The HBO reboot of Sex and the City (And Just Like That…) has become the subject of audience ridicule despite efforts to appeal to multiple generations of viewers. Why? To answer that, let’s examine the problems with And Just Like That… which have contributed to such poor reception.
Sex and the City
Before diving into And Just Like That…, let me briefly discuss HBO’s original hit show. Based on Candace Bushnell’s writings, Sex and the City (1998-2004) was a snappy, glamorous comedy-drama about four New York City residents in their thirties and forties. The ages of the characters and the subsequent life lessons they faced set the show apart from other NYC-centric shows such as Friends or Girls. These women were, for the most part, already established in their careers and in The City. Thus, most of the show was focused on the romantic and platonic endeavors of Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda.
The success of Sex and the City also helped to later produce two movies in 2008 and 2010. Clearly, this was not a Gen Z television show. This is important to keep in mind as we begin to look at And Just Like That…
Arguably the first red flag to be noted by fans regarding And Just Like That… came with the absence of Kim Cattrall who played Samantha Jones. Samantha was the fan favorite on Sex and the City, so Cattrall’s public falling-out with the rest of the main cast and her decision to not participate in the revival show did not make viewers excited. As of Season 2 of And Just Like That…, Cattrall did film a brief cameo for the show but is still very much gone otherwise.
That left the HBO reboot with three of its four original stars. Personally, I was still looking forward to seeing what became of Charlotte York and Miranda Hobbes in the sequel. I really liked both of their characters when I first watched Sex and the City about two years ago. Unfortunately, the portrayals of these two women are not only bad but are wildly different from what they were on the original show.
Charlotte and Miranda
I’ll start with Charlotte York. It may have been an exaggeration to claim that she is “wildly” different from how she once appeared in Sex and the City, but she is different all the same. Charlotte was always animated and peppy, but she also felt grounded. The Charlotte we see now feels like a parody of the Charlotte from the original show. She’s become somewhat of a caricature and it’s disappointing.
But it’s nowhere near as disappointing as the portrayal of Miranda Hobbes by Cynthia Nixon. There is a misconception that fans take issue with the storyline given to Miranda in the reboot, particularly as it shows her navigating her sexuality. Now of course I can’t speak for all fans, but I can voice my own opinion on the matter. It is not the plot that is upsetting with respect to the character of Miranda Hobbes. I actually think that a later-in-life coming-out story is intriguing and valuable when done correctly.
What’s upsetting is watching an admirable character like Miranda become utterly embarrassing. This woman is a lawyer. She’s accomplished and self-assured. She’s practical. But somehow in the reboot, she has turned into a bumbling, desperate mess of a person. If you were to watch an episode of Sex and the City and an episode of And Just Like That… back to back, I guarantee you would be perplexed at the assertion that these two Mirandas are the same character. She’s become Carrie Bradshaw. Yikes.
Episode length has nearly doubled from what it was during the original show run, and the result is lots of filler that does not serve the narrative or the characters. It’s boring, which is a shame given that Sex and the City had such a good flow to it. So now we have one fan favorite who is missing, two more who feel like strangers, and an unexciting plot. What happened to this show?
There seem to be attempts to secure the attention of both original viewers and Gen Z audiences through the inclusion of memorable guest stars and simultaneous “progressive” storylines. The problem with this is that neither can salvage the ruin of what we really cared about, and that is the characters. I believe there are ways to appeal to audiences both new and old without sacrificing the main attraction of the show. It’s as I said earlier. Storylines that evolve and keep up with the times can be done well while still understanding who a character is at their core.
At times it feels like the HBO showrunners of And Just Like That… write plots to check boxes, as if that would garner the approval of Gen Z. In truth, I think that just pushes audiences of all generations away. People want to see their generation reflected in media, but they also want to see good television. The two can coexist, but I don’t think they are in this reboot as of right now.
Who is the show supposed to be for? Well, if they can resolve some of the problems mentioned above, I’d like to think And Just Like That… can be for all kinds of audiences. Original viewers should be rewarded with good stories and the consistent characters they’ve come to love. New viewers should be able to identify with the show without feeling like things are done just for the sake of inauthentic pandering.
It is very possible for the HBO revival to still be Sex and the City while also adjusting to the times in a meaningful way. Whether or not this will happen remains to be seen. I guess fans, both new and old, will just have to wait and hope for the best.