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And Just Like That review: This is not Sex and the City as you know it

The revival takes (many) a turn. **WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD**

And Just Like That
Published: Thursday, 9th December 2021 at 4:40 pm
A star rating of 3 out of 5.

We at RadioTimes.com currently have the show which ignited a Rabbit frenzy two decades ago categorised under comedy; that might have to change.

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And Just Like That gets off to a dramatic start. OK, not right from the start. First, we're walked through the kind of catch-up that's to be expected and necessary when you pick up a story many years after you left off, in typically heavy-handed Sex and the City style – but of course, we never loved it for its subtlety.

Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) are enjoying a soft-focus, loved-up existence complete with wine and an enviable record player set-up. She's posting NYC fashion on Instagram and contributing to a podcast about gender roles and sex – the days of her column in old-timey print far behind her.

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has quit her high-powered career at the law firm and is beginning a Master's degree in human rights law because she just couldn't sit back and be "part of the problem" anymore.

Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is... Charlotte. Prim and proper, with daughter Lily (Cathy Ang) an overachiever and Rose (Alexa Swinton) more rebellious and failing to conform with her mother's specific brand of femininity, she's playing the part our Park Avenue princess always wanted – which is not without its challenges.

And they're old. No really – they are definitely old (their take, not mine) and they're keen for you to know it: a hundred jokes about the new-fangled nonsense of podcasts make that abundantly clear.

Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis in And Just Like That

Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis in And Just Like That

Then there's the elephant in the room. With the inimitable Kim Cattrall absent from the cast, there is undoubtedly a hole in the heart of the new Sex and the City series. While the reboot has its merits (and plenty of shortcomings), it never should have been made in the first place. SATC without Samantha feels more like a cold, cynical business move than a true comeback.

But the show must go on, HBO Max decided, so it transpires Samantha is living in London and the group conveniently no longer speak to her. A falling out with Carrie over professional bits and bobs led to our shining star of the original series abandoning all of her most important friendships and never contacting them again.

While the brief recap at the beginning of the first episode is relatively fluffy, it doesn't take long for And Just Like That to take a sombre turn – think My Motherboard, My Self (season four, episode eight) but much more sombre (this is your final spoiler warning).

As had long been rumoured – and hotly-debated between believers and sceptics – John James Preston dies just a handful of scenes into the Big (sorry) Return. It's the dodgy heart what got him in the end.

As unmoved as I was by Big's heavily foreshadowed departure as a member of the, He's Always Been Toxic party, his passing will affect the romantics among us more than others.

It's watching the beloved Stanford – a Sex and the City icon and one of the many delightful roles given to us by the late Willie Garson – and his fiery husband Anthony (Mario Cantone) put a fight behind them, embrace and acknowledge how lucky they are to have each other in light of Big's death that brought a tear to my eye.

Big and Carrie in And Just Like That

Big (Chris Noth) with Carrie in And Just Like That

Besides the alarm bells and red flashing lights which should have warned HBO Max off bringing Sex and the City back in the first place, its major failing is, ironically, where the show tries to rectify its previous flaws.

A more diverse cast, not just of stars but also, hopefully, of storylines, is a long-overdue change, but the main three's newfound social and cultural awareness is shoe-horned in to such a degree the whole endeavour feels often cloying, at times inauthentic and occasionally downright uncomfortable. And this is really something it needed to get right.

The show still has its comedic quirks, as well as its clumsy way of handling subject matter which is just par for the course at this point, but if the early instalments are anything to go by, this is a much less frivolous series than it ever was before.

What's promising about the Sex and the City revival is where it has the potential to go. The first two episodes set our second, third and fourth favourites of the group up to explore the next chapter of their lives: dealing with grief, a tougher, more raw journey than any flirtation with loss the original series had, changing friendships, and, most interestingly, the feminine predisposition to perfection.

As Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte navigate their fifties, the conflict between messy humanity and the pressure to achieve career, familial, emotional and physical perfection also enters new territory.

With her world upended just as it was finally cruising through apparent perfection, how will Carrie reconcile with what her life should be? Right after John dies, she asks outright: "What's next for me?"

Lisa Todd Wexley in And Just Like That

Nicole Ari Parker is among the new cast members of And Just Like That

Miranda, meanwhile, is striving for ethical perfection. Uneasy with her continuing on a path of choices that have her living comfortably with her extremely well-paid job, adoring husband and newly sexually vociferous teenage son, she's turning her attention to the injustices in the world, seemingly trying to end racism overnight – uncomfortable but perhaps not for the reasons the writers intended.

Though it's not the most dramatic, Charlotte's struggle with and for perfection might be the most in keeping with the Sex and the City of old as she grapples with her ageing appearance and performance as a mother. Of all the threads we pick up in And Just Like That, Charlotte's sees the most natural progression.

And, while our former quartet, now a trio, could well have a very watchable journey ahead of them, there is, mercifully, room for the newcomers, Sara Ramirez, Karen Pittman and Nicole Ari Parker, to present more stories previously untold by the show.

It's not Sex and the City exactly as you remember it, but that's probably for the best.

Sex and the City: And Just Like That is available to watch on Sky Comedy and stream on NOW from today.

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