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'And Just Like That...' review: 'Sex and the City' reboot is sad (which is better than bad)

Cynthia Nixon (l), Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin

Cynthia Nixon (l), Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis in"And Just Like That..." Credit: HBO Max

SERIES "And Just Like That..."

WHERE Streaming on HBO Max

(This review contains spoilers)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT New York City is just emerging from the pandemic, while Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) are back to doing lunch and shopping. (Samantha Jones — Kim Cattrall — has decamped for London.) Hardly carefree, these three are grappling with a new world order. Struggling with what she sees as her white privilege, Miranda is taking a law course at Columbia given by hotshot professor Dr. Nya Wallace (Karen Pittman, "The Morning Show"). Charlotte is also expanding her wokeness, as is Carrie — the third leg of a hip podcast run by gender-fluid Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez, "Grey's Anatomy"). Then, tragedy strikes: Carrie's husband, John Preston (Christopher Noth) — aka Mr. Big — is stricken by a heart attack. This ten-part "Sex and the City" reboot was written and directed by original showrunner Michael Patrick King.

MY SAY The last time anyone got an extended look at "Sex and the City" was back in 2010 — the second movie which no one remembers, nor should, because it is best not remembered. But looking back now, or from the vantage of "And Just Like That...," "SATC 2' feels almost like a happy trip down nostalgia lane.It began with that big gay wedding (Stanford's) while the ladies took a trip to Abu Dhabi where Samantha caused an international stir. The movie was bad but at least the gang was all there, and the Tao of the original series was more or (mostly) less intact.

Nevertheless, King and Parker (also an executive producer here) must have known that they had to make amends. Enter "And Just Like That...," which also turns out to be the manifestation of another famous Carrie Bradshaw line: " … computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart [so] the best we can do is breathe and reboot."

Reboot they have, and it's immediately apparent — to them and to us — just how steep the climb ahead is. Cattrall refused to join up while Big is gone by the end of the first episode. In a real life tragedy, Willie Garson (Stanford) died of cancer in September, but his character appears prominently. (This review is based on the first four episodes.)

Meanwhile the real world has intruded — that world of Black Lives Matter, a pandemic, and of a great city still struggling to get back to normal. Ask not whether fans needed this reboot but why Parker and King wanted to go to all this trouble in the first place.

Closure is probably the right answer. The show immediately addresses not one but two elephants crowding the room — the pandemic and Samantha. Off in London, and gone for good, her friendship with Carrie was fractured over a misunderstanding. That's sad enough, but a quick reference to the pandemic is like Chekhov's gun. We know death will stalk this reboot while the relentless passage of time will spare no one, even someone with a closet full of Manolo Blahniks.

"And Just Like That..." also understands that shows, like people, age and that what made them risqué or relevant in the moment is essentially that moment when they once thrived. The series has to update to 2021, or try to anyway. To that end, there are prominent Black characters here for pretty much the first time in series history — better late than never but about as awkward an attempt to redress its unbearable whiteness of being as you might imagine.

Meanwhile, the series also wants to re-center Carrie as a person of substance and decided that widowhood should do the trick. Carrie as the happily married spouse of Big was always problematic because it required willful amnesia on the part of fans and the Prestons too. (All that history and all that baggage.) She's now free again to become who she was always meant to become. Carrie has agency again. Maybe that's the whole point.

BOTTOM LINE Sad, sad, sad which (admittedly) is better than bad, bad bad.

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