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Bridgerton more or less sex costume drama for the rest of TV, right? Shonda Rhimes and Chris Van Dusen put so much nudity and sex on the show that she was in Netflix’s Top 10 for what appeared to be six months. So any show that doesn’t go the same way Bridgerton looks pale in comparison. The cook of Castamar, a Spanish import, tries to amplify the sexy factor, but does it work?

Opening shot: It is morning; Diego de Castamar (Roberto Enriquez), the Duke of Castamar, wakes up next to the love of his life, his wife Alba (Xenia Tostado).

The essential: Life is happiness for the Duke and Duchess in 1720 Madrid; they take advantage of the morning to ride a horse to watch Castamar, where Alba tells Diego that she is pregnant. At that point, her horse throws her away, killing her.

Twenty months later, Diego is entrenched in the castle, still in mourning. A messenger from King Philip (Joan Carreras) comes to Castamar with a request for Diego to join his court again. Diego just isn’t ready and kicks the messenger out. His adoptive brother Gabriel (Jean Cruz) and his friend Alfredo (loves Zatarain) tell him that he should take the job. When he goes to see the king himself to tell him that he is not ready to serve, the king dismisses his grief, as he has also lost his wife, but knows when to follow the call of duty. The king orders Diego to organize a gala in Castamar, and he will bring his royal presence.

At the same time, a young woman named Clara Belmonte (Michelle Jenner) is sent by the local parish priest to Castamar to take up a post of kitchen staff. The manager of the house, Úrsula Berenguer (Mónica López) is angry that the butler hired her without her knowing, but she gives Clara a trial period. Clara learns from her sympathetic colleagues and tries to avoid rivals. But when Ursula catches the cook in the act along with a male staff member, she banishes the cook and raises her ignorant assistant. Clara, who really knows how to cook, swears to help her with the gala and dinner for the elite visitors.

Diego’s mother, Doña Mercedes (Fiorella Faltoyano) joins family friend Enrique de Arcona (Hugo Silva) on a quest to find a wife for Diego, and they believe they have found this in the seemingly innocent Amelia Castro (María Hervás). But Enrique knows Amelia’s secrets, and wants to marry her to Diego in order to manipulate her. Another guest from Castamar for the gala, Lady Sol Montijos (Marina Gatell), sees through Enrique’s plan, but she’s busy experimenting with Francisco Marlango, Count d’Armiño (Maxi Iglesias).

When dinner is going well – the food is so good, it’s almost an orgasmic experience – Diego starts to notice Clara. But Clara has crippling anxieties based on her father’s execution; one of those fears is that she can’t be outside without having a massive panic attack.

The cook of Castamar
Photo: Netflix

What shows will this remind you of? Bridgerton, but about a century earlier and in Spain. Either way, there is a lot of sex in both series.

Our opinion : The cook of Castamar, created by Tatiana Rodríguez based on the novel by Fernando J. Muñez, has a plot: the widowed duke notices Clara just as his mother and other interested people push him back into society and try to marry him. But the story stretches from there, involving subplots where secrets are thrown away without much elaboration.

There are apparently dozens of characters to follow, and it feels like, even in a first episode that lasts over an hour, there isn’t enough time to give all of their stories their time. ‘they deserve. All of these characters converge on Castamar for the gala, but what happens when they return to their respective castles? Do we follow them everywhere? I feel like there’s so much going on that we don’t get to the heart of the main story – Clara and Diego – soon enough.

It mostly has to do with sex. There is even more sex in this first episode than in the first episode of Bridgerton, and that’s saying a lot. And we understand that this is part of the story. But, even some plot points, like Enrique ravishing Amelia to pay off her debts, or the fact that Alfredo and Francisco Ignacio’s friend (Carlos Serrano-Clark) know each other more intimately than they suggest, are meant to be meaningful but they get lost in the many colonial-era sex scenes.

There’s also a fencing match between Diego and Gabriel going nowhere and Clara’s voiceover that suddenly fell into the narrative in the middle of the episode, as everyone eats Clara’s orgasmic meal.

Gender and skin: Lots of sex, but very little nudity.

Starting shot: Clara begins to panic when she has to bring a roast to the visiting King Philip during the gala, but is saved when a messenger arrives and says the King is missing.

Sleeper Star: Marina Gatell plays Lady Sol, whose husband is a million years old, which means she’s up for anything including threesomes and going into everyone’s business.

Most of the pilot lines: Again, Clara’s voiceover pops up again towards the end as we see why she has her agoraphobia. Voiceovers are boring at first, but when dropped into a show without establishing them at the start of the episode, they just don’t make sense. It looks like something that was added later for clarity.

Our call: TO JUMP. While The cook of Castamar it looks awesome, it’s a bit of a slow mess, albeit well done, filled with sex that isn’t sexy and stories that are sure to get the butt of the stick (pun intended) as we go along.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he’s not kidding himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.

Flux The cook of Castamar On Netflix

Edward K. Thompson