Sex and the City
is the story of four gay men frolicking in a fantasy fairyland version of
Manhattan. From its hideous opening credits of a badly lit and cosmetically
starved Sarah Jessica Parker (admit it: doesn’t she deserve to be splashed
by that bus?) to its broadly played characters, from its bad acting and
fictionally false bed-hopping and bed hoping, this series is both maddening,
delusional and obsessively watchable.
odd recipe was a result of a bold move that put HBO on the respectability
map and gave free TV a run for its money. Once the show became a staple of
the pop culture landscape at the dawning of the new millennium,
offered a new low of low standards for other series to shamelessly mimeograph.
the basic premise (please): Carrie Bradshaw is a free-lance writer who
“honestly” laments about universal sexual matters that apply only to the
tiniest segment of the most superficial of New Yorkers. Even though she’s
barely clad in most scenes, she’s naked here, folks – at least her soul is
naked, to the world. And she’s gonna make you look, no matter how hard you
try to turn away.
Despite the fact that her column appears only weekly, she can afford to live
alone in a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side, chow down her three
squares in the city’s most expensive restaurants, take taxis rather than
lowly subways, and purchase more designer shoes than Imelda Marcos. We are
asked to find this adorable, eccentric and believable.
lunatic-asylum wardrobe (which gets more outrageous with each passing
season) is imported from the minds of Big Apple wannabe’s, imagining that
all sophisticated Manhattanites sashay down the street in tutus and
micro-minis. What’s worse, the show’s producers and writers insist on
dolling up Parker, who can’t be more than five-feet tall and light years
from anyone’s ideal of sex incarnate.
alleged sexpert’s column is supposedly popular among New York’s
twenty-four-hour party people. In it, she asks such
nails-against-the-blackboard questions as “are we secretly being graded in
bed?” or “do we need drama to make a relationship work?” Of course, we never
get any real answers – just some overwritten epiphanies (example: “man
invented fire but woman learned to play with it” or “it’s always better to
marry someone who loves you more than you love them” or the old golden rule,
“tell a man ‘I hate you’ and have the best sex of your life. Tell him ‘I
love you’ and you never see him again”) and other words of wisdom that make
you want to leave this city for the Vatican City.
additional material, Carrie literally “uses” her friends for sexual
information. This small circle of types is purposely diametrically opposed
to each other for maximum conflict: the hard-up, hard-bitten, hard-working
lawyer who hardly ever works, the easily shocked, aging debutante (from
Connecticut, of course), and the brashly oversexed nympho who effortlessly
says exactly what’s in the writers’ overheated minds. Carrie sees no problem
exposing her pals’ most personal trials and tribulations in her column,
and they seem to think nothing of it, being that they think and talk of
nothing but sex from the minute they awake in the morning to the minute they
fall asleep in the arms of their pickup du jour.
one true revelation in this series is Kim Cattrall, who made a bold choice
in playing the role of the sex-o-matic public relations executive Samantha
Jones. We’ve already seen the prototype (Tina Louise as Ginger Grant on
Gilligan’s Island), but Cattrall takes this potentially troublesome
character to comic heights. It’s daring and shocking to see her engaged in
realistic and/or unusual sexual acts, free-flowing dirty talk and brash
come-on’s to strangers, from firemen to sailors to women. In the commentary
track, writer Michael Patrick King calls her a “clown,” and he means that
with the highest respect.
series hits its own G-spot only when Cattrall is doing her thing; the rest
is more miss than hit. The most problematic buzz kill of the series is the
on-again/off-again romance between Carrie and Mr. Big, played by Chris Noth.
Although many people believe that Mr. Big could actually be a figment of
Carrie’s imagination (sort of a sexual Sixth Sense, in which she
always seem to run into him at a party or an opera or a plot-driven
inopportune time), Carrie proves to be a pure pain-in-the ass girlfriend to
him – extremely needy and never satisfied.
patience with her can only be appreciated – and dreaded – by men (for
instance, she calls him at 5:30 in the morning and nags him while he is on
an important business trip to Paris). Her superficiality in worming her way
into his life knows no bounds. She literally follows him to church, which he
attends weekly with his mother, and then confides with great seriousness,
“getting on the good side of his mother is like closing the deal.” Exactly
what Jesus would do.
series’ ultimate tragedy is its occasional light beams of truth hidden under
all the showiness and bad taste. At one point, Carrie laments about the city
in which she eventually calls her lover, “No one has breakfast at Tiffany’s
and no one has affairs to remember,” or that New York is like a bar where
“everybody knows your name but forgets it five minutes later.” Or when her
pal asks, “What ever happened to aging gracefully?” Carrie responds, “It got
is also a half-hearted attempt to pull a Seinfeld by introducing phrases
into the cultural vocabulary (“modelizer,” “KY2K,” “funky spunk”).
Ultimately, though, they fall back into what has become a familiar pattern
of pseudo-ponderings: “Which of the founding fathers were the most fuckable?”
and “Are relationships the religion of the 90s?”
Though the show wants to be a step above, it still falls into the same
pathetically stereotyped traps: once again, the mindset here is that anybody
or anything outside of New York
is stupid and backward. The occasional trek out of Manhattan is supposed to
be a horror ride into the lowest depths of hell: “I began to realize that
Staten Island was like a quaint European country,” Carrie muses
patronizingly. “The music was twenty years behind and you could smoke
anywhere you wanted.” And in the continuing false belief that there are no
middle-class or poor people in Connecticut, Carrie wonders “how a place so
filled with nature can look so unnatural.”
Speaking of unnatural, the casting directors for this series need a
re-evaluation and a refresher course. The minor characters (boyfriends,
lovers, neighbors, suburbanites, and especially rich people) are hideously
overplayed to the point of distraction. When it comes to the smaller parts,
the casting directors and writers paint with an outrageously broad brush and
consistently succumb to the most heinous clichés. A bit more thought and
subtlety would have added some much-needed weight and believability to a
series that barely has both expensively dressed feet on the ground.
©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: January 12, 2005.