix signed Rhimes and her production company Shondaland to an exclusive deal worth a reported $150m (£110m), which has so far seen her develop Bridgerton and the forthcoming series Inventing Anna.

The deal was seen as a coup for Netflix due to Rhimes' close ties to ABC. Extraordinarily, the move came about because of a dispute Rhimes had with ABC's parent company Disney over some free family passes to Disneyland, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Anyway, Rhimes has brought Van Dusen with her to oversee Bridgerton, because the pair go way back.

"We do, yes. I worked in Shondaland pretty much my entire writing career, since Grey's Anatomy," explains Van Dusen. "Prior to Bridgerton I was working on Scandal, and as that show was coming to an end, I was looking for what to do next. I knew I wanted to do something completely different to modern-day political intrigue in Washington DC, and that's when Shonda told me about Bridgerton."

3. The critical reception has been largely positive