And Just Like Crap

Why did we ever watch ‘Sex and the City’?

Sex and The City is back and boy, does it stink. This limited series reboot, And Just Like That, takes place directly after the pandemic, whenever that will be. New York is sun-drenched and mask-free, and people are out brunching and kissing each other’s cheeks. Like the auld days of Gotham.

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In its time, Sex and the City was supposed to be cutting edge. It was pre-Girls and before The Wire and Six Feet Under. It was one of HBO’s first series. It paved the way for the greatest show of all time; The Sopranos. Which, we now know, after The Many Saints of Newark, needed to be left buried at the Meadowlands, in the weeds. The same goes for Sex and the City. Six seasons, two bad movies (SATC 2 is the Godfather 3 in Michael Kors) and now this reboot.

Not too much has changed for the ladies who brunch, expect they are missing Samantha, and so are we. Kim Cattrall wisely took a pass on this exercise in schlock and viewers should have too. Carrie got her Mr. Big and is residing in the bliss that comes from not having to work much. You can tell there has been a pandemic because she wears Michael Jackson gloves when she presses elevator buttons to the penthouse or to her close-to-part-time-job as a podcaster. No QR codes for this Luddite. She’s back with bad Borscht Belt-style jokes and uncle puns, and we shiver as we remember that people used to pay her to do this as a writer. After every quip, you expect her to tap an imaginary cigar near her mouth and raise her cultivated brows up and down.

Charlotte is still status-hungry, worried about appearances, and urges Miranda to dye her grays before her first day of grad school. Miranda is off to Columbia for a Masters’ in Human Rights to advocate for women, as if being a partner in a law firm with more than 25 years in the business would not land her a job at a non-profit (it would). They created this side story to show how the women are older now, slightly out of touch and that gaffes and awkward moments are just around the corner.

And awkward it is. All of it. The girls still vomit out so many inappropriate things and then stumble over themselves, trying to apologize for their ignorance or bad behavior. Charlotte, you are 55, own your assholery. There’s much talk of age. “We can’t just stay who we are” says Miranda in a $800 wrap dress.

Right off the bat, Samantha is missing like a lost limb. The girls reveal that Samantha moved away and left the girl gang over Carrie dumping her as a publicist, but I wasn’t buying it. Samantha was a heavy hitter in NY PR; it’s doubtful that the $2500 a year Carrie was throwing her was going to send Samantha to freelancing at Thrillist to make up the loss.

Other than the comic hole that Samantha leaves, not too much has changed. Carrie still runs around NY with a bird on her head or a cake topper, and Kristin Davis (Charlotte) still can’t act. Charlotte’s current biggest challenge is that her youngest daughter rides a skateboard across the Upper East side and wants to dress more like Tony Hawk then Tory Burch. There’s a particularly tense scene before older daughter Lily’s piano recital where husband Harry has to step in and diffuse the conflict with compromise, humor and to remind us that he is a Jew. It’s in his contract. The tomboy daughter settles for the Oscar de la Renta dress and a tuxedo tee shirt, one which will never go out of style.

Mister Big is back, if only for a limited time, as Chris Noth probably insisted on death or no dice. He is there to remind us how much older he is than Carrie since he owns Todd Rundgren on vinyl and calls her Kid. The couple spins the discs that fit at night when, wait for it, Carrie cooks, or preps some salmon from Murray’s Cheese. She makes meals in Balenciaga heels and they slow dance. They are in love, and they are rich.

All the sexual charisma of Paddington Bear

The minor characters are back and in half force. Miranda’s husband Steve is on the scene, with all of the sexual charisma of Paddington Bear. He is inexplicably half-deaf but it’s not addressed, other than him cupping his ear a lot and needing an earhorn. Stanford Blatch (the late and actually great Willie Garson) is still Carrie’s gay bestie and he makes a career out of it, standing around dressed like Sinbad and just being employed as Carrie’s gay friend. His husband Anthony (Mario Cantone, king of the eye roll) joins him as Charlotte’s gay bestie, like an accessory. A gay one. The two men bicker a lot and it’s supposed to be fun to watch.

But, without Samantha and the promise of Big for much longer, it’s pretty flat. That’s where the HBO (EDI) equity, diversity and inclusion team really gets to flex its muscles by introducing Carrie’s new career. She is thriving (not really) as a frequent contributor on a podcast about sex. And the city. She’s on the headset for reasons unknown, as she never seemed to be able to control alt delete her computer and had to be rescued by her old boyfriend Aidan (the creepy John Corbett) in season 4 (My Motherboard, Myself).

We know from her image on a bus that people read her column and it turned into some best-selling books, but how has Carrie jumped into the 21st century? Has she just been shoe shopping since 2004? She is asked on the podcast why more women aren’t “jerking it” on the subway. The door was wide open for her to say, “Have you never taken the #7 out to Coney Island?” but she stutters and stumbles and asks to buy a vowel. Because she’s boring and not really funny or clever and there is no reason she should be on this podcast, which is about as racy as if Candace Cameron hosted it. So, instead, there are multiple cutaways to a hottie running the sound booth.

Carrie’s podcast boss and host is Che Diaz, (comic Sarah Ramírez), a non-binary, queer stand-up comedian. Che is fun and edgy and loves to smoke bowls in elevators and at funerals. They is there for a Come to Jesus moment in weed-filled elevator to tell Carrie to be more edgy or it could mean her job. They warn Carrie that the trolls will label her the uptight cis gender female married lady, which she is. To her credit, Carrie owns it. Che does remind her that she can do this, as is the OG, from her days as a sex columnist.

Step your pussy up

Was she, though? Carrie wrote about staying single, 20somethings vs. 30somethings and needing to be rescued by men. She wasn’t exactly Dan Savage in a tutu, coining phrases like Santorum. “You better step your pussy up”, Che nudges her. But we know that Carrie won’t step her pussy up, not even the slightest bit. She sits in front of her Mac in a caftan, sporting Harry Caray specs. She is back at the keyboard that spawned at least 100 columns that paid, what, 50 cents a word? How was Carrie buying all the shoes, when she should have been living in one? It doesn’t matter now, since she is flush with Big’s money, since he works in money.

Carrie’s attempt to be a better employee has her polling Big about if he spanks it. She has been with Big since before the housing bubble burst and she doesn’t know if he masturbates? She challenges him to a wank off and watches before they laugh and collapse in an embrace. The next day, Carrie pleasures herself by gliding through her walk in closet, and female gazing at her shoes and calling them lovers. They are on display like some creepy Jeff Koons exhibit and backlit for effect.

Back at Columbia, Miranda begins her first day at class stopping for an 11am Chablis, getting someone’s pronouns wrong and mistaking the braided black professor for a student. Then she makes it all worse by inserting a Jil Sander pump in her mouth. She continues to gaffe her way to the subway and that sets the stage for repeated encounters with her professor who alternately makes her feel better about her lack of EDI training and calls her on her “White Savior Complex.”

A major plot line in episode 1 is the piano recital of Charlotte’s daughter Lily. Char has found a rich, kindred soul in new friend Lisa Todd Wexley, who Anthony calls the “Black Charlotte”. Progress.

The gang gathers for the recital and is temporarily speechless at Lily’s piano chops, although Miranda does whip out some wine and plastic cups, horrifying Charlotte. Miranda also proclaims, “Fuck, it, I’m 55, I have to pee” and she and Carrie run off to the men’s room for the short line. That’s the Miranda we all know! Her spark is back momentarily. She has convictions about the commode, but is all stutters when she runs into her Fila-wearing professor, because she fears always saying the wrong things. Spoiler alert: she does.

Death by Peloton

Back at the penthouse, Big has a date with his Peloton, while he waits for Carrie so they can head to the Hamptons. While Lily tickles the ivories, Big’s ticker gives out as he is about to ride into his 1000th mile. He doesn’t make it. Mister Big dies on the Peloton and this reboot should have met with the same fate. Carrie doesn’t make it home to save Big, since she is still trying to hail cabs. There are none in all of New York. She finds Big as he dies. And Carrie utters the voiceover, “And just like that, Big died”. Oh, yes she did.

The credits roll and it shows that Samantha Irby is a co producer. I expect more, I expect better and I expect that she would have walked after the first table read. The reason for all six seasons is gone. No more pulling up in town cars and smoking cigars and being rich. And with Samantha not in the picture to talk about anal over avocado toast, it’s lackluster. Samantha and Big were the two most interesting things about Carrie.

Episode 2 has Carrie producing Big’s funeral, although she had never been able to organize anything other than her belt drawer. She hires some power Lesbians in leather and Oliver Peoples specs to help her plan the service. There are many things that Big would not want, such as the old people funeral home with tacky décor. It’s a funeral home, not the Met Gala. But, Carrie is determined to send him off appropriately and expensively. Her grief is real here, and she can’t sleep. Charlotte can’t stop weeping. Nor could I.

Carrie doesn’t want Miranda to miss classes or chances to make inappropriate comments in front of 22-year olds, so she shoos her off to school. As Carrie plans arrangements, she is fairly dressed to the nines, as you do when you are buying a cremation urn. On her errands, she passes couples; dark haired roguish businessmen with younger women with flowing locks. Carrie sniffs Big’s Armani suits. Her loss is palpable.

Getting dressed for the service, Steve laments, “death sucks”. It sure does, Steve! He now seems 80 but he gets to hold Miranda’s clutch purse while she delivers a powerhouse eulogy; clear and strong. We see another blink of the old Miranda. The funeral service looks like it’s at the Whitney and some of the old characters from past SATC seasons wander in and out of the scene, being very New York by making the funeral about themselves. This seems to confuse Carrie, who has been making everything about her since the pilot.

Why did we pretend to like Cosmos? Why did we pretend to like this show?  I even had a friend who proclaimed herself the Carrie in our crew, but really, she was just the worst parts of all four of the women.

Carrie wanted no flowers, as Big would not have wanted that, but a huge arrangement arrives from the Motherland, or Samantha. The flowers stay.

Miranda’s son smokes a bowl with podcast host, Che and Miranda scolds them both. She is sheepish when she realizes Che pays Carrie’s AmEx bills and they sort it out, with some light flirting.

Why did we pretend to like Cosmos? Why did we pretend to like this show?  I even had a friend who proclaimed herself the Carrie in our crew, but really, she was just the worst parts of all four of the women.

I’m just a few years younger than these improbable people and my friends work in big cities as writers, in TV production, in law and in arts management. Why did we care? How did we let this happen?

When I visit New York in two weeks to meet with my 50something besties, we won’t be drinking at Bar Hugo and brunching at Ai Fiori wearing Alexander McQueen. We’ll be holed up at the Brooklyn Inn in North Face fleece. Maybe we’ll talk about all the sex and all of the city. But probably, we won’t.

 

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Kathy O'Neill

Kathy O'Neill is a writer, journalist, special events producer and publicist. She was the Midwest Correspondent for ABCNews.com and a Field Producer and Desk Assistant for Nightline, Good Morning America and World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

2 thoughts on “And Just Like Crap

  • December 15, 2021 at 3:06 am
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    Well done. As usual you are spot on.

    Reply
  • January 15, 2022 at 8:41 pm
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    This is spot on. I swore, after SATC2, that there was no way I’d watch this nonsense. But I lie to myself all the time. The scene with Miranda meeting her professor gave me such a bad case of douchechills that I almost went to the hospital. But then comes THE podcast that made me realize that there really are too many podcasts. Weren’t we all just recently outraged that Louis CK was masturbating in front of women and we have Bobby Lee and TheyChe advocating for whacking it in public? Then we have Brady openly banging his girlfriend. Then Miranda and TheyChe where 30 seconds after HATING each other, Miranda now wants to have TheyChe whack her off later in Carrie’s kitchen. I haven’t laughed once but I’ve rolled my eyes so much that I could be Anthony’s replacement. And yet I won’t stop watching. Why won’t I stop watching?

    Reply

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