What separates a successful revival from an unsuccessful one is the crucial thing Sex and the City didn’t understand.
And just like that, Sex and the City was back.
Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) are navigating the navigating the world, now in their 50s, and it’s a patchy start.
It’s probably a good thing that the SATC revival series has a different name because the one thing missing from the first two episodes is what made it so pioneering in the first place: sex.
The only character to partake in any nocturnal (or even daytime) acrobatics is Miranda and Steve’s (David Eigenberg) son, Brady, who is now 17 years old in case you weren’t already feeling old.
Perhaps even more baffling is the fact that Carrie blushed and clamped up when she was asked about masturbation. She was at a loss for words. This, from a woman who used to openly write about penis sizes and tantric sex.
So, they’re not having sex, and they’re barely even talking about sex.
We couldn’t help but wonder, what was going on?
Any attempt at a revival is a fraught endeavour. How do you tap into the nostalgia for the original, stay true to the characters and that world, and balance it with the need for it to be relevant to its new era?
Most revivals have struggled and many of them failed to walk that fine line, stilettoed or not. And Just Like That is not the first to take a stumble – which it certainly does, at least at first.
The world is much changed since the series first premiered in 1998, and while And Just Like That has stayed true to one of its strongest tenets, the power of female friendship, it is so self-conscious about reintroducing its characters in a 2021 context.
That first episode is crammed full of Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte appearing adrift in the modern world, they seem like time-travellers from 2010.
Carrie is now on a podcast and has a burgeoning Instagram account, which, of course, makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is Miranda telling Carrie that she draws the line at podcasts.
There is no way Miranda would object to the podcast format if she had been living in New York City for the past 10 years, as she purports to have been.
It is a bizarre choice for the writers to decide Miranda somehow thinks podcasts are a “young person’s thing” when they’re really not. You can easily imagine a reality where the intellectually curious Miranda would cue up some NPR podcasts or The New York Times’ The Daily.
To have her be so opposed is the writers shouting, “Podcasts, it’s so 2021 and our characters don’t quite know what to make of it!”.
Miranda also cops the episode’s most cringeworthy scene when she arrives for her first class in human rights and mistakes the professor for a student, before flailing into a seriously offensive thing about black hair and identity.
She is, naturally, mortified and later confesses to Carrie that she was “so worried about saying the wrong thing in this climate that I said all the wrong things”.
The series is well-intentioned in addressing how privileged white women in their 50s might rub up against a younger, more “woke” crowd, but rather than letting it happen organically over 10 episodes, it crammed everything into the first.
It’s as if someone in the writing room led by Michael Patrick King said, let’s throw in everything from pronouns and non-binary gender to social distancing so everyone knows this is now 2021, as if that would somehow escape our notice.
To believe that these characters have just been living their lives in cosmopolitan New York since we last saw them in Sex and the City 2, the worst thing you can do is make it seem as if they’ve been cryogenically frozen for the past decade and awoke to find a world with “theys” and greys.
Happily, the first episode is the worst one so far and the series actually settles in afterwards. That’s partly due to the calamitous event at the end of the first episode which forces the narrative to be less distracted by “Oooh, 2021!”
The only character that really feels as if they not only live in 2021 but also lived through 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and so on, is Che, the queer, non-binary podcast host, played with energy and sass by Sara Ramirez.
Episode two, while bleak, at least gets back to the emotional core of the series, the relationship between the women, and how they’ve grown together. This is And Just Like That’s strength.
That dynamic is there, and it’s evolved enough while still being very familiar. Carrie and the potentially alcoholic Miranda clearly have the strongest bond, as they always have, while Charlotte and Stanford (Willie Garson) are still mini-rivals.
By the show’s third episode, the (sometimes comedic, sometime dramatic) rhythms have returned, and it is starting to feel like catching up with old friends, even if the conversation isn’t as urgent as it was in your youth and you just end up talking about the people you all knew 20 years ago.
Yes, you want And Just Like That to tell stories about women in their 50s and how they interact with the world around them through sex, relationships and power, but you also want them to feel as if they are of that world.
The first two episodes of And Just Like That is streaming now on Binge with new episodes available on Thursdays
Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima
Originally published as And Just Like That: Sex and the City revival but without any sex