If you’ve raced through Bridgerton and still can’t stop thinking about the Duke of Hastings licking that spoon, you’re not alone. It makes perfect sense that we’ve all fallen for a Regency hero when opportunities for romance are now so restricted. Lockdown means that, Austen-esque strolls aside, dating is pretty much off the cards, so it’s hardly a surprise that so many of us have started lusting after on-screen hotties with all the intensity of an unrequited teenage crush.
It’s the Connell effect, but while the Normal People star might have been the undisputed object of our collective affections back in lockdown 1.0, when the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel proved the perfect distraction from the general sense of impending doom, he’s faced serious competition since, as the scheduling gods have obliged with a revolving line-up of TV crushes-in-waiting. This is your guide to the small-screen heroes worth obsessing over...
Paul Mescal in Normal People
USP: Eye-catching taste in statement jewellery
Flame factor: The King of our locked-down hearts, way hotter than a Normal Person
The BBC’s take on Sally Rooney’s millennial love story induced collective swoons when it landed slap bang in the middle of the first national lockdown, most of them prompted by chain-wearing dreamboat Connell, played by Paul Mescal. Mescal mania got so out of hand, a photo of the actor swaggering around east London in shorts clutching a bag of prawn cocktail crisps (Google it) threatened to break the Internet (or at least scramble the WFH wifi for a bit).
Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton
USP: His effortlessly seductive eyebrow raise
Flame factor: The hottest period drama hero since Poldark
Send our most cordial apologies to Mr Darcy, for a new period drama crush now reigns supreme over our affections. Bridgerton’s Duke of Hastings, played by Brit star Page, had us captivated from the moment he strode into a crowded ballroom as a string quartet played Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next; the obsession only intensified when he licked that spoon — god-bless Shonda Rhimes and her female gaze-first approach to sex scenes.
Romain Bonnet in Selling Sunset
USP: Good advice dished out in a charming Gallic accent
Flame factor: Hotter than the Los Angeles sun
As the unfeasibly photogenic boyfriend to Selling Sunset’s star real estate agent Mary Fitzgerald, Bonnet is one half of Netflix’s premier reality TV power couple. Romain is often the lone voice of reason amid the Oppenheim Group’s chorus of property-based chaos.
Micheal Ward in Small Axe
USP: Industrial-strength charisma
Flame factor: Hollywood heartthrob in the making
Lockdown may have indefinitely postponed any prospects of locking eyes with a handsome stranger across a packed dance floor, so thank God for Lovers Rock, part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series, which captured all the heady romance of a big night out. Ward was devastatingly charming as Franklin, the smooth-talking love interest of Martha; the pair’s slow dances are utterly swoon-worthy.
Dan Levy in Schitt’s Creek
USP: A heart of gold, sometimes disguised under hilarious one-liners
Flame factor: Our non-problematic fave
Over the course of six series of Canadian sleeper hit Schitt’s Creek (stick with it, honest), we’ve watched David Rose (played by Dan Levy, who created the show along with dad Eugene) blossom from a self-involved rich kid to a reassuring beacon of non-toxic masculinity. And we have a lot of time for his enviable collection of jazzily patterned, feminist slogan-emblazoned knitwear, too.
Tobias Menzies in The Crown
USP: Much less follicularly challenged than the IRL Phil
Flame factor: Our wild card weird crush
Any lingering sad-boy sympathy crush on Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles promptly died the moment he said the words “whatever love means” to the People’s Princess. We soon transferred our affections to Menzies’s Prince Philip, who has continued Matt Smith’s legacy of making us feel confusing things about the royals.
Harry Lawtey in Industry
USP: Hair that always looks good, even when he’s been on a 24-hour bender
Flame factor: Horrible, but also very hot. Sigh.
Disclaimer: almost every major player in Industry, the BBC’s palpitation-inducing drama about a bunch of over-sexed, overpaid and utterly amoral grads at an investment bank, is irredeemably bad. So why, then, did we still nurture a soft spot for trainee trader Robert, played by Lawtey, who is so irredeemably awful that he has two separate dating app profiles, one “Tory” (to court posh PR girls, he says) and the other “ketty”? We’re yet to find a conclusive answer because lockdown-induced passion is a strange and nuanced phenomenon.
Edgar Ramírez in The Undoing
USP: A slightly off-kilter moral compass
Flame factor: This one’s a slow burner
The Undoing might have blighted our long-standing love for Hugh Grant, who slipped into sociopath mode a bit too convincingly, but it did introduce us to Ramírez’s handsome cop Detective Mendoza. Yes, he was spectacularly bad at tracking down the killer; no, we didn’t mind.
Nathaniel Curtis in It’s A Sin
USP: Most likely to break your heart
Flame factor: A contender for Connell’s crown
Prepare to fall head over heels for the cast of Russell T Davies’s stunning new Channel 4 drama, a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of London’s gay scene in the Eighties. Curtis plays the ridiculously good-looking, intriguingly aloof drama student Ash, who catches the eye of protagonist Ritchie (Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander). It’d be remiss not to warn you, though, that this series will make you sob ugly tears.
Andrew Scott in The Pursuit of Love
USP: It’s Andrew Scott, what more do you need?
Flame factor: Not his hottest work, but we’ll take it
He had us all hot under the collar as the priest in Fleabag, and Scott will soon be back on our scenes in the BBC’s adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, which is expected in spring. He plays Lord Merlin, an eccentric but charming aesthete who owns a fleet of colourfully dyed pigeons. He looks great in a Harry Styles-esque outfit in the promo photos.
Jack O’Connell in The North Water
USP: Rugged period drama hero appeal
Flame factor: It’s hard to be this hot when it’s so cold
Anyone who came of age in the mid Noughties surely still carries a torch for the cast of Skins, who conveniently outgrew their nu-rave phase much more gracefully than our IRL teenage crushes did. O’Connell is back later this year in The North Water and pulls off the impressive feat of being hot while actually very, very cold. Set in the Arctic in the 19th century, the show was filmed at 81 degrees north, the furthest any TV drama is thought to have ventured.
Aidan Turner in Leonardo
USP: Brooding stare and tumbling curls
Flame factor: A work of art
Turner manages to ignite national hysteria every time he inhabits a new character: remember the halcyon days of 2015, when the country lost its collective cool over Poldark’s shirtless scene? Expect similar levels of mass adoration when the Irish star returns to our screens as Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci in a big-budget mini-series set to air later this year. One question remains: did they have scythes in 15th-century Florence?