There are so many reboots of classic TV properties lately, and it’s easy to see why: beloved properties, built-in audience, the lack of having to come up with much of anything new. So it’s not too much of a surprise that (most of) the ladies of Sex And The City are returning, now in their 50s, with different priorities than they had when the series wrapped up (beautifully, in my opinion) in 2004, followed by a decent 2008 movie and completely terrible one in 2010. Honestly, since the last taste the SATC left us with was a film that deserved a closetful of Razzies and showed the ladies at their privileged worst, maybe it’ll be helpful to see if And Just Like That… can help make SATC2 more of a distant memory.
There’s a giant gaping hole in the Sex And The City sequel series, though, and her name is Samantha Jones (and she’d probably have a sexy double-entendre to say about the first part of that sentence). Since And Just Like That… starts out with the familiar scene of the ladies lunching, it’s immediately obvious that this trio lacks the welcome bite that Samantha always provided. There’s a lot of discussion about her absence (now she’s having sex in another city, London, after she and Carrie had a falling out when Carrie fired her as her publicist), as Carrie and Miranda go on ad nauseum about how they’ve all tried to reach out to Samantha. It’s not their fault, the show appears to be stressing, okay? This is not the time and place to go into the cast feud that supposedly led to Kim Cattrall’s departure, but suffice it to say, her absence is deeply felt.
But leave it to SATC to add more to more, with a flurry of new characters to help flesh out the now-lean cast. Miranda, who is heading back to school to become more of a human-rights-minded attorney (but wasn’t that also her goal way back at the end of the second movie?) gets off on the wrong foot with her new professor Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman). As in olden times, this show still loves to completely humiliate Miranda, letting her babble on in a cringe-worthy manner, sounding like a clueless older white woman in front of her new teacher and decades-younger classmates (maybe it was the chablis talking?).
Charlotte is still Charlotte: happy to see that she and her family reside in the same Park Avenue apartment she inherited from Trey MacDougal, and that her adorable new dog is named Richard Burton, since her last one was named Elizabeth Taylor. Best of all, Charlotte has to deal with a thorny tween situation with her younger daughter Rose (an amazing Alexa Swinton), who is rebelling against the perfect Park Avenue template her mother has laid out for her. Fortunately, Charlotte has a new mom friend to commiserate with: Lisa Todd Wexley, played by Nicole Ari Parker (dubbed by Anthony as “Black Charlotte”). The fact that both Nya and Lisa appear to have their own plot points (Lisa’s prickly mother-in-law, Nya’s infertility issues) hopefully indicates that these women of color will have more than just supporting roles in the series.
Carrie, who has always been fairly prudish for a sex columnist (who could forget her shaming of her golden-shower-loving politician boyfriend, played by John Slattery? or her ditching of a spin-the-bottle game that didn’t stick to heterosexual guidelines?) has now been hired on a insufferablish podcast that includes a button to announce the program’s “woke moment”s. Carrie’s inability to discuss masturbation on the air may cost her the gig, but like with the other new characters, Sara Ramirez brings a refreshing viewpoint to the show as podcast host Che Diaz, self-described as a “queer nonbinary Mexican Irish diva.” Carrie needs to evolve into today’s media market (using tools like Instagram and the podcast), but at her heart, she is who she is (still in love with her shoes). We may need to change, but how much are we truly able to do so?
For me, this theme is far and away the most intriguing part of And Just Like That…. Permit me a personal note: Like the ladies in this show, I am also 55 years old. Sex And The City was my cultural touchstone in my 30s so much so that I almost moved to NYC myself (although I wound up staying in my own city, Chicago). Let me tell you, it’s a strange time of life. I get that the number sounds so old, that you’re as close to 70 as you are to 40, an age that seemed like it just happened about five minutes ago. Meanwhile, in your head, you still feel around 29, so that when the inevitable AARP card comes in the mail, you figure it must have been sent to the wrong addressed.
But it’s also an interesting, underlooked age, and women like me who spent the formative years of our adulthood with Carrie et al. are likely looking forward to processing the autumn of life with these familiar faces (also, to get some much-needed fashion inspiration). For all of their seemingly endless dating travails, after all, Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda all wound up in healthy long-term marriages. Miranda is still starting a new chapter professionally, and the parenting-of-teens thing could be the whole show (Carrie starts the series by being just as self-centered as ever by refusing to acknowledge Miranda’s concerns about Brady’s prolific sex life).
But of course, the ending of episode one shifts the series completely, so that it’s pretty clear what direction Carrie is headed (guessing that the grief period will be short, or accelerated, to get her back into the dating scene faster). RIP Mr. Big. I know some viewers really hated him, and he definitely had his toxic, commitmentphobe moments.
But I recently took a deep dive back into the show’s earlier days for this feature, and I have to say: Big was always the heart of the series. From episode one, he was the one who believed that love actually existed, and eventually, he and Carrie were able to find it. Fortunately the show offered a domestic glimpse of the couple spinning vinyl and making dinner, but after so many years, it seemed too brief. Which, I guess give Big’s untimely demise, was the whole point. On to episode two, the pointedly titled “Little Black Dress.”
- Miranda has a drinking problem, to be addressed in a future Very Special Episode, right? Glass of chablis before 11 (was really expecting Smith himself to pop up at Smith’s Bar & Grill), smuggling wine into the school. While it seemed a but unsubtle, am looking forward to AJLT’s take on the prevalence of mommy wine culture.
- Also I get that Miranda is and has always been a curmudgeon, but what’s wrong with podcasts?
- Have we ever actually heard Carrie call Big “John” before ? That whole scene was absolutely gut-wrenching.
- There were so many shots of the cute podcast producer laughing that he is destined to become one of Carrie’s suitors at some point.
- Sad that Anthony and Stanford are quarreling, but Anthony offered some of the biggest laughs in the premiere, like scrolling through guy pics: “Not hot. Not hot. Not hot.” “That one looks like he could kill you.” “Hot.”
- Michael Patrick King has said that Willie Garson’s death won’t be addressed in AJLT because it “wasn’t charming.” There had to be a better way to phrase that. Glad we got to see Stanford in that breathtaking periwinkle suit.
- Favorite outfit: I don’t really understand Carrie’s propensity for culottes, but her outfit for Lily’s recital had a lot of nice throwbacks to previous SATC outfits: the straightened hair, when she wore all those fabric flowers in season three, and of course, the wedding shoes.
- Thinking of better last lines for the end of this episode, like, “And just like that… our future ended,” or “And just like that, the love of my life was over,” than the decidedly weak, “And just like that… Big died.”
- And, welcome to The A.V. Club’s reviews of And Just Like That…, everyone! Apologies for not getting this review up sooner, but HBO Max famously refused to release screeners ahead of this premiere, presumably to be able to keep Big’s death a secret. Hoping I get episodes ahead of time in the coming weeks, but if not, just meet me here before noon every Thursday to discuss. Episode two should be up this afternoon.