It’s hard to believe that Sex and the City came to a close on HBO some 17 years ago. The many Manhattan adventures (and misadventures) of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) gifted us with countless iconic scenes, fashion moments, and ever-quotable lines. Long-awaited revival of the hit series And Just Like That…, now streaming on HBO Max, picks things up years later with 3 of our fab 4 in New York City, but Samantha’s absence is more than a little noticeable.
Opening Shot: Groups bustle around the host stand at a restaurant.
The Gist: It’s been a minute, but the ladies who lunch are back – minus their “fourth Musketeer.” When Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) all meet up for lunch at the latest glamorous Manhattan spot and bump into familiar faces who question where Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is, they explain that she’s “no longer with them.” (She’s not dead, she just moved to London after Carrie fired her as her publicist!). Carrie now spends less time writing and more time Instagramming and podcasting, while Miranda has quit her job as a corporate lawyer to go back and get her master’s degree in human rights. Charlotte, meanwhile, is as doting a mother as ever, though she can’t quite understand why her skateboard-loving daughter Rose won’t don the floral Oscar de la Renta dress she’s picked out for her sister Lily’s special piano recital.
On the romantic end of things, Carrie enjoys domestic bliss with Big (Chris Noth), who has now become obsessed with riding the Peloton, while Charlotte and Harry (Evan Handler) still seem entirely themselves. Miranda and Steve (David Eigenberg), meanwhile, do their best to parent their extremely sexually-active teen son Brady (Niall Cunningham), who has no qualms about getting it on with his girlfriend in the room next to theirs. Everything seems ok, at least for the most part, as Miranda makes a fool of herself on her first day of grad school, Charlotte befriends a cool mom from her school, and Carrie and Big plan to go to the Hamptons for the weekend. The gals meet up with Anthony (Mario Cantone) and Stanford (Willie Garson) at Lily’s piano recital, and Miranda’s stash of purse wine makes for a more enjoyable evening. While Lily plays beautifully, however, something is happening elsewhere that night that will change the course of their lives forever.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The obvious comparison is the series’ predecessor, Sex and the City, but And Just Like That… may also bring to mind series like On The Verge, Desperate Housewives, and Divorce.
Our Take: I’ll be honest: I had pretty low expectations for And Just Like That…. How do you adapt a show so clearly a product of its era for a world still in the midst of a pandemic? How do you pick things up after two terrible movies? How do you continue on when one of your biggest stars refuses to return? Against all odds, And Just Like That… creates something relatively coherent, though the energy that made Sex and the City such a massive hit is missing. Trying to bring Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte (sans the iconic Samantha!) into 2021 is no easy feat, and the first episode, “Hello It’s Me”, stumbles time and time again as it attempts to teach these uptight white women a thing or two. The woke jokes, the pandemic bits, the cringe-inducing micro-aggressions… it’s a lot, and it speaks to the difficulty of attempting to revive something that is past its prime.
All this said, however, it’s undeniably a joy to see these women back in their most iconic roles, stepping into their designer shoes as if they never left. I might have rolled my eyes through a big chunk of “Hello It’s Me”, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little warm and fuzzy about seeing part of the gang back together again. They still nail those performances, even a decade and change later. And they aren’t just given silly stuff to do here, either; though this first episode stays light until its devastating conclusion, there are some hurdles ahead that take our ladies to places we’ve never seen them go before. It seems only fitting, too, as our beloved flirty, thriving thirty-somethings are now married, complicated fifty-somethings.
If it seems like I can’t make up my mind about And Just Like That…, it’s because it’s a strange little show. There’s such an inherent comfort to bringing back old characters that it’s hard to hate the series, even when it goes directions that might make you want to pull your hair out. So much of it is on-the-nose and corny, so much of it is still about serving the journey and education of white women, even with the addition of several women and people of color to the cast, so much of it is making excuses for the absence of a vital character. (I genuinely don’t know how we are supposed to move forward without Samantha! It turns the show into something entirely different). This revival may not be great – especially with our outspoken minx missing – but it’s watchable, even when it feels like a trainwreck. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend And Just Like That… to the casual viewer based on this strange mess of a pilot, but for those who still harbor a soft spot for Carrie Bradshaw and her crew, there’s something worth indulging in here.
Sex and Skin: For a show that used to be alllll about sex, And Just Like That… is actually pretty tame. There’s a goofy masturbation scene and some making out, but that’s about where it ends.
Parting Shot: It’s too big a spoiler to include here!
Sleeper Star: Sara Ramirez is a welcome addition to the cast as plucky podcast host Che Diaz, who tries to get Carrie out of her shell in the hopes of creating a better show. While Ramirez’s role is definitely a tricky one – they are essentially tasked with bringing Carrie and the crew up to speed with all the hip new terms they still can’t wrap their heads around – they play it with a sense of magnetism and delight, stealing each of their scenes with ease. Ramirez brings an exhilarating energy to And Just Like That…, a much needed shakeup from the same old stuff we’ve grown entirely too accustomed to.
Most Pilot-y Line: There are simply too many to count. From pandemic-referencing bits like “Remember when we had to legally stand six feet apart from one another?” and excuses for Samantha’s absence like “it’s kinda like she’s dead” and “I always thought the four of us would be friends forever,”, And Just Like That… somehow takes being on-the-nose to a whole new level.
Our Call: SKIP IT… if you are not a Sex and the City fan. While a lot of And Just Like That… is totally cringe-inducing, unfunny, and surprisingly dark, fans will likely enjoy reuniting with these characters as they try to navigate the world once more.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines, hogging the mic at karaoke, and thirst-tweeting. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.