A common “eww” is not enough. In the case of the “Sex and the City” TV series revival, which is officially going to film this spring and then run on HBO Max, the proper response has to be a sound tinged with contempt — something more like “Pfft,” or “Feh,” or “Hmph,” or “Blech.”
I hardly know where to begin. There are just too many reasons that bringing “Sex and the City” back for another 10 episodes is wholly unappealing, even grotesque. I mean, the show was already repeating itself by the end of its six-season run on HBO in 2004. Creatively, if not in terms of the market, it was finished. The account of these four women in New York at a certain moment in their lives, and in the life of the city, had been beyond-fully told, end of story.
And the zeitgeist that the series rode in on, much of it involving women’s friendships and sex-positivity, was done, too. When the series left the air, the notion of four urban women spending all their time together talking almost exclusively about men was already no longer forward-thinking, even if there was no sexual shame attached. Likewise, the excited materialism and high fashion that helped define the series, particularly in the world of Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw, was no longer fun to watch. It seemed more out of touch with reality than ever, and it made the characters increasingly hard to sympathize with.
But of course that didn’t stop the show’s producers from spinning off the series into two movies, both of them awful, the second one, “Sex and the City II,” particularly smug, offensive, un-self-aware, and absurd. The urge to further the franchise also led to an unnecessary prequel series, “The Carrie Diaries,” the less said about which the better. When it comes to superheroes, go ahead, franchise away; they’re meant to be action- and special-effects heavy, super-broad entertainment and little more. But the finer, more character-driven properties deserve to be safe from exploitation. A classic example is “Big Little Lies,” whose absurd second season spoiled the perfection of what was a limited series with just the right ending.
In a way, the noses of loyal “Sex and the City” fans are being rubbed in something we once loved. Rather than resting on fond memories of a show and characters whose time had come, we have been and are being pushed to keep paying up in order to keep up with their latest developments. I thought the “Downton Abbey” movie was shallow and cynically induced, but it didn’t even come close to the kind of shallowness and cynicism on display by the “Sex and the City” folks. That second movie was the walking dead in Manolos. Just because we like something and miss it doesn’t mean we really, truly want or need more. Fan desire should not be the driving motivation for continuing. Indeed, leaving us wanting more ought to be the goal, for those with creative integrity — and for fans, too. Another cliché is apt here, as well: If you love a show, let it go, rather than running it into the ground.
But it seems as though it is now generally perceived as an undeniably good idea to catch up with our old favorite characters, instead of leaving them at the end of their story, resonating. We’ve got to know the latest about what the people from “Mad About You,” “Murphy Brown,” “Dexter,” “Roseanne,” “Full House,” or “Will & Grace” are doing during the Trump era, or in their later careers, or, in the case of the “Sex and the City” revival, in their 50s. We never can say goodbye. Of course we all tend to be afraid of endings, or averse to them; finality is a bummer when it’s someone or something you like or love. But endings are an essential aspect of life and of good storytelling — whether they’re tidy Dickensian endings or more modern and ambiguous. They help determine what the story is, in a way — for instance, if Tony Soprano had been killed, “The Sopranos” might well have been taking a moral stand and punishing the antihero.
Did I neglect to mention that the new round of “Sex and the City” — which will reportedly be titled “And Just Like That …” — is returning without Kim Cattrall’s Samantha? Cattrall, always rumored to be at war with Parker, is turning away from the more than $1 million-per-episode payday and seems to feel a little like me. “I went past the finish line playing Samantha Jones because I loved ‘Sex and the City,’” she told the Guardian in 2019. “It was a blessing in so many ways but after the second movie I’d had enough.” Like me, she is left definitely not wanting more.