Roush Review: ‘Sex’ Shtick Becoming Old Hat—But What Hats!

Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis in And Just Like That
Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

And Just Like That...

Matt's Rating: rating: 2.0 stars

[Warning: The below contains spoilers for the first four episodes of And Just Like That …]

No longer four randy Manhattan musketeers, the mature “party of three” still left from the original Sex and the City quartet—Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis)—would find it hard to deny that in their mid-50s, they (like their series) are beginning to show their age. Well, maybe not the porcelain- and thin-skinned Charlotte.

And who cares about a little crow’s feet when one’s own feet are so well shod, and let’s not forget the funky headwear. Still, a restless Miranda blurts “We can’t just stay who we were, right?” in one of many on-the-nose moments in the sentimental and surprisingly maudlin Sex sequel, And Just Like That …

This show is so of the moment that it no longer airs on HBO but streams on the HBO Max platform, with the first two episodes followed by weekly installments into early February. (When Miranda declares, “I’m watching too many streaming series” in a later episode, many will relate.)

Miranda has left her “spicy redhead” days behind long ago for stylish gray, and the only one getting any action in her home is her and Steve’s (David Eigenberg) hormonal teen-age son. (A used condom joke is the first indication that even without Kim Cattrall’s lusty Samantha, who is gone but very much not forgotten, the ladies haven’t entirely lost their spice.)

Sarah Jessica Parker, Chris Noth in And Just Like That

Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

As the new series opens, Carrie and Charlotte seem rather more content in their luxurious fairy-tale versions of domestic bliss, with Carrie and Big (Chris Noth) in particular still carrying an active torch for each other. But the cloying happily-ever-after mood can sustain only so long.

So after an early barrage of jokes about aging and Peleton references, writer-director Michael Patrick King forces the gang to confront mortality, heavy-handedly telegraphing a big life-changing twist that will rock everyone’s world. (In real life, the producers also had to contend with the untimely death of Willie Garson, who played the lovably bitchy Stanford Blatch and appears in the first three episodes.) Maybe it’s because I’ve been so focused lately on the recent passing of genius composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, but as the show just-like-that shifts gears into a more somber and contemplative tone, I kept being reminded of a trenchant passage from Sondheim’s Follies, when a jaded character sings, “How do you wipe tears away/When your eyes are dry?”

Picking up the slack and bringing some much-needed energy to the ensemble, Grey’s Anatomy veteran Sara Ramírez fills the shock-talk void left by Cattrall in the beyond high-concept role of Che (formerly Cheryl) Diaz, a non-binary queer podcaster and stand-up comic with a Netflix deal and a bouncer’s attitude. After flustering frequent on-air guest Carrie with a riff on masturbation, Che advises her to step it up: “You can’t just sit there giggling.”

Che is especially welcome once the show takes its deep dive into the land of cosmos and sympathy. In their stand-up act, Che defies the media cliché of the tormented, lonely queer person: “I’m not always sad!” she crows to big cheers. In that, she’s something of an outlier in And Just Like That …, where misery loves company, so long as there’s a designer label.

And Just Like That …, Thursdays, HBO Max