“Whenever I see the word ‘sex’ nowadays, it’s usually written in pink, not black,” Michael Patrick King said gleefully on a boundless red carpet, stretched through the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday evening in New York City, where “And Just Like That,” HBO’s revival of “Sex in the City,” held its world premiere.
“There’s a reason for that,” the series creator said, while celebrity guests like Matthew Broderick, Andrew Rannells, Anna Wintour, Gayle King and Andy Cohen walked the carpet. “‘Sex in the City’ offered a new kind of television. Our calling card was the word ‘sex,’ but our subjects were real women. Now we get to do it again.”
“And Just Like That” arrives on HBO as it remains fashionable to slight “Sex and the City,” chalked up in hindsight as an overly aspirational, guilty-pleasure show which, despite its concept, pigeonholed its characters into recognizable stereotypes and was painfully and short-sightedly white.
But, according to the show’s original cast and creators on Wednesday, “Sex and the City” doesn’t get enough credit for what it did do: serving American audiences with single women who were simultaneously relatable and wish-fulfilling, and who, unlike Mary Tyler Moore, could speak openly and candidly about sex, intimacy and aggression.
“We had a connection with women, our audience, that was inarguable,” Parker, who returns as Carrie and serves as executive producer, told Variety on the red carpet. “And the reason was simple. We were on a network that allowed for frank depictions of intimacy — for women to be a mess, for women to be told they were a mess, for them to resolve and recover or stay saddled in that.”
“‘And Just Like That,’” she continued, “is still the same in that regard. We just have more life experience now.”
In the series, Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte are now in their 50s, pushing aside the expectations of that age as they did their 30s. They’re also surrounded by a cast of new characters, particularly and purposefully ones who are women of color or are gender non-conforming, played by Sarita Choudhury, Nicole Ari Parker, Karen Pittman and Sara Ramírez. And while they amend a key omission in the original show and depict a more representative New York City, they also fill the absence of Kim Cattrall, who, on account of her very public rift with Parker, chose not to return to the franchise. According to King, Cattrall’s non-participation doesn’t mean Samantha is absent.
“The reality is that Samantha is still in the show,” he told Variety on Wednesday. “These women didn’t have amnesia. They have Samantha in their lives, and we all have friends who meant something to us and who we lose touch with. She belongs in the show and in this storyline.”
“The fact that Kim Cattrall didn’t want to join us and continue as Samantha was her choice, and we kept going,” he said.
Among the show’s most effective new changes is the addition of a younger, more diverse writer’s room, which includes Samantha Irby, Rachna Fruchbom and Keli Goff. At the premiere, the trio made it clear that a more responsible consciousness to “And Just Like That” didn’t mean a shift to seriousness.
“I love to see a beautiful woman in tiny shoes running around being rich. That’s not my life, but I like to know that it exists for someone,” Irby told Variety.
“We still have a show filled with what Michael calls ‘cream pie’ moments, that clown shit,” she said. “Carrie falling on the runway or Miranda getting the jizz in her hair when they went to that sex workshop. It’s just now we can explore what cream pie looks like in your 50s.”
“Your vagina doesn’t die on your 50th birthday,” she said, “and you don’t fall off a cliff. You can continue to want to make choices in your life.”