And Just Like That season two review: A toothless imitation of Sex and the City

Sarah Jessica Parker and co return for a reboot that seems entirely ambivalent about all the things that made its forebear great, event TV

Nick Hilton
Wednesday 21 June 2023 20:18 BST
And Just Like That season 2 trailer

When Sex and the City premiered on HBO in 1998, it was like nothing on TV. A metatextual pastiche of the newspaper advice column, it followed four friends – Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) – through the trials and tribulations of being rich, successful, and beautiful in turn-of-the-millennium New York. Whether the show’s candour was an exposé of its characters’ lack of self-awareness, or whether the show’s lack of self-awareness imbued its characters with a strange candour, was immaterial: it was a hit. It’s striking, then, that its reboot, And Just Like That (Sky Comedy), seems entirely ambivalent about all the things that made its forebear great, event TV.

Returning now for the second series, Carrie is still dealing with the death of her husband and Miranda has transplanted to California and given up her corporate lifestyle. Charlotte, as ever, is given a few taffeta-thin plotlines, and Samantha remains, conspicuously, offscreen. The gang, no longer in their thirties, are dealing with problems from the fag-end of mid-life: truculent teenagers, devious divorcees, marital malaise. “Many years ago I thought I’d start poaching eggs,” Carrie tells her hunky podcast producer, from the rumpled sheets of their bed. “But I was 30: too busy to slow my roll for a three-minute egg.”

The roll is not much slowed here: Carrie is still on the hunt for a Big replacement, even as her podcast, Sex and the City, flounders. Miranda, having left Steve (David Eigenberg), is discovering herself thanks to non-binary comedian Che (Sara Ramirez). And Charlotte is still finding the slightest excuse to fuss about things. Around them, the new additions to the core cast revolve like wayward satellites: realtor Seema (Sarita Choudhury), professor Nya (Karen Pittman), and Charlotte’s fellow helicopter parent Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker). They’re all invited to the brunches, allowed to sip their Bloody Marys, but never given much of an emotional look-in. “I’m done supporting this pity party for a brilliant, tenured Ivy League professor,” Miranda tells Nya, and that’s, essentially, the show’s position.

Much was made when And Just Like That… first appeared of the attempt to retrofit modern social norms on to the rather dated Sex and the City structure. The inclusion of non-white and non-binary characters, as a foil to the show’s whiteness and straightness, was done with all the subtlety of a climate change theme at Milan Fashion Week. And for all the backlash to the depiction of Che and their relationship with Miranda, those two continue to take centre-stage as the show’s star couple.

“I won’t be party to upholding the patriarchy and the heteronormative standards of beauty,” Charlotte’s gender-nonconforming kid Rock (Alexa Swinton) tells their mum in the new episodes. Lines such as that aside, the new season is actually more sensitive to its prescriptive political correctness (Miranda, for example, engages in a beach-cleaning exercise, only to lose her phone in a mass of seaweed), but it still cannot overcome the cognitive dissonance of combining a hectoring tone with a vision of capitalistic America that would make a Rockefeller blush. In the end, it’s all affirmative and no action.

This would be less of a problem if Michael Patrick King and co’s writing was able to recapture the zingy tone of its predecessor. But what once seemed edgy for primetime TV now feels like a parody of itself. “I think my vagina has to write its own monologue,” Carrie wistfully observes, having been asked to record an advert for a feminine hygiene product. This sort of light vaginocentrism might’ve felt revolutionary 25-years ago, but feels half-hearted now. In the absence of a big event (or should that be “Big” event?) like the one that opened the first series of And Just Like That…, more time is given to low-stakes margherita musings. But in a post-Girls, post-Broad City, post-Insecure world, that all feels a bit tame.

There’s always a pleasure in the reunion of beloved TV characters, and there’s no denying the chemistry between Parker, Nixon and Davis (though Nixon’s coastal move upsets that trio). But the show still seems uncertain about its place in the world. Is it a throwback? A reimagining? An update? Or an entirely new thing? Caught between all these potential aspirations, And Just Like That… has ended up a toothless imitation of its ancestor. Where Sex and the City gave a voice in prestige TV to a generation of women, And Just Like That… is giving little more than pay cheques to its well-coiffed stars.

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