I’m not sure any show in recent memory has inspired a stranger response in audiences and critics than And Just Like That… since it premiered in December. At first, all anyone could talk about was how bad the Sex and the City reboot was. What were they doing to Miranda? And how could they write off Samantha like that? And oh my God, that death scene. It was bad, but it was also, maybe, compulsively watchable.
And so even as they trashed the show, people kept watching. You could call that a guilty pleasure, but at what point does guilty pleasure slide into pleasure, full stop? As the weeks went on, some critics wrote rousing defenses of the show, Che Diaz discourse flew fast and furious, and former Jezebel staffers owned up to being so obsessed with the show that they up and started an extremely funny limited-run Substack about it.
But the strongest evidence of AJLT’s weird pull on audiences to my mind was a viewing habit I noticed people adopting around it that I’ve never seen before: New episodes went up on Thursdays at 3 a.m. Eastern time, and a certain segment of viewers weren’t waiting until typical leisure screen time hours, the evening, to watch—they were finding pockets to watch during the day Thursday, whether over a snack or an afternoon break. Some were even waking up early to fit in their weekly session of exasperated but deeply affectionate eye-rolling. From personal experience, I can tell you that more than once I found myself awake at 2 a.m., usually around when I go to bed, wondering if I should try to stay up another hour for that week’s episode to go up and then another half hour to 40 minutes to watch it, because, well, I wanted that dopamine hit and I didn’t want to wait another 16 hours for it.
Now, I’m not saying everyone was doing this. Much like Carrie Bradshaw, I only talk to about three people regularly, so I can’t speak for the viewing habits of the masses. But I had a hunch, I’d heard a few similar anecdotes from acquaintances, and I have social media, where I clocked many examples of people watching And Just Like That at pretty odd hours. I took particular note of this one:
Yes: I would only do this for Carrie and the girls. Doesn’t that say a lot? We wouldn’t watch an episode of a TV show over breakfast like an elementary schooler eating cereal alongside Saved by the Bell or contemplate staying up until all hours to see if anything happens between Carrie and that teacher unless many of us really do love AJLT, in spite of its many flaws. (By the way, why are more people not talking about how that teacher, whose name on the show is Peter, looks remarkably like Carrie’s ex Berger, to the point where I was like, “Wait, did they bring back Berger? They should bring back Berger.” It’s a national scandal.)
Some of this viewing behavior has been enabled by this unique moment in television history and its attendant streaming wars. Once upon a time, we all gathered to watch shows at the same time every week, because that was the only way to watch them. When we woke up early to watch something, it was a historical event like Princess Diana’s wedding. Then DVR and Netflix’s drop-a-whole-season-at-once model brought on time-shifting and watching on your own schedule. And now we find ourselves back at the weekly release model, except sometimes those releases come at midnight or 3 a.m., for reasons opaque to me. We don’t want to be spoiled, and also many of us, in the AJLT-watching classes at least, are still working from home, able to structure our schedules in a way we couldn’t when we worked in offices and might have risked a supervisor peeking over and looking askance at an employee watching Che Diaz bring Miranda to orgasm in the middle of the day.
It also seems meaningful that AJLT arrived in the season of the pandemic that it did, one defined by winter doldrums, omicron regression, and an even greater necessity for comfort viewing than usual. I know I will miss this strange time, one of the worst winters ever, when the re-opened office I actually liked to go to every day closed again, indefinitely, and everyone I knew (all three of them) got COVID, but I nonetheless had new episodes of a bizarro-world reboot of one of my favorite TV shows of all time to look forward to feeding my sad brain. I’m with the writer and podcaster Brittany Luse: “Why can’t Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow and grant me six more weeks of And Just Like That”? I want more, but as AJLT teaches us, I know the world will continue to evolve and the circumstances of our lives will continue to change. Nothing stays the same. Would another season of AJLT hit quite the same way? Who knows? Maybe this will be a thing now, the breakfast or the lunchtime show; maybe it already was for some people. But for me, I don’t think anything will ever be quite the same as the brief respite provided by the feeling of having a fresh episode of AJLT to steal away with during the day for this run of Thursdays.