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‘And Just Like That’ Doesn’t Yet Have the ‘Sex and the City’ Spirit: TV Review

Jacob Scott

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This article contains spoilers for the first four episodes of “And Just Like That.”

The most striking homage to the legacy of “Sex and the City” in the new series “And Just Like That” lands like a bit of bitter irony, or a joke too caustic by half.

“Sex and the City” ended, in 2004, with a montage of its characters having found fulfillment through romance and, crucially, self-acceptance, all set to the 1980s single “You Got the Love.” Two movies complicated but largely left intact what Candi Staton’s music had underscored; now, though, this anthem plays after the realization that Carrie Bradshaw is, once again, alone. What was once a song of celebration is now an ironic counterpoint to bitter loss. It’s as if “And Just Like That” can’t find its own tone without just reversing what came before.

Carrie’s Manhattan was easily reduced to an endless parade of Cosmos, Marlboros, and Manolos. But what people were really responding to when they discussed the show’s excess was its sense of possibility — that life, even and especially for women reaching an age that TV didn’t often explore with much depth, could be fun. Even the struggles the characters faced were, in the end, endurable with mutual support and winsome optimism.

Not so on “And Just Like That,” from longtime “Sex and the City” guiding hand Michael Patrick King. The new show’s very premise forces it first to reduce a foursome to three with the departure of Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, to isolate those three from one another, and to divide its central romantic twosome in half. This math doesn’t suit a franchise whose stock-in-trade had historically been abundance. The reasons for the platonic and romantic crack-ups of the first episode aren’t worth divulging here with the show available to watch on HBO Max now; one is revealed at the very beginning of the pilot, one at the end. Suffice it to say that a door is left open for one key relationship of Carrie Bradshaw’s life to resume, but the other has definitively shut.

Which also ends our sense of this project as fundamentally comedic. There’s always been more to “Sex and the City” than escapism, but the 45-minute episodes of “And Just Like That” gradually come to feel like installments of a drama with some jokes. Part of this shift feels like a consequence of the franchise growing increasingly comfortable centering life’s bitterer side; part feels responsive to an era of glumness. (To wit: In this universe, one in which Sept. 11 was mentioned only allusively, does feature direct references to COVID-19.) And part is unavoidable, with the most consistently ebullient performer on the show unwilling to return for this go-round.

It’s worth noting that without the typically game and shrewd Cattrall to introduce conversations, issues of the flesh remain largely theoretical for the show’s three leads — which makes “And Just Like That” a missed opportunity to address issues of physical satisfaction for characters in a new season of life. For Kristin Davis’ Charlotte, that means a seemingly companionate marriage in the background of aggressive pursuit of school-board achievements. And for Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda, indeed, the first four episodes are a gauntlet of degradation that begin with a frankly gross description of her minor son’s sex life. Later, her out-of-nowhere substance abuse strikes the viewer as a writerly attempt to find a new, more punishing lens through which to see a character. That it’s a reversal matters more than whether it looks anything like Miranda.

Carrie, lost in her own mind, completely misses that her friend has started drinking through the day, and that tracks. Indeed, Carrie’s journey through mourning is carefully drawn. And Sarah Jessica Parker plays it well, showing us the struggle to keep getting up (with a moment she wears an old-Carrie-style fluffy maxidress and tries to carry on feeling like a heart-soaring tiny triumph) as well as, eventually, an explosion of grief that feels like a catharsis. The show is good, in these moments, at what it’s chosen to do, even as the choice itself has been destabilizing to the project on the whole. Little can measure up to what Carrie is feeling, and so her two closest friends feel increasingly ancillary.

And their complications are, in the first four episodes, explored unproductively; four new characters, all women of color, seem to exist, first, as sounding boards or reactive forces, to refine and reframe the racial politics of the leads, and of their show. When, for instance, friendship with Nicole Ari Parker’s character forces Charlotte to confront how few Black women she knows, or taking a graduate course taught by Karen Pittman’s character leads Miranda into a bizarre cascade of microaggressions, white women’s experience remains at the center of the frame. The intent cannot have been to bring on characters of color as subordinate partners to guide the white leads, and yet that is how it can too often read.

This could change in the season’s back half. The show gestures towards giving its new performers something to play: Parker’s Lisa has a frustrating mother-in-law, while Pittman’s Nya expresses ambivalence about potential parenthood. And the characters in Carrie’s orbit, benefiting from “And Just Like That’s” fundamental imbalance, fare better: Sarita Choudhury’s Seema directly confronts Carrie on her thoughtlessness, the sort of cards-on-table interaction in which two characters are forced to really see each other that “Sex and the City” always did well. And Sara Ramírez’s Che, the anchor of a podcast on which Carrie appears, feels more effectively braided into the show — indeed, for a couple minutes she takes it over, delivering a comedy routine that culminates with urging her audience to “step out of that box and change!”

That advice has been taken to heart. “And Just Like That” changed its cast, its tone, and its focus, removing “sex” not just as a word in its title but as an experience in its reality. Marriages, here, are unhappy — the ones that last — and friendships frayed. Carrie’s presence in conversations feels tenuous and uncertain. (Notably, her writing has been almost entirely sidelined.) The city remains, but suffused with reminders of vividity and life that’s faded away, or been ripped out of the story. This is a show that’s done more than step out of the box — it looks effectively nothing like franchise fans will expect.

It’s not a fear of novelty that makes this startling. (Some of the changes — like the potential suggested by the new cast additions and a plotline involving Charlotte’s family — remain intriguing, close to the season’s halfway point.) It’s that the show can seem as if it’s taking on a new project grander than the “Sex and the City” toolbox can meaningfully address. In this show’s universe, friendship endures, and solves, all; what does it mean that a key friendship is insolubly broken, and others are dissolving into characters seeing past one another?

That last part strikes this viewer as the reversal that haunts this show the most. Back in 2004, as “You Got the Love” played, Carrie exhorted viewers that it wasn’t just love that matters — it was finding someone “who loves the you you love.” In different manners, Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda seem not just to be stripped of their defenses but of their senses of self; the laughs, when they come, aren’t just rueful and hard-won but strained. We recognize these characters, but it’s not just someone at the table who’s missing — it’s an energy. Carrie Bradshaw might have called it that “zsa-zsa-zsu,” once. But her spirit isn’t coming through clearly enough, yet, to know what she’d say today.

The first two episodes of “And Just Like That” are available on HBO Max now.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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