(CNN) — Once you’ve mastered basic “Bridgerton,” it’s possible to sit back and let each new season predictably wash over you, its level of satisfaction dictated simply by how much one connects with the latest characters to be paired off. Fortunately, the third round (after a “Queen Charlotte” detour) has the highly sympathetic Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) at its core, adding some additional sweetness to the formula.

For the uninitiated, poor Penelope has spent two seasons secretly moonlighting as the acid-tongued gossip Lady Whistledown (still voiced by Julie Andrews, because, well, Julie Andrews!), using her access to the coming and goings and romances among the elite to greatly irritate many (the queen foremost among them) while titillating them at the same time.

Penelope has channeled her creative energies in this direction in part because of her skepticism that she’ll ever find a match for herself, a process made no easier by her infatuation with Colin (Luke Newton), the latest of the seemingly endless parade of dashing Bridgerton progeny to brave the matrimonial dance. (There’s a praying mantis quality to Bridgertons, since while mating doesn’t lead to death, they do tend to lose their heads and then mostly disappear.)

As usual, there are complications and hurdles thrown at Colin and Penelope, including the latter finding a new potential suitor after experiencing the disgrace of having Colin’s gallant efforts to help her find a match exposed. The whole interlude prompts him to begin grasping his own complicated feelings, although in keeping with its Jane Austen-flecked roots, the course of true love never runs smoothly.

To their credit, the producers juggle a few extra balls (debutante and otherwise) this time around, including subplots involving Colin’s sister Francesca (Hannah Dodd) and even the family matriarch Violet (Ruth Gemmell), which, given the contortions surrounding the central duo, come across as prudent distractions.

Frankly, the level of heat generated by “Bridgerton” still remains something of a mystery, not because the show isn’t well done – possessing the customary trappings for which producer Shonda Rhimes is known – but simply because everything about it feels so familiar to anyone who ever watched “Masterpiece Theater,” other than a bit more latitude when it comes to the ripping and removal of bodices and the clever use of contemporary music.

Give some credit to the casting and, more pragmatically, the strength of Netflix as a platform relative to the more rarefied homes for such fare. Underscoring the show’s value, the service will divide the eight-episode season into two drops, emulating its strategy with shows like “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” to lengthen its hold on viewers beyond an instant binge.

If the storytelling has already begun to feel a trifle tired, Coughlan’s vulnerability (and the semi-adorable note that she has asked for an edited version to show her parents) provides a welcome infusion. By sustaining and indeed replenishing those soap-opera qualities, the series seems likely to exhaust its roster of marriage-eligible Bridgertons before Netflix will need to find some buzzworthy new bauble to beguile those who have bought into this world.

“Bridgerton” begins its third season May 16 on Netflix, with the second half to premiere on June 13.

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