Film & Television

‘And Just Like That,’ Carrie Bradshaw is Back

It’s been twenty-three years since HBO introduced us to Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha, and their Manolo-wearing, Cosmo-sipping sexual adventures in the city that never sleeps. And it’s been more than a decade since the second Sex and the City, which sent the fashionistas to Abu Dhabi (and had critics shaking their heads over how unfunny and utterly tone-deaf it was). 

And Just Like That picks up on three of the foursome (Samantha is “no longer with us”) as they navigate midlife. Fear not, they still dress up, but they also have to deal with graying hair, moody teenage children, new media, hearing aids, diversity wokeness, and possibly alcoholism.

And we’re only two episodes into the season!

Carrie is still happily married to Big. She’s no longer a columnist (newspapers are so 1990s!), but she’s a regular on the podcast “X, Y and Me,” which is led by standup comedian Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez). After an awkward on-air exchange about public masturbation, Che warns Carrie that she needs to step up her game. Ahem, since when is New York’s favorite sex columnist a prude? Carrie may have changed, but Sarah Jessica Parker looks and acts remarkably the same as she ever did. If you loved the original Ms. Bradshaw, you’ll love Carrie 2.0.

Charlotte (Kristin Davis), always the most conservative of the clique, is turning herself inside out to be the picture-perfect mother. Parenting, as any parent will tell you, is an exceedingly messy business, though, and Charlotte gets a rude awakening (the first of many, I have a feeling) when younger daughter Rose (Alexa Swinton) refuses to wear the designer frock her mother has picked out for her sister’s recital. She’s still married to Harry (Evan Handler) and is wooing the Queen Bee of the private school PTA, played by elegant Black actor Nicole Ari Parker.

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has left corporate law and is pursuing a Master’s degree in human rights, because “Wearing a pink pussy hat wasn’t enough.” She’s still married to Steve (David Eigenberg) and coming to terms with her sexually active now-teen son Brady (Niall Cunningham). She’s also day-drinking and tip-toeing around diversity issues, unwittingly offending her Black professor, played by The Morning Show’s Karen Pittman.

By and large, the three besties have evolved in ways that feel natural to their characters. But you may have noticed something else in my quick summaries. In hindsight, Sex and the City was an exceptionally white series — especially considering that it took place in, and celebrated, one of the most diverse cities in the country. The few times that ethnic characters were introduced — “No Ifs, Ands or Butts,” season three, episode five, when Samantha dates a Black music producer comes to mind — now seem a bit (or a lot) off-key. Similarly, the only real gender diversity involved stereotypical “gay best friends,” Anthony and Stanford (Mario Cantone and the late Willie Garson). The producers are clearly making up for lost time with a much more inclusive cast of characters. Although I applaud any intentional moves toward meaningful equity, some of the new characters feel a little too strategic. (You can almost hear the writers: “What if we make Che a queer, non-binary Mexican-Irish diva?”) Methinks they doth protest too much; the additional cast could have been introduced more naturally over time.

Speaking of Samantha, after a very public row between actor Kim Cattrall and series star Parker, her character is noticeably absent. Within the first five minutes of the first episode, we learn that she’s in London, where she escaped after Carrie fired her as her publicist. She isn’t answering calls or texts, which seems a bit immature and out of step with Samantha’s “live and let live” attitude. Still, despite all the headlines about feuding castmates and vows to never play that signature role again, the show does leave the door open if Cattrall choses to return. It isn’t as if they killed her off.

But … one major character isn’t so lucky.

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the first episode of And Just Like That but plan to, do NOT continue reading.

Big dies. There, I said it. 

In the last few minutes of episode one, set against a beautiful piano solo played by Lily Goldenblatt (Cathy Ang), Charlotte’s oldest daughter, Big powers through a Peloton workout, gets ready to take a shower, clutches his arm, and falls to the ground. Carrie walks in just in time to watch him die. She is so distraught that she doesn’t notice her “wedding shoes” (blue satin with jeweled ornaments) being destroyed by the still running water. Odder still, she doesn’t call 911, which might have saved his life, given actor Chris Noth a full season’s work, and precluded my having to write this.

Suffice it to say, the Internet lit up about Big’s “Death by Peloton.”

Peloton immediately put out a statement by Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist and member of the company’s health and wellness advisory council.

“I’m sure Sex and the City fans, like me, are saddened by the news that Mr. Big dies of a heart attack. Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle — including cocktails, cigars, and big steaks — and was at serious risk, as he had a previous cardiac event in season 6. These lifestyle choices, and perhaps even his family history, which often is a significant factor, were the likely cause of his death. Riding his Peloton bike may have even helped delay his cardiac event.” She went on to say, “While 25 percent of heart attacks each year are in patients who already had one (like Mr. Big), even then they are very, very treatable. It’s always important to talk to your doctor, get tested, and have a healthy prevention strategy. The good news is Peloton helps you track heart rate while you ride, so you can do it safely.” 

The company claims it was aware that its equipment would be used (and that one of their real-life instructors would be featured), but had not been told exactly what an important, arguably tragic, plot twist it would prompt. The economic fallout was quick and drastic; their stock fell 11 percent.

Legacy brand Crock-Pot faced a similar challenge a few years ago, when Jack Pearson, the beloved patriarch of This Is Us, died after an old and faulty slow cooker sparked a kitchen fire. The company rebounded quickly, in part because they had a sense of humor about it. When fans expressed their grief online, Crock-Pot launched its first Twitter account, “so we could comfort fans over the loss of Jack and at the same time share facts about safety.” The hashtag #CrockPotisInnocent began trending and This Is Us creator tweeted, “Taking a moment to remind everyone that it was a 20-year-old fictional crockpot with an already funky switch? Let’s not just lump all those lovely hard-working crockpots together.” A promotional partnership eventually came together with a Super Bowl ad encouraging fans to “find the ability to forgive” as Jack (actor Milo Ventimiglia) enjoys a bowl of Crock-Pot chili.

I couldn’t help but wonder, was Peloton as in the dark as it said it was? Or would the next Peloton ad feature a very much alive Noth?

And just like that … it did. Smooth move, Peloton. Smooth move. 

Meanwhile, as Vogue once said after Big left her at the altar, Carrie Bradshaw is single and living in New York.

The first two episodes of And Just Like That are available to stream on HBO Max. New episodes will be released weekly.

 

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  • Eleanore Wells January 5, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    I’m delighted to have the girls back. This AJLT reboot is as ridiculous and wonderful as the original was. It’s not perfect…and it doesn’t have to be. Now 5 episodes in, I look forward to it every week.

    Reply