Karl Puschmann: Does the Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That bring sexy back? No

OPINION:

There’s nothing sexy about death. In fact, Death rates right up there among the least sexy things one can think of, ranking just above talking to an insurance broker and slightly below a particularly seismic bout of chronic diarrhoea.

Having now successfully lowered the temperature in the room considerably, let’s talk about the Sex and the City revival series that sashayed onto Neon and SoHo last week after a 17-year absence from the telly.

The show’s not called Sex and the City as you’d expect, instead it’s called And Just Like That, which you wouldn’t. I’m assuming this is because sex doesn’t get much of a look in – at least not in its first two episodes – and because Death and the City doesn’t have quite the same zing to it.

But before we get to The End, let’s go back to the start. And Just Like That reunites three of its original fab four. Stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon all return as their respective characters, the series’ writerly heroine Carrie, privileged over-achiever Charlotte and uptight lawyer Miranda.

AWOL from the show is Samantha, the sassy free-spirit played so convincingly by the sassy free-spirit Kim Cattrall. The long-standing feud between her and Parker is rumoured to be behind her non-involvement.

But just because Sam is gone does not mean she’s forgotten. Indeed, her absence is quickly explained away in the opening scene before the trio have even been seated for brunch. Turns out her and Carrie are feuding – oh, how life imitates art! – because Carrie fired her as her publicist when book sales slowed. Miffed at the slight Sam hightailed it to London where, we’re told, “sexy sirens in their sixties are still viable”.

Rather than naturally acclimating you back into the world and letting you catch up with your old friends, And Just Like That instead lunges at you with all the haste and subtlety of a single person heading out for their first night in the club after 100 days in lockdown.

Characters continually tell each other things they would already know. Just because we haven’t been following their lives these past 17 years doesn’t mean they haven’t been living them. Miranda should know that Carrie is now an Instagrammer and podcast co-host, Carrie should know why Miranda left law to go back to university and Charlotte should know why Miranda refuses to dye her hair.

And all three of them should not be beginning every single conversation with each other and every cameoing character with variations of the phrase; “I’m/You/We’re old!”. For a series that built its reputation on witty repartee and clever scripting, the majority of its first episode is as clunky and awkward as a virgin making their big move.

However, after breathlessly bringing you up to speed the show settles and starts to find a little of its former mojo.

Carrie ends up once again hunched over her laptop wondering about sex after being prude-shamed for her reluctance to discuss masturbation on the laughably woke podcast she co-hosts, Charlotte runs around higgledy-piggledy organising her daughter’s piano recital and Miranda blunders into one offensive remark after another when talking to her new professor.

While Sex and the City didn’t shy away from heavy topics like cancer, abortion and menopause during its six-year run, there were still plenty of Cosmos, Manolos and lols to break the tension in each episode.

That’s not so much the case here. Miranda’s white guilt is so extreme, the character is almost paralysed by her fear of causing offence and Carrie’s podcast is so OTT, filled with “woke learning moments” and graphic sexual discussion, that it sounds more like a Conservative’s fever dream rather than something anyone would actually listen too.

There’s still a few laughs, plenty of fan service, and some attempts at the fast-paced banter of old, but, as they’re endlessly admitting, they’re not young anymore. Along with fitting into the current climate they’re got kid problems, hearing aid problems, heart problems. “We can’t just stay who we were, right?” Charlotte says over their exposition-filled brunch, not so subtly setting the theme of the series.

And then there’s a big death and just like that the tenor of the series changes. If who they were was characters in a sitcom, now they’re firmly in a drama. Episode two sees our heroes in mourning, doing extremely unsexy stuff like picking out a funeral home, holding a service and weeping a lot.

So they’re not bringing sexy back but the series does eventually find its expensively shoed footing. Even if this time around it’s not trying to tickle your fancy and is instead wanting to pull at your heart.

Like the times, Sex and the City has changed. Any expectations you may have had for the series will have to change too.

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