And Just Like That: is Sex and the City reboot ‘desperate to seem cool and relevant’?
Critics loved and loathed long-awaited revival that premiered this week
Nearly two decades after Sex and the City last graced the small screen, Carrie and (most of) her crew are back in And Just Like That…, a long-awaited, ten-episode reboot broadcast on Sky Comedy and HBO Max.
The much-hyped revival, which features a major twist at the end of the first episode (no spoilers here), has been loved and loathed by critics in seemingly equal measure.
First 20 minutes are ‘terrible’
The first 20 minutes of episode one, which attempt to update viewers on the last decade or so, “are terrible”, said Lucy Mangan’s three-star review in The Guardian. “The Manhattan streets are alive with the sound of crowbars jimmying more exposition into the dialogue than Carrie’s closet has shoes.”
Yes, the initial scenes present a “typically heavy-handed Sex and the City style” catch-up, wrote Minnie Wright in the Radio Times, “but of course, we never loved it for its subtlety”.
The fab three – sorry, Samantha – last appeared on our TV screens 17 years ago. When the revolutionary show premiered in 1998, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) were all single and in their early thirties.
The trio are now “55 and in long-term marriages”, said Alan Sepinwall’s two-star Rolling Stone review, but the “often awkward and occasionally disingenuous” attempt at modernising Carrie and the world around her “just doesn’t work, for the most part”.
Carrie is now out of her depth as a guest on a hipster sex podcast with much younger co-hosts, Miranda has quit her corporate job in the city to get a master’s degree in human rights law (while her “once-adorable” son Brady is leaving used condoms on his bedroom floor) and Charlotte, rather predictably, is still happily married to Harry.
“Watching it made me feel old, and not because I, like these ladies, have aged since the original series,” said Jen Chaney in Vulture. “And Just Like That… comes across as desperate to seem cool and relevant in a very different TV landscape.”
And what about Samantha?
This SATC revival “wastes no time” explaining why fan-favourite Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is missing, wrote Erica Gonzales in Elle. Within the first few minutes of episode one, we learn that “the fourth member of their quartet” moved to London for work and fell out with Carrie after she dropped Samantha as her publicist.
But aside from several references throughout the series, “particularly in a few emotional moments in episode two”, Cattrall’s character is “otherwise gone”, said Adam White, in a four-star review for The Independent.
The new show clearly has “very different things on its mind than the Samantha-sized hole in the ensemble”, he added.
‘Unfrozen 1990s Caveperson vibe’
The original series was “groundbreaking for its sexual frankness and complex female friendships”, said chief TV critic James Poniewozik in The New York Times. But, like much TV of its time, it was also “very straight and very white”.
And Just Like That… attempts to address and redress this history with the inclusion of “cancel-culture jokes” and the provision of a “friend or colleague of colour as a sounding board” for each central character, Poniewozik continued, adding: “There’s a bit of an Unfrozen 1990s Caveperson vibe to it all.”
Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph agreed, writing that this “wokeness” feels “tacked on”. The non-white characters have been “brought in to answer criticism that Sex and the City was too white, but they will always be background noise to the three main stars”, Singh said in her two-star review.
Not all bad
There’s no doubt that elements of what made Sex and the City so special, from Carrie’s “near-absent voiceover” to the retiring of the iconic plinky-plonky theme music, “are certainly missed”, wrote White in The Independent.
However, he added, the first couple of episodes still mark “a return to form”. And Just Like That… “doesn’t feel like cloying nostalgia-bait, or a sad rehashing of the past”, he concluded. “It’s so good, in fact, that Kim Cattrall must be kicking herself.”