• Post category:Television
  • Post last modified:February 5, 2022

Sex and the City: Liberated in the Big Apple

Kristin Davis, Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon. Photo: HBO

I wasn’t much of a fan when this show first began. Every woman I knew at that time (I was 22) watched the show religiously while every guy I knew avoided it like the plague. I did realize that it was something I should catch up with and now I finally have – obviously, the women turned out to be right. But Sex and the City was hardly at its creative peak in the first season. It didn’t reach maturity until it started liberating itself more and more from the source material.

That would be Candace Bushnell’s book that was first published in 1997, a compilation of the columns she wrote for the New York Observer during the 1990s. It was a portrayal of sex in the Big Apple from a woman’s perspective, and Bushnell had created an alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw, who also worked as a columnist writing about sex for a magazine.

Spending a lot of time in diners
The TV show took three additional characters from the columns and gave them much more space. They became Carrie’s best friends in the city and the quartet would spend a lot of time in diners the day after a big night out, dishing the dirt on the people they had hooked up with. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) used her own and her friends’ experiences for the column. Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) was essentially a prude, a good, sophisticated, Protestant girl looking for the right, sophisticated, Protestant man to marry and have children with. Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) was an attorney who wouldn’t give up everything for a man and always relied on common sense… even cynicism, one might say. Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) was an ad executive who had long since come to the conclusion that no one had the right to question her passionate quest for the greatest fuck ever; her search for men was indefatigable and she was more than happy to share her experiences with the girls the next day.

These four women didn’t have much in common and one had to wonder how their friendship could last, but I guess they completed each other on several levels. At the time, it was rare to see a an intelligent show about women having one-night stands and not be labeled. In other words, to be like male characters.

The dramatic content helped the show
In the early episodes, Carrie would do annoying things like talking into the camera and the show had her interviewing people on the topic of sex. This was quickly dropped in favor of straight storylines starring the four main characters and their flings… and subsequently more or less serious relationships. Because what made this show improve with time was the dramatic content, as well as the well-matched performances of the four stars. Sure, there were always plenty of laughs, and interesting lessons to be learned from the sexual escapades, but what made us truly connect with these women was their friendship and the emotional experiences they shared, with or without men.

Carrie’s true love turned out to be an unreliable, but charming businessman whose real name we never learned, but who was referred to as Big (Chris Noth). Miranda eventually had a child with a man she never thought she’d fall in love with… but she did to the degree that she moved with him to Brooklyn (oh, the horror). Charlotte found the perfect man in a sloppy, Jewish lawyer, and even Samantha found love at last, with a young actor she had initially only thought of as a “kid” one fucks and then leaves. Funny how things turn out.

What gave this show its pizzazz was the sex and female observations about men, love and friendship. It was also unusual to see a TV adaptation of a book get a life of its own and, deservedly, surpass it in people’s minds.

Sex and the City 1998-2004:U.S. Made for TV. 94 episodes. Color. Created by Darren Star. Theme: Douglas J. Cuomo. Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones), Kristin Davis (Charlotte York), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda Hobbes), Chris Noth.

Trivia: Followed by two feature films, starting with Sex and the City (2008), and two series, The Carrie Diaries (2013-2014) and And Just Like That… (2022- ).

Emmys: Outstanding Comedy Series 00-01; Directing 01-02; Actress (Parker) 03-04; Supporting Actress (Nixon) 03-04. Golden Globes: Best Comedy Series 00, 01, 02; Actress (Parker) 00, 01, 02, 04; Supporting Actress (Cattrall) 03.

Quote: “You have a lot of nerve telling me to get a wax. If you were in Aruba the natives could bead your back. And it’s not just there: every time I blow you I feel like I’m flossing.” (Cattrall to a boyfriend)

Last word: “I remember being in the editing room and watching this episode where all the women were all off on their separate journeys. But at the end of all these separate journeys they all met each other at this movie theater. And I thought wow: that to me is the heart of the show. It’s about how they can have these struggles, and be beaten up, and have their ups and their downs, but in the end they’re just all kind of coming and being there for each other.” (Star on when he realized the show would be a hit, AOL)



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