With the news the Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That is being renewed for a second season, the Broad couldn’t help but wonder about a new opening scene.
Evening, bedroom, camera zooms in on one of the trio in the final throes of passion with her bedmate.
She flops onto the bed, checking the estrogen patch on the top of her thigh. “Glorious,” she sigh. “Oh, hot flush coming on. Quick, hand me the fan.”
Her mate obliges with a helping hand with the fan, sweeps her grey flecked hair off her neck and offers a final kiss. “You’ve always been hot in my book.”
So you get the drift. It’s age-realistic, it’s sexy, and it’s hot in more ways than one.
There’s plenty going on in the world right now to feel as though analysing a TV series is a trivial pastime. But it’s not to ignore or minimise the gravity of these things. It’s just a respite from these things for a time.
Did anything work in And Just Like That?
Across the TV series, SATC retained its central focus around women negotiating the urban dating jungle in the Big Apple, even if it did need to neatly partner everyone off and overplayed some of the angst by the end. But in saying that, by the end of the series it was missing some of the harsher edges that made it such compelling viewing: a slightly rude, unapologetic take on men and the many and varied pitfalls of relationships.
It was always going to be a challenge to revive Sex and the City. What started as a cynical, dry comedy about the perils of dating as 30-something women in NYC became a shiny, high fashion extravaganza by the time we got to the two spin-off films. Moving that into the 2020s and shifting the dilemmas and comedic observations in line with the changed social, political and identity mores.
And Just Like That gave us three of the four characters, much as we would have expected them to be years after the final film. Missing Kim Catrall’s Samantha Jones, the new series lost much of its arch. It was important to have a better racial mix in the characters and introduce Che, a non-binary character. And while addressing some aspects of white privilege, the politics of pronouns and a few other things, these did feel heavy handed and a bit forced. It felt like there was a checkbox of things that needed to be re-dressed so it all went into this series.
What went wrong with the reboot?
It’s a sad day in the Broad house when it’s necessary to admit that the Sex And The City reboot And Just Like That was too much of what we hoped it wouldn’t be and not enough of what we hoped it would. It was also missing some of the humour. This was meant to be a funny show that offered an unvarnished view of the perils of finding love, and sex, amidst the minefield of the urban jungle.
And Just Like That had an opportunity to put a sharp, funny and sexy show about 50-something women into the world. Certainly things have changed since the 90s, but surely they could have come up with smarter ways to depict the current landscape of relationships and friendships. Instead, we got cringeful comments about grey hair being ageing, pronoun confusion, no sex, hip surgery and a whole TV series worth of other clangers.
No longer the critics choice
As TV critic Emily Nussbaum observed after watching the first couple of episodes, “It’s not very much like SATC. It’s not arch, it’s not about sex — it’s nice to see the characters & it’s updated in ways that make sense.”
Although she was initially positive towards the series, she lasted until mid-way through the fifth ep when she abandoned because “It’s not fun-bad, it’s just bad.”
In the Broad’s view, as well as being a sharp, incisive TV critic, Nussbaum has penned one of the best essays on the SATC women and the show itself. A staff writer for The New Yorker, the essay appears in her book I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through The TV Revolution where she says TV needs to be critiqued as a complex art form. If you love deconstructing TV, this book is highly recommended.
She dissects the show’s value system and plots it against the major modern waves of feminism while arguing how the characters function as symbolic rather than one-dimensional types while their lives were mapped along emotional, ideological and sexual arcs. Her point about the end of the series, which I won’t go into here, rightly encapsulates issues with the ending. And it’s here that I think the seeds were set for the major story challenges the reboot faced. Disrupting lives to create the ground for a new set of conundrums (Carrie and Miranda) in a way that didn’t jar too much; or provide little interesting story material (Charlotte).
What about a second season?
It was always going to carry a huge weight of expectation and struggle to keep its wry, cheeky style in a different era. Missing one of the quartet while over-correcting for past wrongs and missing the humorous take on the vagaries of dating and relationships was just too much.
Now we know that season 2 has been green lit, we can only hope that the writers and producers can find more of the humour the first series was missing, inject some much-needed sex and fun and find ways to explore the rich terrain of relationships in the 2020s and 50-something women living interesting, complex lives. They have a unique opportunity to develop another genre-defining show.
Try this show if you want alternative
The Broad just discovered Mrs Fletcher featuring Kathryn Hahn as newly emptynester, 40-something Eve finding her way after her son leaves for college. It’s an intimate, poignant and cheeky exploration of relationships of all kinds.