Why We Never Needed A Sex and The City Follow Up Series, Part 2
Keep Going Long Enough and the Ever After Part Destroys Happily
Warning: Spoilers for the first episode of And Just Like That and a lot of other TV you probably heard of but might have forgotten.
From the beginning we’ve known that And Just Like That was ill-starred. There’s the fact that the feud between stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Catrall which was a badly-kept secret throughout the series, spilled over and led to the fact that Catrall is not in the new series at all. There was the passing of Willie Garson, who played Stanford, just a couple of months ago. And just this past week Chris Noth, Big himself, was hit with numerous charges of sexual misconduct and at the very least may be the facing the end of his career.
(Two things I must say: I have always been an admirer of Noth as a performer. I’ve always considered his work as Big the least deserving of recognition from some of the great roles he’s played from Law and Order to The Good Wife. And in almost everything else associated with her, I find Zoe Lister-Jones, one of the actresses who’s gone on record with her complaint, an extremely credible source. If the charges against Noth are true — and for all the furor they are just a story at the moment — than his fall as a creative force is one of the greatest blows I’ve taken since I accepted the misconduct of Joss Whedon.)
But leaving aside all of the horrible behind the scenes drama, the real reason I find the existence of And Just Like That appalling became horribly clear when I learned of a spoiler in the first episode. For those of you who wouldn’t be caught dead watching it during the opening episode Big- the man who was the focus of so much of Carrie’s life through the length of the original series, the man who after nearly eight seasons she finally committed too — was working out on his Peloton when he suffered a heart attack and died.
Set aside those fans who believed that the ending of the original series was a huge disappointment that Carrie finally decided to end up with Big. Let’s aside the overall track record of television series in Peak TV trying to avoid the possibility of successful romances and the completion of a female character’s arc. Why do we keeping have series where they spend five or six seasons keeping the male and female leads apart finally having them end up together — and then, eventually, having their happily ever after shattered by a tragic death?
Now I admit there may still be some residual hostility towards all things Shondaland at this point — I never liked the series, but I’m still incredibly angry at Rhimes and everybody else at Grey’s Anatomy for basically setting up couples together and then, usually because of death, tearing them asunder. Casting issues aside, is killing one (or in Rhimes’ case, both) leads off anyway to end a relationship. I’ve seen variations on this carry on in series like Nashville when Connie Britton’s character died in a hospital and in NYPD Blue when both Jimmy Smits’ and Sharon Lawrence’s characters were killed off. But somehow what happened in That just seems far worse. In a series that basically told you to take on faith that if you tried hard enough you would find a happily ever after, the creators basically seem to be giving a middle finger to the very fans that loved the series for over a quarter of a century.
I admit have absolutely no intention of watching a single episode of the new series (I didn’t subscribe to HBO Max for that) but if I’d been a fan of the show I can’t for the life of me understand why you’d want to watch another episode after you saw Big fast. No matter how great your devotion to Sex and the City — and seriously, if you’re loyal enough to want to watch after learning Samantha was going to be there, you have a level of loyalty I can’t begin to comprehend — why the hell would you bother to keep watching after Big’s funeral? What possible level of devotion to female friendship — which to be clear I always found a fairly weak point of the entire series — would have you want to stay loyal after that? Are we supposed to believe — like Rhimes’ did when she chose to have Christina leave Grey’s Anatomy alive because her death would be too much for Meredith to survive — that friendship is somehow supposed to mean more than finding your soulmate? I didn’t buy it for a second when Derek Shepherd was killed off on Grey’s; I don’t find it anymore plausible in this scenario.
And while you can blame all the carnage that involved so many characters on Grey’s on the simple fact that the series has been on the air far too long, there’s no similar logic for Big’s death on That. The writers may never have been comfortable writing about long term relationships for any of the other characters on SATC, but they at least were willing to do it as far as it went with Charlotte and Miranda. Cynthia Nixon’s character was even willing to eventually forgive an affair her husband had during one of the movies. The decision to kill Big off seems deliberate and forced by comparison — an attempt to try and add Peak TV thrills to a series that never really inhabit the Peak television era the same way all the other great HBO dramas of the period did. I had my share of problems with almost every aspect of Sex and the City when it was on the air — I shared many of them in the previous article — but as long as the creators were willing to show as something light and fluffy I could live with it. The decision both to go forward with it without Samantha and Big’s death show that this as purely an attempt to mine currency from an old franchise and simultaneously turn off any fan who might want to watch it for nostalgia’s sake. I’ve argued that unless there’s a real change in a reboot of a series, it doesn’t deserve to happen. This makes that change and yet somehow negates the need for it as well.
I don’t know if And Just Like That will be a success. I don’t know why it was brought back in the first place nor why Darren Star and his cohorts thought doing it like this would bring fans to the series. In short I don’t know what the audience for this Sex and the City reboot is. And that makes everything the writers have done seem even more pointless.