Some Rambling Thoughts on "And Just Like That"
Because I watch a lot of TV
**This is nothing but spoilers so, proceed accordingly.
Hollywood’s current penchant for reboots and re-imaginings of older television gives the impression that yes, indeed, you can go home again. And that’s understandable. We’re living with the ongoing precarity of a pandemic and a slew of other crises and challenges. It’s nice to imagine that once upon, there was a better time. I’ve watched many of the reboots, often of shows that have not been off the air very long, and in each instance the show is not just revisiting its past. They are also trying to correct all the previous wrongs, and most of those wrongs are grounded in issues of representation. Just like that, these reimagined shows are diverse, reflecting a broad spectrum of identities and the attendant issues they generally deal with. These shows try so very hard. Frankly, they try too hard. A lot of these re-imaginings feel forced, inauthentic, like the shows’ writers have a checklist of everything they need to do right to avoid previous wrongs.
It’s kind of cynical, actually. The tone of some of these shows is reminiscent of someone who is in trouble but doesn’t quite know why so they overcorrect in every possible way, hoping they will fix whatever is broken. Which brings me to And Just Like That, the Sex & the City reboot. It’s a sequel, really, to the show but fifteen years or so on down the road.
I loved Sex & the City despite its flaws. Yes, it was unrealistic and set in a New York City largely devoid of people of color. Yes it was often reductive about gender and heteronormativity. But damn, it was entertaining as hell. From the fashion to the romantic entanglements of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha to their unbreakable bonds as friends to their adventures and growing pains against the backdrop of New York, there was a lot to love. Even the movies, which were bad, were also good. I’ve seen every episode. I am well-versed in all the cultural touchstone moments like the post-it break up and Big as the aged fuckboi and Carrie falling on the runway and Lexi Featherstone falling out of a window as a cautionary tale.
I had high hopes for And Just Like That, because I wanted to see where these women were at and Samantha Irby was writing for the show and I love absolutely everything she writes in any genre, and Sara Ramirez was starring and they’re a friend. I suspect that most fans of the show were going to love it no matter what the show ended up being because we were so attached to the original. And at the same time, the reboot was always going to elicit a lot of opprobrium because of that attachment. Nothing would live up to the audience’s outsized and unrealistic expectations.
The pilot was… uneven but generally fine as most pilots tend to be. And then it was distractingly unacceptable because Samantha Jones, the vivacious heart of the show, was nowhere to be found. Sometimes, real life intrudes. Because of a rift between Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall, the latter chose not to participate in the reboot. And I respect it, that willingness to stay true to oneself. But the show was the lesser for it. What made Sex & the City work, was the bond between these four women. If any one of them was absent, the show would be missing something vital.
In the pilot, Carrie and Big seem to be enjoying their happily ever after. Miranda and Steve are, well if not enjoying happily ever after, stoically tolerating one another as they raise their son Brady with some free-range parenting energy, and Charlotte is still Charlotte, keeping up appearances and trying so hard to be everything to everyone but happy with Harry and their two children, Rose (who becomes Rock) and Lily. Carrie is now podcasting with Che Diaz, a Latinx, nonbinary comedian, and a guy named Jackie. Miranda has quit her job and decides to go back to college, and has a series of increasingly cringeworthy moments with her professor, Nya.
Eventually, we learn that there was a falling out between Carrie and Samantha, and Samantha was so broken up about the break up that she moved to London. Already, we are teetering on the edge of wildly implausible. Then we find out that the rift happened because Carrie fired Samantha as a publicist when she no longer needed one. It’s the most bizarre excuse. Samantha was very successful. She would not let business intrude on her friendship with Carrie. At the end of the episode, Big dies of a heart attack and it is sad, but in the next episode, Samantha sends a text and some flowers to the funeral. It was then I understood that the show was set in an alternate universe, and as such I couldn’t really take it seriously. There is no reality where, upon hearing of Big’s death, that Samantha Jones would not fly to New York by any means necessary, and immediately take the situation in hand. It would not happen. And knowing that made it impossible to take the show seriously.
To be fair, the show improved episode by episode and the “Tragically Hip,” episode was by far the best of the season. It was excellent by any measure and could absolutely stand alone. There were many fun moments. Seeing Carrie wearing her extravagant dresses and bizarre outfits warmed the cockles of my critical heart. There was a clever episode where Charlotte tries to invite the few black people she knows to a dinner party at her house so that her friend Lisa Todd Wexley, from their children’s school, won’t feel awkward being the only black person at the party. Then the tables are turned when Charlotte and Harry go to a party at the Wexley home and they are the only white people. Carrie seemed to buy and sell apartments like they were handbags but the narrative arc of her grief was, probably, the strongest storyline of the season. In each episode there were intelligent or charming or poignant moments offering glimpses of what the show used to be and what the reboot could have been.
Reboots are never going to be identical renderings of the original shows no matter how much audiences yearn for that. They are, at their best, going to harness the best energy of the original, while building something familiar but new. Throughout the first season of And Just Like That, many of the narrative choices gave the impression that none of the writers were at all familiar with the original show or the characters. Now, there was nothing they could do about Cattrall choosing not to participate in the project. The show’s writers had, in many ways, an insurmountable task—to explain the inexplicable. That said, what was within their control often felt mishandled.