All about that viral Peloton ad responding to Sex and the City reboot death

Mr. Big was shilling for Peloton, but the ad's been pulled following sexual assault allegations against actor Chris Noth, who plays Big.

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Chris Noth

Warner Media

HBO Max's Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That... premiered last Thursday with a shocking death in episode 1 that involves Peloton. In fact, the popular exercise equipment brand's stationary bike played a starring role so odious it may have affected the company's stock price. Peloton didn't just respond, however, it rolled out a creative ad to negate any damage. And it rolled it out fast before pulling it following sexual assault allegations against Chris Noth. 

So what happened?

Warning: Major spoilers ahead. 

spoiler alert

What happened on And Just Like That...?

The pilot opens with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and friends (minus Samantha) in a rosy, post-pandemic world, all of them now in loving (but potentially sexless?) marriages. Carrie and Big (Chris Noth) have the kind of relationship usually depicted in bank advertisements: They cook together, share bottles of wine, and listen to a different record from Big's collection every night, in alphabetical order, apparently a vestigial ritual of early lockdown. 

Among the many, many expository details we learn in the premiere is that Big has taken a liking to Peloton (of course he has). His cardiologist has approved his stationary cycling habit -- lest we forget her husband's history of heart problems, Carrie sneaks in a joke about nitroglycerin pills -- and he's about to complete his thousandth Peloton ride. This means he is owed a "shoutout" from favorite instructor Allegra (played by IRL Peloton instructor Jess King).

When Carrie is strong-armed into attending a piano recital for Charlotte's daughter Lily, Big stays home to take his ride. During Lily's big Moonlight Sonata crescendo, another big crescendo plays out on screen. Mr. Big, nee Preston, completes his thousandth and last spin class, towels himself off and collapses in the shower. Carrie returns home to find her husband near-dead from a heart attack. As he takes his final breaths in her arms, she ruins her wedding Manolos in the running water.

"And just like that..." Carrie says in voiceover just before the credits roll, "Big died."


Sarah Jessica Parker ponders a Peloton plot twist.

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Peloton's response to the episode 

"Mr. Big lived what many would call an extravagant lifestyle -- including cocktails, cigars and big steaks -- and was at serious risk as he had a previous cardiac event in season 6," said Peloton's cardiologist, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, speaking to E! News.

Steinbaum's damage control message also urged Peloton users to practice safe cycling: "The good news is Peloton helps you track heart rate while you ride, so you can do it safely."

Peloton followed up its comments with the quick release of an ad that plays off the whole controversy. The ad, which features a Ryan Reynold's voiceover, stars Noth as Mr. Big and Jess King, the same real-life Peloton instructor featured in the pivotal episode. "Shall we take another ride? Life's too short not to," he says. Then Reynolds pops in with a reminder that regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation.

The ad doesn't just feature Reynolds' voice. It was created by the production company he founded in 2018, Maximum Effort, which is also behind Aviation Gin's 2019 Peloton parody commercial. Reynolds told The Hollywood Reporter how the 40-second ad came together in just two days. 

"The time from conception to cameras rolling was 24 hours, Reynolds said. "Chris was in right away, but it was a whirlwind. For all of us. I certainly helped secure Chris, but Maximum Effort has built itself on challenges like these so, while never ever easy, the secret is practice and not losing heart when challenges inevitably occur."

The indoor workout brand is no stranger to controversy. Between a product recall after real-life injuries and a child's death, data vulnerability and a tone-deaf holiday ad, the company's PR department is well exercised itself. Which is good, because according to Peloton spokesperson Denis Kelly, the brand was not privy to this particular bit of product placement in advance of HBO's release. 


The Peloton Bike Plus. 

Rick Broida/CNET

"HBO procured the Peloton bike on their own," Kelly told Buzzfeed News. "Peloton was aware that a bike would be used in the episode and that Jess King would be portraying a fictional Peloton instructor."

After the initial bad PR from Peloton's involvement in Big's death, the company's stock shares took a sizable tumble last Thursday, just as HBO Max began streaming its SATC reboot. Shares were down 11.35% the day of the premiere, closing at $40.70 and continuing to decline to a 52-week low of $37.67 Friday. It seems likely the stock fluctuations were directly related to the spoiler. Then again, Peloton's shares have been in decline for a while, now down 73% for the year. It remains to be seen how the allegations against Noth will factor into Peloton's financial well-being.

What are the allegations against Noth? 

A week after the first episode aired, The Hollywood Reporter reported that two women had accused Noth of sexual assault. The women, who reportedly don't know each other, separately said Noth's appearance in HBO Max's new Sex and the City reboot, And Just Like That... prompted them to come forward. 

Noth calls the allegations "categorically false," saying in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that the encounters were consensual. Peloton however, has opted to stop running the new ads for now. 

"Every single sexual assault accusation must be taken seriously," a Peloton spokesperson said in an email statement to CNET on Thursday. "We were unaware of these allegations when we featured Chris Noth in our response to HBO's reboot. As we seek to learn more, we have stopped promoting this video and archived related social posts." 

The first three episodes of And Just Like That... are now available to stream on HBO Max. New episodes of the 10-part reboot will drop every Thursday.

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