News and drama intertwine amid 'Sex and the City' reboot

As the 'Sex and the City' reboot – 'And Just Like That' – got underway (it is available on Hot in Israel), one of the show’s stars, Chris Noth, who plays Mr. Big, was accused of sexual assault.

Chris Noth poses during the red carpet premiere of the 'Sex and The City' sequel, 'And Just Like That' in New York City, US, December 8, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/CAITLIN OCHS/FILE PHOTO)
Chris Noth poses during the red carpet premiere of the 'Sex and The City' sequel, 'And Just Like That' in New York City, US, December 8, 2021.

The Kan 11 series The Echo of Your Voice just finished running on television, but all the episodes are available for free on the Kan website. It tells the story of three generations of an Israeli music family, a father who was an Arik Einstein-like legend, the son who struggles to follow in his father’s footsteps, and a grandson who becomes a star in a talent competition.

While it started out a bit slowly, each episode has been stronger than the one before it. Much has focused on the one character who is not a star, and it is not one of those clichéd showbiz sagas. In fact, as the characters develop, it brings to mind the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, an underrated drama about an aspiring folk singer whose sincerity and openness does not bring him success.

Lately, it is more difficult than ever to separate the news from entertainment. As the Sex and the City reboot – And Just Like That – got underway (it is available on Hot in Israel), one of the show’s stars, Chris Noth, who plays Mr. Big, was accused of sexual assault by several women.

Noth is already off the show, for reasons known to all those who saw the first episode, but the scandal almost seems as if it could have been another chapter in Big’s life. It could also have been on a storyline from his previous television gig, playing philandering but charming politician Peter Florrick on The Good Wife. Since he is no longer in the cast, the scandal won’t affect the series going forward, but Noth getting canceled means television has lost one of its best leading men, who has been a star since he played opposite Jerry Orbach on the original Law & Order.

The scandal has gotten more press than And Just Like That, which is a mixture of the same qualities that made the original series both fun and frustrating. It became an iconic, beloved series showing women talking openly about and enjoying sex, which was still a bit of a taboo even in the late 1990s when it premiered.

Sandra Bullock in 'The Unforgivable' (credit: KIMBERLY FRENCH/NETFLIX 2021)Sandra Bullock in 'The Unforgivable' (credit: KIMBERLY FRENCH/NETFLIX 2021)

It also explored the often quirky ups and downs of modern dating in a way that hadn’t been seen before. The fashion always functioned as a kind of fifth co-star, and was great fun for anyone interested in style. But it did exist in a kind of upscale wonderland, divorced from the reality of most working women, in a universe where friends always had time to meet each other during the week and no one was ever on a diet.

The four main characters were all white and straight (or mostly straight), and that is something that the new series is making up for, with more diverse characters. Some of these diversity storylines are a bit awkward and a little too on-the-nose, but as clumsy as they feel, they likely reflect reality for many liberal New Yorkers, who are desperately trying to figure out their place in the new woke reality, especially in the cultural realm. In any case, hardcore fans of Sex and the City are likely to enjoy the new show, but I don’t think And Just Like That will attract a new generation of fans. 

Another case of the news finding its way into a drama is the series Dr. Death, which starts running on Hot 3 on December 27 at 8:45 p.m. and will continue running on Mondays, starring Alec Baldwin.

Baldwin, if you recall, was recently involved in the tragic accidental shooting death of the cinematographer of a Western he was filming, and it is bizarre that his new series has this name.

In Dr. Death, Baldwin plays one of the good guys, a neurosurgeon investigating a colleague (Joshua Jackson) who has been deliberately maiming and mutilating his patients instead of treating them. It’s based on a true and horrifying story, and brings to mind this joke: “Q: What’s the difference between a neurosurgeon and God? A: God doesn’t think he’s a neurosurgeon.”

Let’s face it, the idea that your doctor could be a psycho is so scary most of us would prefer not to dwell on it. Baldwin, who played a malevolent doctor in the movie Malice, is so good that occasionally I forgot about the shooting death, but it is a very disturbing show and has quite a few gruesome operating-room scenes.

The good news is that two new Netflix movies have recently come out featuring Best Actress Oscar winners: Halle Berry in Bruised and Sandra Bullock in The Unforgivable. The bad news is that both of the movies are grim and derivative. I keep remembering these actresses in the movies that put that on the map, Berry in Monster’s Ball and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, and Bullock in Speed and The Blind Side, where they were lively and sexy.

In Bruised and The Unforgivable, both wear uniform grimaces for most of the running time, Berry dressed in a hoodie with her hair in messy braids, Bullock in a parka with her hair in a messy ponytail. While both actresses give credible performances, neither movie is much fun.

In Bruised, Berry, who is making her directorial debut, plays a down-on-her-luck, hard-drinking former Mixed Martial Arts champion who is reunited with the son she abandoned when he was a baby and starts training to become a fighter again. Eventually, she goes back into the ring to face a worthy opponent. It takes place in Newark, two hours away from Philadelphia, where the Rocky movies that created the template for washed-up fighters revitalizing their careers were set. Berry is a wonderful actress and is in amazing shape, but the movie is uninspiring.

 Halle Berry in 'Bruised' (credit: JOHN BAER/NETFLIX 2021) Halle Berry in 'Bruised' (credit: JOHN BAER/NETFLIX 2021)

The same can be said for The Unforgivable, with Bullock as a woman who is released from prison after serving 20 years for killing a policeman who was going to kick her and her little sister out of their house.

Bullock and the sister were living there after her mentally ill father took his life and she raised the sister singlehandedly. When she gets out, she wants to reconnect with her sister, who has been adopted by a kind family, but there is a restraining order, and so she works as a carpenter and in a fish-packing plant until she can figure out how to contact her.

In the meantime, the sons of the police officer she shot plot revenge. The movie plays a little like Orange is the New Black without any humor, and Bullock barely gets to move her face for the entire running time. The extremely attractive Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead, who is playing Richard Gere’s part in the remake of American Gigolo, also gets to play a colorless role here, a co-worker who cautiously tries to court Bullock. There’s nothing wrong with a movie being downbeat, but neither of these has much of a point except to showcase the talents of their leading ladies, and both these actresses deserve more interesting roles.

A lot of promising series are coming up in January. Fans of Downton Abbey (and Upstairs, Downstairs, the show that inspired it) will want to tune into The Gilded Age, which starts running on Yes VOD on January 25 and on Yes Drama in February. Gilded, created by Downton’s Julian Fellowes, is set in New York starting in the 1880s, in the upper-class milieu that Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about, when the old guard of society was challenged and supplanted by the nouveau riche.

The series will star a who’s who of the best television actors, including Christine Baranski (The Good Wife), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Big Love), Morgan Spector (The Plot Against America, Homeland), Audra McDonald (The Good Fight) and Bill Irwin (best known as Mr. Noodle in the "Elmo’s World" segments of Sesame Street). It’s too early to say if it will be a hit, but it’s definitely something to look forward to in 2022.