Top 5 Frock Flick TV Series I’ve Given Up On

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We watch a lot of TV here at Frock Flicks, in part because we like historical costume TV series! But also to review it for you all. But as we’ve whispered in the past, sometimes we don’t finish a series once we’ve reviewed it, because we’re on to other stuff. Or, sometimes our own lethargy and lack of interest outweigh our desire to review. With that in mind, here’s five TV shows I started watching and gave up on — no idea if I’ll ever get back to them, maybe I will, but maybe I won’t!

 

El Ministerio del Tiempo (2015-)

El ministerio del tiempo season 1 2015

I really enjoyed this story of historical Spaniards who are living in the modern era, yet traveling in time in order to save Spanish history for the official government Ministry of Time. Multiple eras to review! Two cute boys! Bad hair on the leading lady! The problem is, despite this series being available on Netflix, I doubt many of you are watching it. It makes it hard to want to watch (and then review) something multiple times, if I don’t feel like you’re with me in it. FROCK FLICKS IS A FAMILY! WE SUFFER (or enjoy ourselves!) TOGETHER!

 

Poldark (2015-)

Okay, so this is one I SHOULD be watching, because y’all are! Plus, it’s late 18th century, which is my jam! And Aidan Turner is hot hot hot! I wrote multiple in-depth articles about the costuming and hair during the first season! But I can’t stand the plot. First of all, it’s boring middle-rank people butter-churning in the middle of nowhere. Second, Ross Poldark is an idiot and an asshole, I find Elizabeth insipid and spoiled and unworthy of Ross’s love, and Demelza is FAR too plucky and it just grates on my nerves. On the one hand, the fact that they’ve apparently transitioned to Regency fashion (as time progresses) should make me interested, in that at least they’ll have to mix up the completely standard Fitted Back Robe à l’Anglaise With Simple Skirt dress that all the ladies wear. On the other hand, Regency is so NOT my jam, so the thought of these characters wearing maternity dresses with their straw-filled hair blowing in the Cornish breeze just makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth.

 

Harlots (2017-)

Harlots (2018)

Another one that I really SHOULD be watching! You’re watching it! It’s 18th century, for god’s sake! The costuming is slutty yet shiny! IT’S FANNY HILL IN EPISODIC FORM! But I guess I never got attached to the lead characters (sisters Charlotte and Lucy), and the costuming seemed so mish-mashy (for example, see how the hairstyles span multiple decades). Liv Tyler looks good, but is that enough to bother?

 

The Crown (2016-)

Go ahead, get your rocks ready and start throwing them. I KNOW THIS SERIES IS AMAZEBALLS. My mother won’t stop telling me! The problem is, Sarah was our watcher/reviewer, and so I put it off for a long time since it made more sense for me to watch other stuff so we had blog content! Over summer, I finally sat down and tried to watch the first few episodes. But the problem is that, similar to how I feel about Queen Victoria, I don’t know that I care about Queen Elizabeth II as a person all that much, nor do I jump up and down over 1950s costumes (sure, they’re fine! But they’re not OMGPONIES!). I got distracted and haven’t picked it back up. Someday, I will probably watch it, and I will rue the day (to quote my grandmother). But that day is not today!

 

Outlander (2014-)

Outlander season 4

Take a deep breath kids, because — shockingly — this one is to be expected. Yes, I watched every episode of the first few seasons of Outlander. I recapped in both blog AND podcast every episode of season 2! I interviewed costume designer Terry Dresbach! The thing is, I had the exact same issue with the books, which I started reading back in the mid-1990s. I LOVED the first two, thought the third one was good, the fourth was okay, and then trudged along until I realized I didn’t give a fuck about Jamie’s son and why was half the book written from his bratty perspective? Now, I’ve got the double whammy of the fact that they’re living in the woods and the costumes are CHURNING THE BUTTER LIKE WHOA, so there’s not even anything shiny to look at. I made it through sassy-haired Brianna meeting her pops, and then I noped out. Can’t do it! No mas! It’s someone else’s turn!

 

What historical costume TV shows have you lost steam with?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

56 Responses

  1. B. Welborn, Dressmaker

    Pretty much right there with you! Never finished Season 1 of Poldark (though trying again with a friend,) watched first 3 seasons of Outlander but hit “i could care less moment” right before the final episode of season 3, didn’t last through a whole episode of Harlots. I mean here are 3 popular 18th c costume dramas that I “should” be watching but ehhh. I have watched all of the Crown because my husband is actually really interested in that one!

    Reply
  2. Catherine

    That’s sort of how I feel about Outlander, as well! I never got past the 5th book, I think. I mostly like the show but had some issues with the last season… Haven’t had time to dive into some of the others.

    Thanks for all your posts! I love this website…

    Reply
    • Kathy Gustafson

      Author apparently also lost interest. I gave up when she spent several pages describing mud.

      Reply
      • Jen

        I keep waiting for her to describe, in excruciating detail, taking a leak in a necessary house because she goes into that amount of detail for everything else.

        “I felt the rough wood of the unpainted door under my fingers and I opened it, when the acrid smell of urine gone the way of ammonia and the hum of flies. I closed the door behind me, lifted my skirts and relieved myself, feeling the wood polished by many uses on my ample behind. I made use of the supply of corn cobs, kept in a basket in the corner, to clean myself.”

        Reply
      • Dianne

        I read the first book. Didn’t get the excitement, but tried the second one, just in case I was missing something. Nope. I decided I didn’t care anything about Jamie’s throbbing purple member, and dropped it halfway through Book 2. Bored bored bored…

        Reply
      • M.E. Lawrence

        There are probably millions of readers who initially enjoyed “Outlander,” then gave up because, really, what’s there to care about once Jamie and Claire get the hell out of Jamaica and settle down in the goddamned boring new world? (I know it wasn’t boring, but it’s not my favorite setting.) Apart from J and C and a few others, like Jenny and Murtagh, Gabaldon isn’t skilled at character creation. She just loves her research so much, though, and the results of all that research are sometimes a lot of fun (J and C meeting up with the founder of the Rothschild dynasty) and sometimes not (mud).

        Reply
        • crypticmirror

          Outlander stopped being fun when… Uh… When did it start being fun? I found it a slog right from the start. The show especially so, because it just takes so goddamn long for anything to happen. You could cut out about half the dull reaction shots, tighten up the dialogue, and fit the entire first season in a single traditional hour long two parter. I feel that modern tv showrunners have lost the ability to tell fast and snappy stories.

          Reply
  3. Heidilea

    I have only seen one episode of Outlander, but I started reading the books in the very early 2000s. Was totally into it, then the last book came out and my mom mailed it to me. I have yet to take it out of the package, and it’s been 5 years. I think my sensibilities have changed–I reread the first book as 29 year old newlywed (as opposed to a horny 20 year old). Young me thought they were passionate, older me thought “all they do is fight and fuck!” But, I give the series credit for my love of 18thc–I kept thinking when reading “What did they really wear? What would this look like?” The one episode of the series, I found myself really, really annoyed with Brianna. I dunno what it was, spoiled brattiness?

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth Hobbs

    I’m only getting though Poldark and Outlander by telling myself that it’s not “Turn: Washington’s Spies”.

    Reply
    • ljones1966

      I would rather watch “Turn: Washington’s Spies”. It may not have been historically accurate, but I have yet to see a historically accurate movie or television series. And I still believe the series was ten times better than “Outlander” or that crap fest “Poldark”.

      Reply
    • Jennie

      Ha ha, Turn was ghastly! We stuck it out through 2 seasons and then, forget it. Zzzzzzzz. And, I couldn’t stand the ugly villain.

      Reply
  5. Kim Andert

    I must admit, none of these captured my attention for more than an episode. (I am having the same trouble with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I tried with that one, I really did! It just seems too clean, or perfect in its styling). There has to be more than costuming(even really good costuming!) to keep me in it.

    Reply
  6. Trystan L. Bass

    I’m gonna disagree w/Kendra about Harlots, specifically because I don’t think the sisters are the lead characters — the madams, Lydia & Margaret, are, & they are AMAZING characters (& actors)! They drive almost all the action in the series.

    But my problem with continuing to write about the series — which I gave a half-hearted attempt to for S2 http://www.frockflicks.com/5-things-about-harlots-s2/ — is that there’s not much to say! Unless I wrote recaps & listed every costume, & for me, that gets boring to do season after season for the same show.

    Reply
    • Stefanie Pursell

      Trystan, I’m right there with you. I’m dragging myself through S2 of Harlots right now and it’s been rough.

      Reply
    • Kathleen Julie Norvell

      I LOVE Harlots. It’s dirty, it’s got eh most fabulous cuss words I’ve ever heard. I agree with Kendra that the 2 madams are the leads. They are wonderful — you can see the slutty, dirty, grimy ugliness under Lydia’s “glamour” and the further you go in the series, it’s revealed. Charlotte’s and Lucy’s characters do at least change during the course of the series and there are just enough WTFs to keep you on your toes. And the men are APPALLING for the most part. This is a feminist series.
      Yes, the costumes and wigs run the gamut of the 18th century, but at least they’re trying (as opposed to Poldark). Bring a bottle of wine and we can watch it together.

      Reply
  7. Lynne Connolly

    I love Poldark, but the first version was way better, despite being studio bound. Rumour is that they’re waiting for Turner to finish, so they can offer him Bond.
    I’ve given up on Victoria. Truly, I despaired at the first series, when they got everything so stupidly wrong, and made stuff up. What, her life wasn’t interesting enough?
    But as the second series progressed, it dragged and dragged and it’s OMG boring!
    I never bothered with The Crown, because it’s all so exploitative. Never sat well with me. I mean, she’s alive, and she can hardly say “But it wasn’t like that.” She can’t even admit to watching it.
    Having seen the magnificent Dior exhibition last year at the V&A, I’m all about the fifties, but no.

    Reply
    • ljones1966

      I mean, she’s alive, and she can hardly say “But it wasn’t like that.” She can’t even admit to watching it.

      The Queen HAS said that in an episode about Prince Philip in late Season Two. She had made her feelings clear through someone else.

      Reply
  8. Tinny

    Oh I just can’t with Poldark. Ross is a moron. He never sees the obvious fuckery about to hit the fan, which leaves me screaming at the television. Demelza is very strangely feisty yet overly soft, and I’m not sure if anyone in real life would ever be both that willing to bend over backwards yet also kinda kick your teeth in.

    Outlander I just found visually very unappealing. I’ve tried to watch it a couple of times, but it’s somehow just so romance novel cover-y visually that it makes me feel awkward.

    Reply
    • Kate D

      Part of the way into season 2 of Poldark I was over it. With both Ross and the writers.

      I haven’t read the books, but the “Ross is so excellent we must make everyone around him a complete idiot,” was too much for me. The conclusion of his trial didn’t even make a little bit of sense and Francis’s actions at the start of season 2… Yeeeesh!! I gave up.

      Reply
  9. ljones1966

    Season One of “Poldark” was great. In fact, I thought its adaptation of the novel, “Ross Poldark” was better than the 1975 adaptation. However . . . the more the 2015-2019 series went into Winston Graham’s saga, the more it changed the latter for the worse. By late Season 3 or early Season 4, I just gave up. The series was transforming into a crap fest. And to make matters worse, Season 5 IS NOT an adaptation of any Graham novel. Just one-dimensional romance novel crap.

    Demelza is very strangely feisty yet overly soft, and I’m not sure if anyone in real life would ever be both that willing to bend over backwards yet also kinda kick your teeth in.

    She would be in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. On the other hand, I dislike how the series seemed hellbent upon portraying her as a borderline Mary Sue. Even when she makes mistakes, show runner Debbie Horsfield goes out of her way to make excuses for Demelza’s mistakes or sweep them under the rug. Ross is an arrogant and controlling jerk and a unrepentant rapist to boot, as far as I’m concerned. Which is why I find these ham-fisted attempts to make him a Gary Stu very frustrating.

    I’m not an “Outlander” fan. Sorry. But I am looking forward to Season Three of “The Crown”. I just wish that they had not taken so long to resume the series, which is returning in November of this year.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Totally agree with you!! It’s super irritating how Demelza’s character is portrayed and that combined with the lack of hairpins, well, I just couldn’t watch anymore. Disappointing because the first 6 or 7 of the books were so so good.

      Watched the first season of The Crown but couldn’t get into it. I don’t care for the Queen and having her life portrayed while she is living seems a bit weird for some reason. Meh.

      Reply
  10. avantgarbe

    Totally agree on Outlander! I never got past the third book because of the WTFery, so I have no incentive to keep watching the show when I didn’t like the plot. (It’s like Grey’s Anatomy – at some point the rain of bad shit on the same characters is just so unrealistic I need to nope out)

    Reply
  11. Johanna

    I’m angry with myself because I just haven’t had the energy to go on watching Poldark. I obsessed over the first season, but then I didn’t even finish with season two because I got so mad at him being an idiot, and I haven’t been able to pick it up. It’s 18th century, it’s Aidan Turner, it’s even got copper mining (I work at a copper mine/world heritage site), but I still can’t get myself interested in it. I’m glad that I’m not the only one.

    Reply
  12. Saraquill

    I’ve seen a few episodes of Cable Girls, and can’t bring myself to finish the first season. Maybe if the individual storylines had more commonalities? As it is, it fells like a bunch of different tales that happen to share a set.

    Reply
  13. Selkie

    I’ve kept up with “Harlots” – which I adore, but without Samantha Morton/Margaret Wells, the show somehow lost its gravitational center.

    Reply
  14. Roxana

    Every now and again I catch a glimpse of Poldark and think ‘Why are none of these women wearing caps?’

    Reply
  15. Sam Marchiony

    Sooooo many spoilery things I could say about Harlots — I have to admit I’ve enjoyed this season, but the pacing’s been like WHAT THE FROCK, and not nearly enough Liv Tyler.

    Reply
  16. Frannie Germeshausen

    We’ll probably watch Poldark, though Ross is a jerk and almost everyone else is as dumb as a box of rocks. “They grow them stupid in Cornwall,” I said to the hubs. But we’re both really looking forward to The Crown to come back.

    Reply
  17. Susan Pola Staples

    I cancelled my Hulu subscription bc Harlots was not enough to pay the monthly fee. And I stopped watching it when ****SPOILER*** CHARLOTTE DIED. The actress is leaving the show. She did that with Downton.
    I’m still watching Outlander bc of Sam and Cait. I read the first four books but stopped bc it’s now in colonial America and I’m very Euro centric. I hope the do a LJG spin off.
    I stopped watching Poldark for the same reason. Ross is a dweeb. And Horace, the pug, needs his own show.

    Reply
  18. Kelly

    Is no one going to stick up for El Ministerio del Tiempo? Just me, then–okay! While some of the costumes do puzzle me, I just love the whole normalcy of this time-travel government agency that complains about budget cuts, etc., as if it’s a regular job. And Simon Bolivar is completely adorable (alas, he appears in only one episode)–you want to put him in your pocket! I also think, as with any time-travel show, they get a few extra points for having to deal with so many different historical periods–everything from the middle ages to the Spanish Civil War. Stay with it!

    Reply
    • Thora Sharptooth

      My husband, who was immune to the lure of studying history when he was younger, stuck with this one all the way through despite the need to read all that captioning. Since he rarely cares about ‘stume history shows I watched it with him for encouragement and was very sucked into the whole thing. I was pretty crankypants about most of the med/ren costuming but overall it was worth everything to see how nicely Nacho Fresneda cleans up no matter what the period.

      Reply
    • Mary

      Yes! I was looking for comments about Ministerio here and was surprised I had to scroll down so far. I would love it if there was another season – alhough the final episode was a good “farewell.” I wish we had seen more of Velazquez – he deserves his own show!

      Reply
  19. pat

    Series I quit: I gave up on Miss Fisher although I like the lead actress and the 20s period in general. It’s because the books are so much better (sorry to be trite) and sometimes the costumes in Miss Fisher look a bit ratty and worn–the Book Miss Fisher would never wear anything that’s less than perfect. In the books she also has a lot of lovers and there’s plenty of sex and delicious expensive clothing.

    Reply
    • Sarah

      I really didn’t care for the fact that the T.V. show changed it so that the police detective was in love with her, rather than a good older friend who was happily married to someone else.

      Reply
      • Violet

        SAME. When I heard that Jack had been made into Phryne’s love interest and Lin Chung virtually eliminated, the show immediately became dead to me. I like Lin Chung, and IMO it’s really grossly obvious that racism was the motivating factor behind cutting him out and replacing him with Jack.

        Reply
        • Roxana

          It’ve never read the books and I love TV Jack but when I read about the differences from the book I couldn’t see any good reason for the change. I fear you are right about racism being the motive.

          Reply
  20. Colleen Crosby

    I watched a lot of El Ministerio del Tiempo! The problem is that it’s so cheesy, that it’s hard to just watch it without some sort of busywork going on. But I can’t do busywork AND read subtitles, and I don’t speak Spanish. I was so overworked this spring, that it was the perfect level of show for me. I can definitely see how you wouldn’t want to keep reviewing their costumes, though, unless maybe you did highlights of a whole season or something.

    Poldark – meh. Not sure why.

    Harlots – I’ve never heard of it, or maybe I’m not paying attention. Sounds gritty, though, so not for me.

    The Crown – I’m pretty sure I watched the first season, and I never felt compelled to watch any more. It didn’t do much for me.

    Outlander was WAY too graphic for me. I don’t know why I would think it wasn’t, I read 1.5 of the books, and those were too graphic. I freaking had to watch, like, an entire season of the Good Witch (think Hallmark channel) to clean my brain out. :( I think it just bums me out that something so up my alley (timetravel, 1940s, 18th century) was too graphic for me. Sigh.

    Reply
  21. Linda Merrill

    Totally agree on Poldark. By the end of the 2nd series I couldn’t understand how anyone liked Ross or Elizabeth and even Demelza was annoying. They ricochet back and forth between being loving and mistrustful of one another. Had to stop. I totally had the same experience with Outlander – reading the books I loved them until I stopped mid th 5th book and put it down. Didn’t pick them up again until book 8 and the series were coming out. They do get better and I like the characters. But, I’m not able to cover much on my blog, because as with the costumes, the set designs of the deep woods aren’t coverable. I only squeaked out one post on River Run sets and I think one from Season 3 where I lampooned their pretend Boston sets. Oh well. I’ll still watch the series though.

    Reply
  22. Lmaris

    The only one of these I’e given up on is The Crown. Having lived through most of her reign, I really don’t want to re-live it.

    I am having a snit over the casting of Brienne & Roger, which as bad as that of Henry VIII in The Tudors, so I’m more taking a break than giving up. I’ve read every one of the books, including the novellas, so I am not quitting, though I may fast-forward over the 5′ tall scrawny Bree parts.

    Harlots is best in a binge mode, though it is getting a bit too predictable.

    Reply
  23. Sissi

    Season 5 of Poldark has started (and is almost done I think?) and I didn’t even realise season 4 had aired. Whelp. I’ve been seeing pictures of it though and Morwenna in addition to the regency gown and long flowing hair had BANGS!! Wispy yet obvious and straight bangs.

    Reply
  24. Katie O.

    With the exception of El Ministero del Tiempo (which I had actually never heard of) I’ve started, really liked, then fizzled on/given up on every single one of these shows. Poldark I watched the first two seasons of but I was so disgusted by him that I couldn’t take it anymore. Harlots I watched half of the first season but I thought it was too depressing. Outlander I tried recently when it was put on Netflix and I enjoyed the first season and then had absolutely no desire to watch any more. The only one I’m on the fence about is The Crown! I watched the first season and felt meh about it, I watched the second season and felt meh about it. I’ll probably watch the third season and feel meh about it. Considering the crazy-high production values, the writing feels cheap. Like they go for the most soap opera-y version of every possible plotline.

    Reply
  25. W. G. Ansley

    Lordy,lordy you people get bored easily. Season 3 of Harlots is a revelation. Fantastic acting. I”m really looking forward to next season of Outlander. I guess I didn’t watch it for the shagging so I was able to enjoy it more. Shame on all of you! But then I couldn’t watch Poldark to save my life and the crown bores me to tears..

    Reply
  26. M

    Ita about Outlander. I stopped watching as soon as they landed in race slavery era Georgia and it was made clear that that was where they were going to stay in the region. I’m just not interested in watching something like that in the Trump Era. I get enough of my fill of America’s brand of racism just through looking at Trump’s twitter, I don’t need to see it on a tv show that was, tbh, a form of escapism for me.

    Reply
      • M

        Ty. Glad you agree. I’m ambivalent when it comes to depictions of race slavery. It’s important not to sugarcoat it, but the constant references to race slavery whenever you see black people in anything before the early 1900’s, particularly if they’re outside of Africa south of the Sahara, is highly suspicious, especially since black people were the first people on Earth and indigenous to every continent, including the Americas, Europe, & Asia. There were also quite a few black people, including within the U.S., who had never, ever been slaves. The fact that U.S. historical productions always seem to show black people as slaves or as descendants of slaves, I know I’m seeing fake propaganda, it pulls me right out of the escapism aspect that has always drawn me to historical films & series. I know other people who can’t watch historical films at all because of how they tend to portray black people. I wish they would stop it. I want more historical films to start being true to ACTUAL history. Not self-esteem history, just the truth, so we can all see that we had a role to play in getting us where we are today.

        Reply
    • Roxana

      I can’t understand why Claire is willing to settle in Georgia of all places. Isn’t she the one who’s always talking about being on the wrong side of history?

      Reply
      • M

        Thank you. I don’t get it and I never ever will. I guess it b/c of the writer of the books. Somehow she got the notion it would be a good idea to plop Claire & Jamie in the South during the race slavery era and I’ll never understand it. I’d have like to see how they would have fared…somewhere else to say the least.

        Reply
  27. Marie McGowan Irving

    I just binged S2 and S3 (except for the last episode) of Harlots as I’d only seen S1 and I really enjoyed it. I’ve never watched Outlander. I am finding the current (last) season of Poldark hard to get through as everyone is so, well, unlikeable. Still, Peaky Blinders is coming back so that should at least be a bit of anarchic fun :D

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      I amuses me the Peaky Blinders keeps going on endlessly! I tried watching S1 & S2 & couldn’t get into it, no matter how beautiful Cillian Murphy’s blue eyes are.

      Reply
  28. Susan Pola Staples

    I enjoy the Miss Fisher’s Mysteries, but I too prefer the books for the reasons mentioned above and also for Phryne’s acceptance of anybody no matter their sexual orientation. Also I would have preferred her sister to show up and not her aunt that was cast. Sister, I believe her name was Elizabeth, is also a lesbian and I felt that she and her partner would have added to series. Also Phryne adopted two girls. I guess viewers couldn’t be counted on to admire and watch a series who’s female protagonist took lovers, was independent and progressive. Guess the patriarchy fears these traits as they’re always trying to put them down or behave like an ostrich and fear change (head in sand)

    How long we have come from this to Gentleman Jack.

    Reply
    • Roxana

      Phryne still takes lovers, though not as frequently as the average male PI, and Dr. What’s her name who sexuality is no secret pips yp regularly but they do seem to have toned it down for TV. In the U S broadcast standards would be blamed.

      Reply
  29. Charity

    I love Demelza. She’s the only reason I watch Poldark. Agreed that Ross is a turd. I suspect one of the few reasons it’s still on the air is because of the fangirling over his body, because Ross has the personality of an old, spiteful tomcat.

    Hey, at least you didn’t say The Crown was BORING and that’s why you quit. Several of my friends cited that as their reason. I never found it boring. Maybe it moves slow, but… it suits the show. Not pleased about the re-casting, though. I just can’t stand the idea of having the rapist from Outlander playing Prince Philip. I literally look at him and my entire body goes UGH CREEPER.

    Outlander… got so boring for me in season three, it never recovered. I literally tried watching it a second time, and I quit in the exact same place, when the ship sailed off for Jamaica with someone they cared on about it.

    Reply
  30. Vanesa Cano

    As a Spaniard, I love “El Ministerio del Tiempo”. Is true that it could have lots of costume mistakes, but is full of humour, and it give light to many points of our history that is unknown for most of us (Like Shakespeare visiting the Spanish court). Is a pitty they had so many problems with budget and filming (not the director or actors fault, it was the national television, sponsor at that time, who put a lot of problems that delayed the filming). We don´t know if the series will continue in Netflix, but we keep our fingers crossed :)

    Reply

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