‘A regressive, embarrassing disappointment’: how And Just Like That ruined Sex and the City

The final episode of the sequel did nothing to redeem it. It was bafflingly tone-deaf, cringe-makingly crass and seemingly written by people who had never heard of the original

That sound you can hear – that faint but persistent chuckle – is Kim Cattrall laughing. The actor was the only one of the original Sex and the City cast to decline to join And Just Like That …, the sequel to the much-loved, era-defining show. The rest of them stayed, and suffered. But at least they were getting paid. Viewers – if they did stay, which many of us did out of a potent blend of desperate hope that things would improve, and fascinated horror as they did not – had no such solace. The end of the 10-episode run has now been reached, with the finale refusing to redeem anything that had gone before.

It could have, should have, been great. The idea of best friends Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda returning to navigate the complexities of female life and friendship in their 50s – a rare televisual sight – was a fine one (even if Cattrall’s Samantha would be missed). New writers and characters were brought in to address the glaring whiteness and heteronormativity of the original. Michael Patrick King was in charge, as he had effectively been for much of Sex and the City.

But what we got was a shambles. On every front, it was a mess. Some of it was no one’s fault. Claims from several women of sexual impropriety by Chris Noth (Carrie’s husband, Mr Big) meant he had to be hastily written out of flashback scenes. (Noth has described the allegations as “categorically false”.) Willie Garson (Carrie’s beloved friend Stanford) sadly died unexpectedly during shooting and a major storyline for him had to be abandoned, and the cracks papered over. The rest, however, was the result of deliberate and often bafflingly tone-deaf decisions.

Samantha – one absence the show had plenty of warning about – was written out clumsily and unbelievably (the woman who had been diehard, diaphragm-fishing friends with Carrie for decades supposedly left for London in a huff after Carrie departed her PR firm). Characters of colour were written in with cringe-making crassness. They were given a maximum of one feature each (having doubts about IVF! Being unhappily single! Being – uh – a rich mother!) and paired off with one each of the trio to address their unwoke blind spots. Because that’s what normal people do? Because that’s what actors of colour are there for? It was virtually the “magical negro” trope, dressed up in designer clothes.

The whole endeavour seemed like a box-ticking exercise, without any effort to weave zeitgeisty concerns into the whole – let alone manage it with the grace and humour that defined Sex and the City. Charlotte got a gender-fluid daughter (she wasn’t anything else. Just gender-fluid. Thassit). Miranda got Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), Carrie’s non-binary boss, for whom Miranda leaves Steve after Che delivers her unto the heights of sexual ecstasy in Carrie’s kitchen while the abandoned, post-operative owner wets the bed. If this sounds like narrative chaos to you in summary, be assured it played no better in real time.

Most disconcertingly of all, Miranda, Carrie and Charlotte seemed to have been written by people who had never seen or heard of Sex and the City. Miranda’s biting wit and cynicism were gone – they made her a quivering bunch of neuroses (with a drinking problem that disappeared almost before it had arrived) in a terrible grey wig instead. Carrie was a rich, grieving widow, devoid of all the scrappy drive and snappy lines that made her bearable the first time round. And Charlotte simply flapped over her non-problems through every episode.

Related: Dare I whisper it? I’m really enjoying And Just Like That

The promised exploration of the ageing process never came. A brief discussion of the ethics of hair dye here, a mention of menopause there, and Miranda’s leg going to sleep after she’d sat at a picnic table for lunch (again, it didn’t work any better if you saw it), and we were done. That Carrie’s hip problem turned out to be a congenital birth defect and not an “old lady” issue was emblematic of the whole show – frightened to show anything real, and taking the least troublesome way out possible, regardless of credibility. The women wandered through 2022 as if they had been asleep rather than simply off our screens for the last 20 years, so frightened by new concepts were they, so deep their levels of cultural estrangement. I don’t know the age range of the writers, but their work suggests that even their combined years barely made it into double figures.

What could have been another groundbreaking iteration of the show was instead a regressive, embarrassing disappointment. And just like that – we’re back to square one.