“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” gave way to “Rhoda”; “Cheers” eventually brought us “Frasier.” Could the legacy of “And Just Like That” be the London-set dramedy “Samantha”?
Yes, it’s unlikely; a potential spinoff based on the ongoing adventures of Kim Cattrall’s character from “And Just Like That” and “Sex and the City” necessitates the participation of, well, Cattrall, who’s been very clear that her cameo on the “AJLT” finale was a once-ever thing. But that cameo, too, once seemed unlikely-to-impossible, given the haze of bad feeling between Cattrall and her former castmates. And on “Samantha,” just like Frasier in Seattle, she’d get to make a whole new set of friends!
I’m being facetious, but only a little. I agree with my colleague Alison Herman that Samantha’s cameo was electric, and I’d go further: It provided a much-needed jolt for an episode of television that at times felt lugubrious. Samantha, to this point, has been an unseen but occasionally felt member of the ensemble. As the distant former member of Carrie’s crew, Samantha, in her absence, provided a painful reminder of the passage of time. Back in top form — overpronouncing “Heathrow,” demanding to be placed on speakerphone to speak to an apartment, dressing in classic Patricia Field styling that this show edges up to but can’t consistently match — she made for an appealing reminder of the vanities and the dramatics of this crew. Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte have learned, with time, to speak about their desires in softer, more measured tones; what a pleasure to see that Samantha is still living out loud.
And what grist for some future series! Say this much: Whatever water is under this particular bridge, Michael Patrick King (who wrote and directed the season finale on which Cattrall appeared) still knows Samantha’s voice. And he knew how best to deploy it: With the news of the Cattrall cameo out, the entire season seemed at times a crescendo towards Samantha’s return. (That the season was, also, a documentation of Carrie’s decline into a shared delusion with Aidan meant that Samantha got to give Carrie a boost right as she was at her lowest.) In brief, Samantha’s crispness of delivery and mien seemed its own kind of statement on the questions about getting older “And Just Like That” has spent two seasons posing: Samantha, defiantly, isn’t going to change.
There is no point in litigating whatever has happened between Cattrall and the “Sex and the City” production. But the beauty of a spinoff is that it starts fresh: A whole new set of scenarios, of friends, of ways of seeing a character we already know well. Think of the public-relations emergencies Samantha might have to put out involving West End actors and members of Parliament — possibly sexy ones! Cattrall may not want to be in a situation for even an hour where she’s not enjoying herself, but this could be made into something fun for her and us alike. It might seem impossible, but the characters from “Sex and the City” have already been flipped around before, plugged into a weekly drama series about the pleasures and pains of growing older. (And that’s without even talking about the movies, too.) There’s interest, and ability, in figuring out new ways of using these characters to tell stories — Samantha being canonically on a whole other set of adventures presents not a challenge, but an opportunity.
If there’s one thing this franchise is, it’s resilient: Perhaps it’s the rock-solid writing of these characters that allows them to voyage to Abu Dhabi, or to Che Diaz’s apartment, and always return chastened but intact. We know who Samantha Jones is at a core level. That she’s the only character we haven’t gotten to see unfold further is just a quirk of production, and of human relations. But maybe it’s time, for more than a minute-long cameo, for streamer Max to give Cattrall the mic, taking on all the same issues “And Just Like That” has illuminated and showing us Samantha’s perspective.