How ‘The Courtship’ got ‘Bridgerton,’ Jane Austen, and dating shows completely wrong
Bridgerton fever is real, and dating shows offer guilty pleasures galore, so it was only a matter of time until we ended up with something like The Courtship, NBC’s ham-fisted attempt to mash two disparate things people enjoy into one tremendous delight. Unfortunately, this clone of The Bachelor disguised in Regency garb tries so hard, it’s entirely off-putting, to the point of NBC removing it from the network’s lineup and ungraciously dumping it onto the USA Network and Peacock.
The pseudo highfalutin setup is that Ms. Remy is searching for love, and she’ll do it from her (rented) castle with her mother, father, sister, and best friend serving as her court, who will all help her choose the best of her sixteen eligible suitors. After all, everyone knows a true lady doesn’t know how to make choices for herself.
For the most part, the men participating appear more baffled than lovestruck. One guy tells the Remys how nice their house is, as though he doesn’t understand NBC rented the facility for the production. When forced to write romantic letters to profess their intentions, someone offers up a rap, while another chooses to work blue, thus exhibiting their complete lack of understanding of the assignment, and essentially, the whole vibe of the show.
Building relationships during time-compressed gimmicky dates is hard when The Bachelor flies everyone to Austria for a quick group trauma therapy session, but it’s even harder when a bunch of bros throw on silly costumes while sort of referencing Jane Austen. (It is safe to assume no one participating in this love quest ever cracked a novel, let alone tucked in with their beloved copy of Emma.) The guys aren’t the only ones lacking in smarts, though. When presented with a gift to open her chakra, Ms. Remy tells her ardent suitor, “I don’t think this chakra can be for me” with utter sincerity.
A slapdash mess like The Courtship should be hilarious and amazing. On paper, it sort of is. Unfortunately, with such a Frankensteined existence, each stolen piece comes off as a less fun chunk of its original source. Instead of a Desiree Birch-style saucy narrator, we get some haughty white man overseeing things. Though maybe loosely period appropriate, he comes across as aloof and judgemental, without the wink and nod to show us he gets the joke. It lifts the low-cut, modernized past fashion and orchestral pop songs from Bridgerton without shame.
Meanwhile, the contestants spout every trite reality dating comment everyone expects. It’s almost funny these knuckleheads fuss and fret about who may or may not be there for “the right reasons” while no one there seems to understand what’s even happening. With a tad more intention, this show would be a farcical hoot. Coming so close to a glorious trainwreck while being denied the actual crash makes The Courtship a frustrating experience.
The weirdest dumdum twist of The Courtship is the elimination ceremony. Rather than choosing who she likes the most to continue on the journey, Ms. Remy must make a dance card listing the men she probably doesn’t want to keep dating. Then, the show puts her through the slow torture of dancing with each fella while laboriously trying to hold a soul-searching conversation to decide if he might be worth keeping around for another week. Dancing on and on, she grows increasingly listless and sweaty, while the waiting, watching guys grow more restless and bored. As do the viewers. If this is the best The Courtship can do, it definitely deserves a speedy farewell. Someone better make sure the carriage is waiting.