Editor’s note: The following text contains some spoilers about “And Just Like That …”
(CNN Review) – After a successful series and two not-so-good films (the last one in 2010), “And Just Like That …” revives “Sex and the City” —Except for one of its four fabulous leads — with the remaining trio entering a new phase of life that brings new challenges. The name still has a lot of value, but like the movies, this HBO Max show has diminishing returns.
A few things about the opening episodes shouldn’t be anticipated, but since Kim Cattrall’s departure is well known, that’s a good place to start for multiple reasons. Off-screen drama aside, the series explains Samantha’s absence by reporting that she moved to London, which is the television equivalent of telling children that the family pet has gone to live on a farm in the upstate.
The absence of that character also allows altering the composition of the cast, adding several women of color (Nicole Ari Parker, Sara Ramirez, Sarita Choudhury, Karen Pittman), as well as discussions about race, gender identity and class distinctions.
The introduction to greater diversity is welcome, and as envisioned by producer, screenwriter, and director Michael Patrick King, those relationships are intended to be awkward.
Even with that in mind, though, it’s an art to write embarrassing scenes, and the show’s approach to them generally feels awkward. The same is true of the complications related to parenting older children in the case of Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), who basically approximate the cliché of well-meaning liberals constantly saying the wrong things.
As for Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), her latest career hurdle is bringing her reputation as a sex columnist into the world of podcasting, though she’s not quite sure how to handle her outspoken co-host (Ramirez from “Grey’s Anatomy”).
Perhaps inevitably, the new characters initially exist to provoke reactions and bring out different sides of the central trio, who, even with their extended circle of family and friends, including Carrie’s friend Stanford, played by the late Willie Garson, are where the focus of the program lies.
In fact, most of the appeal of “And Just Like That …” involves the audacity to focus on women in their 50s, a notoriously underrepresented demographic in television’s bid to appeal to a younger audience. If only the characters didn’t keep announcing their ages as to remind viewers who have presumably aged along with them, that the show has entered middle age.
The 23 years since the original premiere have brought long-awaited life changes, with concerns about parenting replacing dating and a hint of self-medication. It also lands in a new place in the streaming service HBO Max, where such a high-profile title is an obvious asset, albeit less satisfying than his other recent series about a female quartet, “The Sex Lives of College Girls“.
The new series takes some significant creative risks, and the episodes are slightly longer (mostly over 40 minutes), reflecting a more dramatic bias.
“We can’t just go on being who we were,” says Miranda.
But in a way they can. Because when it comes to “Sex and the City,” the more things change, the more they tend to stay the same. In that sense, “And Just Like That …” is an understandable title, but it could easily be replaced by “And Life Goes On …”.
“And Just Like That …” premieres December 9 on HBO Max, which, like CNN, is part of WarnerMedia’s.
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“Sex and the City” begins a new phase on HBO Max