First look UK TV review: And Just Like That
Jo Bromilow | On 13, Dec 2021
New episodes of And Just Like That premiere weekly on Thursdays.
They’re back! Strap on your strappiest sandals, for God’s sake back up your work before slamming your laptop lid closed and then ensconce yourself on your sofa for a stroll through SoHo with our favourite New Yorkers. And Just Like That… Sex and the City rides again.
Set in a post-pandemic, brightly lit version of New York where a person can safely wear wide legged cream trousers on public transportation, this “new chapter” in the franchise picks up with our favourite New York women as they meet at a socially distanced brunch spot – has their beloved diner been forced to shut? Say it ain’t so! – to get down to the good ol’ business we know and love them for: punning their way through their problems.
In more recent evolutions – specifically the movies – the Sex and the City writers have struggled to balance the more sombre, serious aspects of its story with a lighter, comedic tone. And Just Like That’s choice to align more with the light, bright and glossy tone of the films (right down to the same musical motifs) means it’s saddled with similar problems. While this was forgivable in the films due to their relatively uncomplicated focus, I can foresee this becoming difficult if the show continues to do its best to tackle more 21st-century topics (no, I won’t be using the “w” word) while still trying to make us laugh. The first episode’s opening 20 minutes, which veer from quips and exposition to constant pandemic references and acknowledging issues of race and gender, are so exhausting in their attempts to crowd-please that I wanted to move to Napa and take a nap-a.
Even if the first episode of And Just Like That could be considered a pilot (can you have a pilot for a prequel to one of the most iconic TV shows of all time?) it contains all the telltale teething problems of one: tonal chaos, the aforementioned tell-don’t-show fixation with awkward exposition and a plot that hurtles from scene to scene like a runaway train in a desperate bid to set up the rest of the season. Every so often, the train slows and we glimpse details – and beloved characters of our youths of yore – looming out of the steam of a subway vent. Carrie is on a podcast now! Miranda – the poster child for the digitally savvy Gen Xer – doesn’t listen to podcasts, but has quit her job because of her concerns around human rights! Charlotte hasn’t had a significant character development since (if we’re being generous) the early half of Season 6! Brady – adorable ginger baby Brady – is now a teenager with an upsettingly active sex life! Steve and Harry continue to be both adorable and strangely hot! And Samantha – the least judgemental, most loyal and most consistent of all the characters – has apparently fallen out so badly with her flaky best friend that she has upped and left for London and doesn’t even text back any more!
The Samantha elephant in the room is nigh-impossible to ignore, and given how it rides roughshod over certain key aspects of Carrie and Sam’s shared history and everything we know about Carrie’s character, it’s only going to make problems for the writers down the road. It sits among a whole host of other out-of-character decisions made by the writers to advance the story they want to tell – such as Miranda’s awkwardness interacting with the show’s new talking points of gender and race, Charlotte’s insistence on a picture-perfect family, despite having got out of a marriage that only looked perfect from the outside, and the ongoing insistence that Stanford and Anthony make a convincing and logical married couple. Given the huge potential of the Carrie-Samantha storyline in a rare show about the relationships between women in their 50s, the writers were going to need a pretty Big plotline to trump Kim Catrall’s absence.
And boy, did they find it. I’m not saying that how you react at the end of the first episode really defines you as a person, but for me the choice of the extremely blunt closing line coupled with the iconic but ill-used Candi Stanton track was… certainly a choice. And then, the second episode started. And just like that, it got interesting.
Sex and the City was never as bleak – that shot over the opening title of Episode 2? No you’re crying – as messy, or as awkwardly preoccupied with being conscious of modern culture, as this incarnation. But this is not Sex and the City, and I think that’s where the show’s greatest potential might be. We are now living in a world where there’s a Sex and the City shared universe – Marvel in Manolos. If the writers can embrace the potential to give this show an entirely new, fresh direction and tone using familiar characters to explore new issues – grief, death, later life responses to ambition, drive, passion and romance – we might have a decent show on our hands.
We should embrace that as willingly as we’ve welcomed these old friends back into our lives. The new cast – Sara Ramirez as Carrie’s podcast host boss, Che, Nicole Ari Parker as have-it-all super-mum Lisa Todd Wexley and Karen Pittman as Miranda’s new professor, Dr Nya Wallace – bring new dimensions of race and gender, a wider lens look on 2021 and some truly incredible styling (I need all of LTW’s necklaces). Juxtaposing the show’s central characters with these fresh perspectives and stories, alongside Miranda and Charlotte’s increasingly grown-up children, means our beloved trio have plenty of potentially rich, emotional and intelligent storylines to sink their perfectly white teeth into. If only they would stop with the Covid-19 references.
And Just Like That is available on Sky Comedy. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, for £9.99 a month with no contract. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.