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And Just Like That seems to hate its characters so much that it wants them punished

  • "As the title suggests, And Just Like That is neither a continuation of the original show nor a televised sequel to the movies but its own thing entirely: a ponderous, melancholic muddle whose primary motivation seems to be making amends for sins of the past," says Sophie Gilbert jof HBO Max's Sex and the City revival. "I watched it all without stopping, occasionally hiding my head in my hands when Charlotte called one Black woman by another Black woman’s name and Miranda misgendered one of her fellow students in her postgraduate program. The series doesn’t seem to like or respect its characters much anymore, which makes me question now if it ever did. The show’s premise, which is revealed at the end of the first episode to be not at all what it seemed, could have been fascinating. One of the major themes of Sex and the City was that its characters resisted the idea not just of physically aging, but of growing up. Carrie, a teeny-tiny woman whose signature tutu was essentially a child’s costume, had $40,000 worth of shoes but no retirement account. Samantha dated men who were 20 years younger than she was. Charlotte clung to an infantile, Disneyfied ideal of what love should look like. To revisit these women in their mid-50s is surely to collide with disenchantment, but also revelation—the freedom that comes with realizing that what you look like is no longer your primary form of value in the world, and maybe never was. Rather than examine its characters as potentially changed people, though, And Just Like That seems to want to punish them in front of our eyes. The new episodes I’ve seen are less a Golden Girls–esque celebration of life for older women than a parade through a dismal gantlet of loss and humiliation. Without Samantha on board, none of them is having sex, which is presumably one of the reasons the title had to change. The series begins, as it used to, with a risqué lunch discussion about semen, but the context is wildly different: Miranda stepped on a used condom in her son’s room before breakfast. Later, the host of a podcast Carrie appears on, a nonbinary comedian named Che Diaz (played by Sara Ramirez), tells her that she’s coming across as too prudish during the discussions about sex. 'You need to go with it, or the trolls will label you the uptight cisgender female married lady,' they say. Over and over, And Just Like That demonstrates how ill at ease its characters are in 2021."

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    • Willie Garson's cancer battle was kept secret to everybody on set except Sarah Jessica Parker -- until his illness became "undeniable": “The death of Wille Garson was obviously, completely unlooked for, unknown,” Cynthia Nixon said Friday of Garson, who appears as Stanford Blatch in the first two episodes of And Just Like That filmed before his death in September. “Sarah Jessica was the only one that knew he was sick when we were filming until things became undeniable and then we were told. Thankfully we were able to shoot with him not just before he was sick but after so it could be something we could discuss and listen to him about. I know that was very important for us and I think it was something that was important to him, too—not to be hiding that from us anymore. As Charlotte says, ‘Death is a part of life,’ but it does remind us of how precious our loved ones are to us.”
    • And Just Like That has a lot in common with HBO Max's Gossip Girl revival: Gossip Girl, says Alison Herman, was "another beloved, aughts-era New York show about conspicuous consumption reborn as a lure for subscribers on HBO Max. Both revivals prompt the same reflexive skepticism: When a series is this tied to a time, place, and cultural moment, is it even worth the overhaul it takes to remake it in the present day? Too little change and the show seems dated; too much and you puncture the fantasy bubble that was always part of its allure." Herman says that "the biggest roadblock facing And Just Like That … is arguably cultural. In the ’90s, it was easier to present four white, straight, wealthy women as the avatars of a melting pot like New York. In 2021, it requires some adjustment. New cast members fill in for Samantha while adding a diversity that Sex and the City never had, even at its peak. Meanwhile, every veteran gets their own teachable moment, committing cringeworthy faux pas as they learn to navigate 'this climate.' When a radicalized Miranda leaves corporate law to study human rights, she can’t stop herself from commenting on the hairstyle of her Black professor, played by The Morning Show’s Karen Pittman. It’s supposed to make you wince, though probably not so much that you hit pause and sink into the floor, as I did." Herman adds: "And Just Like That … thus falls prey to a predictable pitfall: attempts at relevance from a show that, even at its zeitgeist-y peak, was hardly on feminism’s bleeding edge. (Carrie may have lots of casual sex, but she still marries a financier.) Yet it also benefits from its natural strengths, when it’s smart enough to lean into them. This is a show about rich white people, of which there’s no shortage on TV these days. But the people in question are women in their 50s. It’s a demographic more represented than it used to be in releases like Julie Delpy’s On the Verge—though not with characters this beloved, who we’ve known since, as Big puts it, they kept their sweaters in the oven."
    • Why did And Just Like That turn Cynthia Nixon's aspirational Miranda into a "microagressive Karen"?: "Miranda Hobbes is a shadow of her former self on the Sex and the City reboot," says Madison Malone Kircher. "Her compatriots’ personalities seem to have remained encased in amber since the show’s finale in 2004: Carrie is still puns and charmingly batted lashes and Charlotte is still, well, Charlotte. (Samantha lives in London and the famous quartet is now a trio.) But Miranda seems to have devolved, regressing into the worst possible version of herself."
    • In defense of Mr. Big: "Big was a divisive character, mostly because he is what a lot of people would describe as 'toxic' and 'manipulative' and 'an a**hole,'" says Danielle Cohen. "There are long stretches of this show when he’s not very nice to Carrie, though, to be fair, Carrie isn’t so great to the people in her life either. This prompts most of her friends to strongly dislike him, especially Miranda, though everyone at his funeral seems to have forgotten that — everyone, that is, except Carrie’s old friend Susan Sharon, who whispers loudly at the funeral, 'Am I the only one who remembers how much of a prick he was to her?' You are, Susan! Well, you and a whole lot of SATC fans. Whatever. Maybe Big made up for being mean in the ten years since we’ve seen these characters, and Susan Sharon doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about. Either way, Big does have some redeeming qualities, like really good eyebrows that he is constantly wiggling in a suggestive way. There is also something annoyingly charming about his weird old-school vibe and undying commitment to cigars. Whether he’s an a**hole or not, you can’t deny he has given us some real moments throughout Sex and the City’s long history."
    • And Just like That proves the original Sex and the City series has, in fact, aged well -- not terribly: "Ever since the release of the increasingly appalling films in 2008 and 2010, and now the disappointment of And Just Like That, a common theory is that the show was too much of its time to endure," says Hadley Freeman. "But like Friends, which has faced similar criticism, SATC has actually endured very well. The reruns still totally work, and that is because of a simple if often forgotten truth: the scripts were brilliant. Yes, the show was wrapped in a gauze of fantasy, and its depiction of women’s sex lives was revolutionary. But the reason it spoke to women so deeply was for neither of those reasons: it’s because it was soaked in emotional truth, and it was extremely funny. Never mind the discussions about cunnilingus and masturbation, although they were great, actually. It was the plotlines about Samantha’s breast cancer, Miranda caring for her mother-in-law with dementia, Charlotte’s infertility and Carrie’s affair with Big while he was married that stuck to the sides. The reason the movies and the new show don’t work isn’t because they’ve come out at the wrong time – it’s because their scripts are terrible. If the original show had been like And Just Like That, let alone Sex and the City 2, there would be no Sex and the City tour buses going around New York City today. It’s a mystery why the SATC spin-offs are so bad, given that they’re written by Michael Patrick King and executive produced by Parker, as the original show was. In truth, the original show lost its way in the last series, with its insistence that all the women end up shacked up with someone, betraying the courage of its original convictions, although at least the scripts were still good. Most likely, the huge success of the franchise cowed everyone involved into conventionality. It’s a shame. Some franchises cannot endure, it turns out. But, happily, old box sets live for ever."
    • And Just Like That has HBO Max's biggest launch over a 24-hour period
    • Twitter users mock Peloton's And Just Like That debacle with memes
    • Yes, the Peloton instructor from And Just Like That, played by Jess King, is a Peloton instructor in real life
    • Costume designers Molly Rogers and Danny Santiago describe taking the SATC baton from the legendary Patricia Field: “I was so excited that I was going to do something that wasn’t a cop show,” says Rogers. “When I heard that the baton had been passed and Pat was like, ‘You guys go for it,’ I was so excited for the reunion with the actresses, to see Chris Noth and everyone. It was like a high school reunion I wanted to attend.” Turning serious for a moment, Rogers adds: “I have to tell you we didn’t feel the pressure of the legacy of the show. We started out being happy to be coming out of the pandemic and we just kept that gratefulness going through every outlet mall and finding everything that we loved to bring back and show the girls.”
    • Kristin Davis doesn't agree that grief defines And Just Like That: “I would not say that this series has chosen to focus on grief as an overall," she says. "I know that we came out of the box with that so I get everybody’s feelings. And I also feel that culturally, we are experiencing a lot right now (such as) grief, anxiety — many things. For me … we always in Sex and the City had elements of drama like breast cancer and fertility. Other things other than just sex.” For star Cynthia Nixon, the show’s decision to include grief and loss was about finding a way to take the characters in a direction they hadn’t already been. “I think, at root, we wanted to take all these characters and kind of pull the rug out from under them in comedic ways and in dramatic ways,” she says.
    • Showrunner Michael Patrick King defends the premiere shocker, saying "it’s great for Carrie’s character": King says that the first two episodes were set up to be as realistic as possible, which inherently made them more dramatic. “I have no interest in taking the audience into a dark woods and leaving them there without a flashlight," he adds. "We’re not going to just leave Carrie by herself. But how we do it? Why we do it? How far it goes remains to be seen.”
    • King says And Just Like That wouldn't have happened without Chris Noth's participation: "If Chris wouldn’t do Big again, then we wouldn’t have come back," says King. "I wouldn’t have done it without him..."
    • King says they filmed a fake funeral scene to throw off paparazzi: "We had to have some red herrings," King laughed of the August funeral photos that led SATC fans into a frenzy.
    • King explains why And Just Like That portrays Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte as having "no worth" in their 50s -- the same feeling they had in their 30s: "Well, I love a show that has a villain, and the villain is society," says King. "And as an outsider myself, I love to buck society. I love to say, 'Oh, is that what you think? I'm gay, so I should be invisible? I should feel bad? I should feel shame? Oh, is that what you think? Okay. Watch what I do with my life.' I love the idea of women being told by society that they have no value because of their age, especially these women. And I also love the idea of having other women come in that they haven't met to deepen and challenge them as people and support them as well. If you look at television, you can be in your 30s — but next time you have to be retired and play a grandma. I have actress friends who are 50 who have to go up for grandmother parts. And then we have these three amazing actresses. I mean, Charlotte says, 'I'm 55.' Miranda says, 'I'm 55.' We're not pulling any punches. Like, go ahead, come at us. We're telling you the truth. We're 55. We're not ashamed. We're single, we're not ashamed. Same DNA."

    TOPICS: And Just Like That, HBO Max, Gossip Girl (2021 Series), Sex and the City, Chris Noth, Cynthia Nixon, Danny Santiago, Jess King, Kristin Davis, Michael Patrick King, Molly Rogers, Sarah Jessica Parker, Willie Garson, Costume Design, Peloton


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