Sex and the pity: ‘And Just Like That’ defies all positive expectations of a revival of the series

David Matos, Associate Arts & Life Editor

Illustration by (Emma Kogel)

The “Sex and the City” franchise is that old friend you keep running into every few years. You may have an amazing history together, but as you mature, you two just begin to fade away and your irreplaceable get-togethers turn into an awkward wave and nod at the local coffee shop.

The sex-positive American drama series, “Sex and the City,” was leaps and bounds ahead of its time as it showcased four sexually liberated female friends in their 30s combatting the New York City dating scene. The show spawned six seasons and two movies, and was a staple in the homes of many adults from the late 1990s through the whole of the 2000s.

Needless to say, expectations were high when a reboot series, “And Just Like That,” was announced by HBO Max that the three of the four leading ladies are making a swift comeback to reprise their iconic roles.

“And Just Like That” follows a similar idea to the original series but this time Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) are in their 50s and are navigating a new chapter in their lives and friendship. Despite Kim Cattrall refusing to return to her role as the sex-positive fourth member of the group, Samantha, the reboot had all the ingredients to make something fabulous.

Instead, each episode was a cringe-fest of forced progressive storylines, nonsensical character development and amateur subplots written by people who seemingly never watched any previous iteration of “Sex and the City.”

A major hiccup within the reboot is the handling of Samantha’s absence from the show. It’s unbelievable for a friend as loyal as Samantha to move all the way to London over a financial dispute with Carrie. In one episode of “Sex and the City,” she selflessly pulled out Carrie’s diaphragm, so needless to say she is not the type of person who would drop a close friend over something as minuscule as money.

An even worse subtraction from the series is Miranda’s sanity. All of Miranda’s likable characteristics were in shambles in “And Just Like That,” as expressed through her newfound relationship with the show’s first non-binary character and stand-up comedian, Che, played by Sara Ramirez. Miranda, who eloped with Steve in the final season of “Sex and the City,” is suddenly unhappy with her marriage as Steve can no longer satisfy her sexually.

Instead of communicating any of this to her husband of almost 20 years, she “naturally” has an affair with a podcast host who believes to be hilarious enough to classify themself as a comedian.

Miranda was the charismatic and wise lawyer of the group who was always in control of her life and was never quite known to make spontaneous decisions. Her choice to move on to a new chapter in her life with Che while leaving Steve in the trenches was extremely upsetting.

It’s also surprising that the show’s writers would go in this direction with the character, especially considering Steve cheated on Miranda once in the first “Sex and the City” movie which nearly separated the couple for good. Miranda is either a major hypocrite or suffered severe memory loss sometime between the first movie and the reboot.

The writers of “And Just Like That” force the audience to accept Miranda’s inability to comprehend the weight of her out-of-touch relationship under the nose of her husband.

Their relationship is not admirable in the slightest, and I found myself rooting for Steve more than I did for Che and Miranda.

The show also hinted at Miranda having a drinking problem, but the storyline was abruptly abandoned when she decided to empty her bottle into her sink instead of seeking realistic help. It just goes to show how thoughtless the writers were when fabricating storylines the viewers are meant to care about.

The charm of the original series stemmed from the ladies’ relatability and sex-positive wit that made you root for every character. The reboot series, however, makes every character unlikable, far removed from the original source material. It almost feels like you’re watching a totally different set of characters.

Carrie is a widow with nothing but a podcast, a large fortune and a depressed look on her face for the duration of the series. Charlotte turned into a caricatured version of her former self who deals with seemingly non-problems every episode. Miranda gets the most unfortunate transformation as her strong will and togetherness is traded for a deranged personality and rose-colored glasses.

The most tolerable character in “And Just Like That” is the no-nonsense Seema, played by Sarita Choudhury. Seema is first introduced as Carrie’s real estate agent, but their business relationship quickly evolves into the most appealing friendship on the show. Seema brings a familiar and fun energy to the series that’s quite refreshing, especially in contrast to the chaos happening everywhere else.

“Sex and the City” lives on as one of my favorite shows, so it is bothersome that the reboot doesn’t compare in the slightest. I was left more and more disappointed with each episode. My fingers were crossed that the series would end with Carrie waking up from a terrible nightmare. However, despite their flaws, my devotion to these characters and their deranged lives did keep me invested every week.

Though I thoroughly disliked nearly everything about this series with just so much potential, I do yearn for a season two so the writers have another opportunity to clean up the mess that was made of this first one, and give any dignity left back to these once-beloved characters. The reboot is HBO Max’s most-viewed original show ever, so the likelihood of a second season is surprisingly high.