We are less than a week out from the highly, highly anticipated premiere of And Just Like That, HBO Max’s Sex and the City reboot. (Or is it a revival?) Now, technically, depending on when you’re reading this, you might be able to cram in a full re-watch of the original series before the first couple episodes of the new show drop on December 9. Maybe you’ve already done so, in which case, stick around, ’cause I might need your help.
Here’s the thing: I realized recently, to my mild horror, that I re-watched this show so much in the early 2000s that I think I can recap the whole thing from memory. To be clear, it has probably been about ten years since I’ve seen an episode of Sex and the City. But I’m gonna try anyway! Feel free to let me know on social if I get anything wrong.
Ok, deep breath. Here goes…
Meet Carrie Bradshaw, some sort of journalist who writes a weekly (?) newspaper column about the dating and mating habits of Manhattan’s elite. Kinda like Gossip Girl for grown-ups. She has lots of friends and acquaintances whom she uses as sources, but the series focuses on the core four: Charlotte, a prudish gallerist; Miranda, a jaded corporate lawyer; and Samantha, a campy libertine PR exec. Also, sometimes Carrie hangs out with her gay boyfriend Stanford, but never invites him to brunch.
At a party one night, Carrie meets a very rich man who she calls Mr. Big and the two begin a casual flirtation that eventually evolves into a super toxic relationship. She’s needy, he’s withholding. He resists defining their relationship and she acts out by sleeping with a young Timothy Olyphant and making out with a young Justin Theroux and stalking his ex-wife.
Meanwhile, despite being frequently mistaken for a lesbian, Miranda ends up dating this dweeb named Skipper who she seems to actively hate. And Charlotte and Samantha sleep with a lot of men, one of whom wants Charlotte to do butt stuff.
Ultimately, Carrie breaks up with Mr. Big because he won’t take her to church with his mom—whom she also kinda stalks! Notably, the fashion in Season 1 is…just not there yet. It’s a lot of late ’90s basic normcore nonsense.
So, Carrie and Mr. Big are still broken up, but she’s definitely not over him. She dates a few different forgettable guys before they end up reconnecting. But, it turns out, their relationship is plagued by all the same problems as before. He won’t spend the night at her house. He won’t hang out with her friends. He gives her an inexplicable bejeweled duck purse—which, let’s be honest, is not that dissimilar from a lot of the accessories Pat Field has Carrie carrying in later seasons. But, you know, timing is everything, and 1999 was not the time for a duck-shaped purse, nor was it the time for Carrie and Big. He ends up having to move to Paris for work and is just not as invested in the relationship as she is, and so they break up again. Also, Carrie wears a dirndl, to which I say: “Live every day like you’re Carrie Bradshaw in that f*cking dirndl!”
Meanwhile, Samantha briefly dates a guy with a very tiny penis, which literally lands her in therapy. The relationship is, as Carrie might pun short lived. Also, Samantha dates a very short guy and a very old guy and tries to have a threesome with two very gay guys and runs into Donald Trump. Yeesh!
And Miranda breaks up with Skipper at some point and after a lot of flings ends up meeting this bartender Steve who is kind of like Skipper 2.0, only sexier and way more charismatic. And everything is going great until her friends realize that he’s poor, and since none of these women have ever interacted with non-rich people before, that’s a huge problem—but they make it Steve’s huge problem! Like, he can’t handle dating a rich lady, because of internalized toxic masculinity. Which I guess is fair? But still kinda gross. Anyway, they have to break up. (Oh, god, also in one episode Samantha dates a rich guy with a Japanese servant, and that episode definitely needs one of those warnings like Disney+ has before The Muppet Show now.)
Charlotte…I have no idea what Charlotte gets up to in Season 2. I think maybe she also slept with a very gay guy?
But, so, back to Carrie: She dates Bon Jovi and then another guy played by Justin Theroux, but this time his mom is Valerie Harper (RIP). Then suddenly Big returns from Paris unexpectedly and he’s engaged to a 20-something named Natasha. So, this sends Carrie into a fresh tale-spin in which she tries to be friends with Big and then realizes she can’t and reenacts the final scene of The Way We Were with him and walks away dramatically. Which would have been a really great way to end the series. And yet, we carried on. (Jesus. The puns.)
Ok, this is the season when the clothes start getting really good. Or maybe they just start getting more expensive. Like, in Season 2 Carrie in particular kind of develops this downtown, eclectic, adventurous sense of style, which goes off the rails a little in Season 4. But here, she’s in this really sexy disco glam phase—the big nameplate earrings, all the gold Bvlgari jewelry—that is very New York, and which I personally feel is the show’s apex. But there are other people who are more qualified to talk about the clothes.
So, Carrie briefly dates a politician played by John Slattery—who I am 100-percent not convinced isn’t the same character Slattery would later play on 30 Rock. But he wants to pee on her and she gets super freaked out and judgey about it and breaks up with him. Then she dates a bisexual guy and kisses Alanis Morrisette, but gets all freaked out and judgey again and breaks up with him too. Then she meets a furniture designer with a dog and lots of turquoise jewelry named Aidan Shaw (who is literally named after a gay porn star) who makes her quit smoking and strips her floors for her. Seems great, right?
But no! Carrie and Big, who is now married to Natasha, start having an affair. This, of course, ends badly when Natasha catches them and Carrie decides to end it. Wracked with guilt, Carrie inexplicably decides to tell Aidan about the affair and he breaks up with her.
Meanwhile, Miranda and Steve get back together and he moves in. But then like a week later, he starts talking about having a baby with her and she breaks up with him. Samantha briefly dates a Black guy whose sister has a problem with her brother dating a white woman, but we never get a chance to explore the probably very complicated reasons why; she’s just an obstacle for Samantha, who gets dumped by the brother and then moves to the Meat Packing District where she terrorizes the Black and brown trans sex workers whose turf she is colonizing. Great season for Samantha all around. (And we ask ourselves why Kim Cattrall didn’t want to revisit this character…)
And Charlotte, well, she marries this old money doctor named Trey (Kyle MacLachlan) who has erectile dysfunction and won’t take Viagra and has a crazy Oedipal relationship with his mother who is named Bunny. Insanely, by the end of the season, they’re already separated!
The back half of Season 3 has some all-time great, fun, low-stakes summery episodes, like when Carrie gets stoned with this guy who owns a comic book shop who I think is Dan Cortese from MTV Sports? [Ed note: it’s not.] Also, the whole crew takes a girls trip to L.A. where all kinds of crazy nonsense happens. Like, Carrie sleeps with Carrie Fisher’s houseboy (Vince Vaughn) and gets sexually harassed by Matthew McConaughey who might actually be on mushrooms in this scene, and they all go to the Playboy Mansion. Then, one day, Carrie and Miranda discover that Aidan and Steve are friends now, even though they’ve literally never met, and this freaks them out. And then, totally unrelated, they have a big fight, which is really upsetting (and is an emotional beat the show will go on to slightly overuse) because Carrie decides to be friends with Big, who is getting divorced. But everybody makes up, and Samantha has a BBQ and that’s the end of Season 3.
So, how am I doing? I’m gonna stop now, so we can all take a breath and maybe pretend that Sex and the City ended with this really kind of random and poignant line at the end of the Season 3 finale: “Don’t worry. They have a very lovely life.” Meet back here on Monday when I’ll try to remember all of Seasons 4–6!