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'And Just Like That' takes established characters in unexpected directions


Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte - three of the four besties from HBO's classic comedy "Sex And The City" - they are returning for a new set of adventures in the HBO Max series "And Just Like That..." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the new episodes take established characters in some unexpected directions. And heads up - there are some spoilers ahead.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: "And Just Like That..." wastes little time catching you up on the big things that have gone down since the last time we saw the ladies from "Sex And The City," namely COVID and the disappearance of Kim Cattrall's character, Samantha Jones, revealed when Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte run into a friend at a restaurant.


JULIE HALSTON: (As Bitsy Von Muffling) Where's Samantha?

KRISTIN DAVIS: (As Charlotte York) Oh, she's no longer with us.

CYNTHIA NIXON: (As Miranda Hobbs) Oh, no, no, no. She didn't die.

DAVIS: (As Charlotte York) Oh, no. Oh, no, no. I'm so sorry. No. I just meant she's not with us.

HALSTON: (As Bitsy Von Muffling) Oh.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) She's in London.

HALSTON: (As Bitsy Von Muffling) Oh, thank God. After the horror show we've been through, I just assumed anyone I haven't seen in a while has passed on or gave up and moved to Palm Beach.

DEGGANS: Of course, the real reason Samantha isn't with the crew is because Cattrall chose not to return. In the past, she's talked about friction with star and executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Carrie Bradshaw. In the new HBO Max series, Carrie talks about the absence with Miranda Hobbs, played by Cynthia Nixon, and it sounds a lot like a fictionalized version of the actresses' real-life feud.


NIXON: (As Miranda Hobbs) You know, it is kind of like she's dead, Samantha. We never even talk about her.

PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) I told her that, because of, you know, what the book business is now, it just didn't make sense for me to keep her on as a publicist. She said, fine, and then fired me as a friend.

NIXON: (As Miranda Hobbs) She didn't fire you.

PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) I thought I was more to her than an ATM.

NIXON: (As Miranda Hobbs) She was embarrassed.

PARKER: (As Carrie Bradshaw) So embarrassed she took a job and moved to London?

DEGGANS: That is a lot of exposition to drop on viewers in the beginning of an episode. Still, there is a lot to catch up on. "Sex And The City" is one of the TV shows that form the cornerstone of HBO's success in the late '90s and early 2000s. The new revival was named for a signature phrase Carrie drops at the end of each episode.

"And Just Like That..." debuts 11 years since the last movie with these characters, wasting no time in reminding us that they are 50-somethings trying to stay relevant in a millennial-dominated New York City. The first episode especially overdoes the characters' discomfort with age and the current social climate. Charlotte York, played by Kristin Davis, laments that she doesn't have many Black friends. Carrie is a successful author struggling to fit in on a podcast with a nonbinary Mexican Irish host. And Miranda, now back in school for a master's degree, mistakes a professor who is Black for another student because of her braids, which goes south quickly.


NIXON: (As Miranda Hobbs) Hair has nothing whatsoever to do with appropriateness or intelligence or gravitas, obviously. I mean, do I look like someone who attaches any significance to hair? I let mine go gray, and I don't care if it makes me look old - not that I'm ageist. Do I sound ageist?

KAREN PITTMAN: (As Nya Wallace) You really want me to answer that question?

DEGGANS: Throughout the first episode, I was having a tough time liking any of these characters, who still move through impossibly posh settings in New York like the political and public health nightmares of the past few years have barely touched them. Then something happens at the end of the first episode that I cannot reveal. It's too big a spoiler. But it makes the new series grow up in important ways, offering a good argument for why we should still care about these privileged characters and their lives. After a bumpy first episode, this new series actually meets the modern moment with some compelling storytelling. And just like that, an old critic who considers himself an OG "Sex And The City" fan is ready for more. I'm Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF PINK FLOYD SONG, "SIDE 3, PT. 4: ALLONS-Y") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.