In its very first scene, this 10-episode revival of Sex and the City looks the elephant right in the eye. As Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) wait for a table at a stylish brunch spot – it’s just like old times! – an acquaintance asks where their fourth musketeer is. “Oh, she’s no longer with us,” Charlotte replies tightly, before Miranda quickly clarifies that Samantha isn’t dead, just living in London now. A few minutes later, we learn that when sex columnist Carrie dispensed with Samantha’s services as a publicist, her old friend was so hurt and embarrassed that she hotfooted it across the Atlantic. It’s a bit flimsy, but perhaps everyone involved is still hopeful that one day, Kim Cattrall might return to the fold. Good luck with that.
Anyway, Samantha’s no-bullshit attitude is definitely missed during a strained opening episode. Writer-director Michael Patrick King, who steered the original Sex and the City series and its disappointing spin-off films, seems to be fumbling for an overarching purpose while trying to do too much. Times have changed since Sex and the City became a late-’90s phenomenon, and King is clearly hyper-aware that the show, while iconic, has been heavily criticised for its overwhelming whiteness and weird squeamishness around LGBTQ people. Introducing several new characters played by women of colour is a start, though And Just Like That… will have to work harder. By the end of episode two, Charlotte’s classy new friend Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker) still feels entirely two-dimensional; she’s even drily referred to as “Black Charlotte” by the gang’s zingy pal Anthony (Mario Cantone).
King also wants to impress on us that yes, Carrie and co. have enviable lives cushioned by privilege, but they’re also middle-aged women navigating a patriarchal society that ties value to their perceived attractiveness. “There are more important things in life than looking young,” Miranda retorts when Charlotte asks if she is planning to dye out her grey hair. It’s a line that could be a clap-back to the “misogynist chatter” surrounding the show that Parker recently called out.
If the dialogue is clumsy – “I’ve got to go and do a podcast, they’re like jury duty now!” Carrie quips unconvincingly – explorations of contemporary cultural values are even clumsier. When Miranda, who has quit her corporate law job to study for a masters, arrives at her first class, she manages to be profoundly racially insensitive in front of her Black professor Dr Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman) and possibly misgender a classmate. It’s cringe-inducing, but not in the comedy-of-manners way that King presumably intended. Combined with one too many mentions of vaguely trendy tech – Peloton! Instagram! Kindle! – it almost feels as though these women are trying to catch up after being stuck in a coma since 2010’s Sex in the City 2. And nothing makes you laugh like the time Samantha shagged a hot priest and nicknamed him “Friar Fuck”.
Thankfully, the show finds its Manolo-clad feet after a genuinely unexpected development at the episode’s climax. The shockwaves allow episode two to settle into a more subdued groove where each of the central trio can finally behave like the characters fans know and love. Sara Ramirez, who plays Carrie’s podcast boss Che Diaz, a self-described “queer, non-binary Mexican-Irish diva”, gets some promising moments, and the late Willie Garson sparkles as Carrie’s pal Stanford. After an awkward start to this reunion, And Just Like That… is beginning to feel like hanging out with an old friend again.
‘And Just Like That…’ is available on Sky Comedy and NOW