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Sex and the City aired from June 1998 until February 2004 on HBO.
Four beautiful Manhattan women in their mid-30s found sex easy to come by, but love harder to find, in this adaptation of the best-selling book by Candace Bushnell. The ringleader, Carrie ( Sarah Jessica Parker), was a svelte blonde with long, flowing locks who wrote a column for the New York Star on the late-night party and sex scene in New York. " Carrie Bradshaw knows good sex," the column read, so of course she did her research, which apparently meant sleeping with every eligible bachelor in the city. Her three best friends were Samantha ( Kim Cattrall), a public relations executive who preferred one-night stands to a lasting relationship, Charlotte ( Kristin Davis), an art gallery curator looking for Mr. Right, and Miranda ( Cynthia Nixon), a lawyer with a sometimes eccentric taste in men. All were catty, self-absorbed and constantly gossiping about their latest conquests-and their worries that they might never find the "right one."
Carrie thought she had found the right one in the devastatingly charming Mr. Big ( Chris Noth), and their on-and-off romance was a thread that ran throughout the series. After too many letdowns from the emotionally unavailable Big, she took up up with furniture designer Aidan ( John Corbett), which lead to an awkward triangle-even though Big had in the meantime married Natasha ( Bridget Moynahan). Stanford ( Willie Garson) was Carrie's gay pal and confidant. Samantha ran through a constant stream of men ( Charlotte to Sam: Is your vagina listed in New York guidebooks? It should be. Hottest spot in town! Always open!"), even trying lesbian Maria ( Sonia Braga ). Client Richard ( James Remar) was her longest-standing relationship. Charlotte finally married Dr. Trey ( Kyle MacLachlan), only to discover he had impotence problems and a nutty mom ( played by Frances Sternhagen). Miranda had a fling with Skipper ( Ben Weber), then conceived a baby by bartender Steve ( David Eigenberg ). She considered an abortion -babies did not fit these women's lifestyle-but instead gave birth, as a single mom to baby Brady.
In the final season all four women's lives changed. Carrie dated writer Jack Berger ( Ron Livingston) for a time, then moved on to suave Russian artist Aleksandr ( Mikhail Baryshnikov ); Samantha was diagnosed with breast cancer and began chemotherapy; Charlotte, divorced from Dr. Trey, married her divorce lawyer Harry ( Evan Handler ), after converting to Judaism and tried to adopt a baby, and single mom Miranda, after much vacillating, finally married Steve. In the finale Carrie flew to Paris where she broke up with Alexsandr and finally received the long-sought commitment from Big (" It took me a really long time to get here, but I'm here. Carrie, you're the one"). Big's name was revealed to be " John." Samantha finally committed to young actor Smith ( Jason Lewis), who had stood by her during her chemo. Charlotte and husband Harry, after many false starts, adopted a Chinese baby and Miranda moved to Brooklyn with her husband Steve to raise her baby and care for Steve's elderly mother.
The emphasis on casual sex hardly fit the cautious 1990s, but the foursome's constant worries about fitting in, growing old, self-fulfilment and female empowerment obviously struck a chord ( Samantha: " The only place you can control a man is in bed. If we perpetually gave men blow jobs, we could run the world"). Although it appeared on the premium cable network HBO, seen in only about one-third of U.S.homes, Sex and the City was a major hit and trendsetter in the 1990s and early 2000s.
A Review from The New York Times
TV WEEKEND; In Pursuit of Love, Romantically or Not
By CARYN JAMES
Published: June 5, 1998
In the 1970's San Francisco of ''Armistead Maupin's 'More Tales of the City,' '' the characters may be homosexual, heterosexual or transsexual, but they are all hopeless romantics. In the brash new comedy series ''Sex and the City,'' the heroine cultivates an anti-romantic pose that suits Manhattan in the 90's, with its post-politically correct attitudes. ''I'm a sexual anthropologist,'' says Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a newspaper columnist who writes: ''Welcome to the age of uninnocence. No one has breakfast at Tiffany's and no one has affairs to remember. Instead we have breakfast at 7 A.M. and affairs we try to forget as soon as possible.'' Though one is gauzy and the other hard-edged, both these shows alight on a particular patch of ground where their characters roam through a hyperrealistic landscape searching for the meaning of love.
''More Tales'' comes up with comforting but pat answers. Things have changed since the original ''Tales of the City'' appeared on PBS in 1994, to deserved acclaim and popularity. The series was distinguished by its matter-of-fact acceptance of all sorts of sexual desire, and it created a warm, enviable, almost innocent world centered around a house at 28 Barbary Lane. We should all have a landlady as wise and reassuring as Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) to call us ''dear.'' That she grew marijuana in her garden and used to be a man were mere details; the series' openhearted tolerance was one of its most winning qualities. Of course, that attitude evoked right-wing hostility. PBS quickly dropped plans for a sequel (unconvincingly citing the cost).
That sequel, now appearing on Showtime, has about half the charm and little of the freshness of the original series. There, Mary Ann Singleton (Laura Linney, who returns to ''More Tales'' even perkier than before), arrived from Cleveland and landed in San Francisco as if she were Alice down the rabbit hole. Agog at what she saw, she was the viewer's ideal guide.
In the sequel, which picks up six weeks after the first story ended, Mary Ann is on a cruise to Mexico with her gay friend Mouse (Paul Hopkins, in one of several cast changes), wondering which of them a handsome man is making eyes at. Viewers are four years ahead of her, though. After ''Ellen,'' after hit films like ''The Birdcage,'' after the PBS-''Tales'' flap itself, ''More Tales'' has a slightly quaint air, despite its more explicit love scenes.
It also has a different screenwriter (Nicholas Wright instead of Richard Kramer) and a script that lacks snap. And in the first few episodes, the Barbary Lane house and Mrs. Madrigal fade into the background. While Mary Ann is cruising, Mona Ramsey (Nina Siemaszko, replacing the more suitably abrasive Cloe Webb) takes a bus trip to Nevada.
At the bus station she meets the one daring addition to the story, a wizened old brothel owner called Mother Mucca (from Winnemucca), who wears a red wig askew and calls everyone ''Dolly.'' Mona goes to work as a receptionist at the Blue Moon Lodge, the house Mother Mucca has run for 60 years. Neither sweet nor cuddly, Mother Mucca (played with fearless lack of sentimentality by Jackie Burroughs) is a character who repels and finally attracts viewers; she is just what this soft-focus memory piece needs.
There are plot twists that may engage series fans but will leave newcomers wondering what the fuss was about. Mona's mother (Swoozie Kurtz) turns up. So does her father, which will not surprise anyone who has been following the clues. In one of the more satisfying turns, Thomas Gibson (now better-known from ''Dharma and Greg'') returns as the mean-spirited, secretly homosexual Beauchamp Day. Being closeted may be the one unforgivable sin in Mr. Maupin's world, and Beauchamp suffers a brutal comeuppance.
''Sex and the City'' has a narrower focus, but each slight, breezy half-hour is fresh and funny. The series is loosely based on Candace Bushnell's columns in the New York Observer but leaves behind the irritating, self-important tone. The series benefits greatly from Ms. Parker's engaging portrayal of a smart woman always searching for answers and never certain she has found them.
In the opening episode, Carrie and a group of single female friends decide women can have sex as casually as men do. Carrie tries this out with an old boyfriend, and leaves feeling ''powerful'' but flustered enough to drop her handbag on the street. Fortunately, she drops it at the feet of a rich, handsome single man she calls Mr. Big (Christopher Noth), who serves as an instant reminder that her heart can still flutter. More than she realizes, Carrie is torn between her longing for romance and her knowledge that there is no free breakfast at Tiffany's.
On the surface, Carrie's world of art dealers, trendy clubs and supermodels may seem hermetic, but her mating rituals have a universal resonance. The ''toxic bachelors'' she runs across have their counterparts everywhere. So do her friends, especially Cynthia Nixon as Miranda, a bitter lawyer with a functional haircut, and Kim Cattrall as Samantha, a slightly over-the-hill public relations woman who thinks she can be mistaken for a model. ''Samantha has the kind of deluded self-confidence that causes men like Ross Perot to run for president,'' Carrie says. Like so much of ''Sex and the City,'' that's not kind, but it's true.
ARMISTEAD MAUPIN'S 'MORE TALES OF THE CITY'
Showtime, Sunday and Monday nights at 9
Teleplay by Nicholas Wright and based on the novel by Armistead Maupin. Pierre Gang, director; Kevin Tierney, producer; Terry Anderson, creative consultant; Serge Ladouceur, director of photography. Music by Richard Gregoire. Alan Poul, Suzanne Girard and Tim Bevan, executive producers.
WITH: Olympia Dukakis (Anna Madrigal), Laura Linney (Mary Ann Singleton), Paul Hopkins (Michael Tolliver), Nina Siemaszko (Mona Ramsey), Jackie Burroughs (Mother Mucca), Swoosie Kurtz (Betty Ramsey) and Thomas Gibson (Beauchamp Day).
SEX AND THE CITY
HBO, Saturday night at 9:45
Created and executive produced by Darren Star and based on a book by Candace Bushnell. Barry Jossen and Michael Patrick King, co-executive producers.
WITH: Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Kim Cattrall (Samantha), Kristin Davis (Charlotte), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda) and Christopher Noth (Mr. Big).
An Article from The New York Times
PUBLIC LIVES; Sex and the City's Tiny, Tiny Apartments
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: July 31, 1998
IT seems a good time to drop in on Candace Bushnell, the sex columnist who spawned what this summer has become one of HBO's best-rated sitcoms: ''Sex and the City,'' starring Sarah Jessica Parker, a journey into Ms. Bushnell's 1990's Manhattan demimonde of models, investment bankers, designer G-strings and threesomes. Actually, any time is an amusing time to drop in on Ms. Bushnell, but as it happens there are developments in her life.
On Monday at 6 A.M., she got up from her sofa bed in her tiny Upper East Side apartment (she says she has not made as much money as people think) and tried to write the first sentence of a novel. Instead she ended up looking at the first sentences of other novels -- ''Anna Karenina,'' ''Persuasion,'' ''The Group'' -- for inspiration.
''They just made me nervous,'' she said. ''It's, like, the stupidest thing to do.''
No one has ever confused Ms. Bushnell with Tolstoy, Jane Austen or even Mary McCarthy. On the other hand, her talent for capturing the mating rituals of the Bowery Bar crowd in her New York Observer ''Sex and the City'' column catapulted her out of the freelance world of the women's magazines, where she wrote about love and make-up, and into the lap of Disney, for whom she just finished a screenplay.
''I would spend a week, I swear to God, working on a paragraph about mascara,'' Ms. Bushnell said. One year in the early 1990's, when she made only $14,000, she was thrown out of her sublet for failing to make the $300-a-month rent. She moved in with a boyfriend, and when that soured, into a friend's office in a residential building, where she still lives. ''When you're in that low point,'' she said, ''you wake up every morning at 4 A.M. in a cold sweat and say, 'I've got to make it, I've got to make it.' ''
Ms. Bushnell ran her hand through expensive blond hair as she chain-smoked in her dark three-room apartment. Her friend uses one room for her office. Ms. Bushnell uses the center room for sleeping, and a small kitchen for writing. The sink works, but not the stove, which is O.K. Ms. Bushnell does not like to cook in the city, or have meals during daylight.
''I haven't eaten breakfast since I was about 8,'' she said. ''I hate breakfast. Sometimes I eat lunch.''
MS. BUSHNELL, 39, was wary but cooperative during an hour-and-a-half-long conversation (she is cozier on the phone), and stood out from her prosaic surroundings in a body-hugging white Miu Miu minidress and Dolce & Gabbana faux leopard high-heeled boots. Tan, carefully made-up and model-thin, with nasal tones, she looked like the kind of woman who is trouble but may be worth it.
Her former boyfriend is Ronald A. Galotti, the onetime publisher of Vogue who is now Tina Brown's colleague at Miramax and immortalized as the odious ''Mr. Big'' in Ms. Bushnell's column. ''Ron used to read my column and say, 'Cute, baby, cute,' '' Ms. Bushnell said. Her current boyfriend is Robert Guccione Jr., who sold Spin magazine last year for $43.3 million, and is the son of the founder of Penthouse. Some of Ms. Bushnell's friends say her taste in men assures she will never run off with Mr. Reliable. She does seem genetically incapable of falling in love with a nice-guy, $750,000-a-year lawyer who would be a good father. Anyway, she would scare him.
''I wanted to get married and have kids more when I was in my late 20's,'' she said. ''Now I accept the fact that I may not.''
Her background does not suggest a future sex columnist, but it did school her in elites. She grew up on three acres in an 1826 pale peach Federal in Glastonbury, Conn., with two younger sisters and three horses. Ms. Bushnell rode on the local circuit and ran the family barn. ''She was a take-charge person,'' said her father, Calvin Bushnell, who helped develop the fuel cell that powered the Apollo space missions.
Ms. Bushnell graduated from Glastonbury High School, went to Rice University (''I guess I must have been majoring in English''), then dropped out to pursue an acting career in New York. ''I was horrible,'' she said. She was better at going every night to Studio 54. She made her way through the women's magazines, among them Ladies Home Journal and Self, and still remembers writing headlines like ''Four Fabulous Fiesta Dishes.''
Her turning point came when she started writing freelance profiles for The Observer, which in 1994 offered her ''Sex and the City,'' a fiction column that was to be based on her own life. Peter Kaplan, The Observer's editor, named the column and with his colleague Peter Stevenson helped talk Ms. Bushnell through it. Mr. Kaplan said at times that there was ''blood on the floor'' after editing sessions, but that ''very often she'd bring in the steak cooked and just drop it on the desk.'' The column, which inspired a book of the same name, is now on hiatus. Although The Observer is eager to have it back, Ms. Bushnell is vague about her intentions.
''I don't want to say I'm not going to go back,'' she said. ''Because I don't want to hurt their feelings.''
For now she will revise her Disney screenplay about a woman who meets men at sporting events, and work on her novel, about a group of Manhattanites over a decade. And she loves watching Sarah Jessica Parker on HBO.
''When you're closer to 40, you end up being a little happier with your life,'' she said. ''You don't feel compelled to try to get your happiness from somebody else.''
An Article from The New York Times
'Sex' Sells, in the City and Elsewhere
By NANCY HASS
Published: July 11, 1999
THE Tongue and Groove club in Buckhead, a well-manicured suburb of Atlanta, is the sort of place that might make Carrie Bradshaw and her friends raise their well-groomed eyebrows to the roof. Definitely the sort of place that would send Carrie, the New York sex columnist played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the HBO series ''Sex and the City,'' straight to her laptop, cigarette dangling from her lips, ironically hip gold name necklace and Playboy bunny pendant nestled in her cleavage. ''It was the sort of place where girls wore miniskirts with more than a hint of spandex, and butterfly clips in their hair,'' she might have written. ''Occasionally, they fished frosted lip gloss out of their tiny leather shoulder bags.''
No question that Carrie and her friends, clad in Dolce & Gabbana, vintage bustiers and the new Fendi ''baguette'' purse with floral appliques, might have felt Tongue and Groove was too mall-like. But on a sweltering July night at a promotional party that HBO threw there for the show, one of dozens of similar events planned across the country, the cast was toasted by the crowd in absentia.
''I feel like they really are saying the things we're all thinking,'' said Alana Peters, 29, a software consultant, who wore a short black Ann Taylor dress and a look of adoration as she gazed up at the screen on which the latest episode of the show was being shown. ''And I totally relate to the way they have real fun with the clothes. I'm all about fashion, and they are saying that anything goes.''
The success of ''Sex and the City,'' now midway through its second season, has taken even some of HBO's executives by surprise. Last year, when the pilot was being edited, some at the pay channel wondered if the racy, profane, decidedly insidery look at the dating scene in New York would fly in other markets.
But ''Sex and the City,'' which is based loosely on a New York Observer column by Candace Bushnell and created by Darren Star of ''Melrose Place'' fame, has gained the stirring of a cult following, not only in New York and big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, but also, according to HBO, in places like Cleveland, Providence and Baton Rouge.
Although it has been overshadowed somewhat by the acclaim for HBO's ''Sopranos,'' and can't compete with network shows in terms of sheer numbers, ''Sex and the City'' regularly beats out the network competition on Sunday nights in homes that subscribe to HBO. It has been the highest-rated comedy series on cable for two years running. Like ''Seinfeld,'' the show seems to belie the conventional television wisdom that Middle America will reject any show too clearly set in Manhattan.
Such logic is responsible for the flatness of sitcoms like ''Friends'' and ''Caroline in the City,'' set in Manhattan but looking suspiciously like the San Fernando Valley, where they were actually shot, down to the slightly dated slip dresses, ubiquitous Gap cargo pants and perky mating rituals.
Safely sequestered on pay television, ''Sex and the City'' blithely bulldozes the conventional wisdom. It views the battle of the sexes through the eyes of four explicitly Manhattan-dwelling women who laugh in the face of chastity (and sometimes at their boyfriends' meager anatomy), chain smoke, stalk next season's fashions with the ferocity of jungle cats and consider raw oysters and vodka stingers two of the major food groups.
While many of the plotlines could take place in any big city -- in a recent episode which asks ''Are all men freaks?'' the writers assembled a cadre of loser bachelors, including a kleptomaniac and a masochist -- the juiciest details are site specific. In the ''freaks'' episode, for example, one man's foible is that he has not stepped off the island of Manhattan in 10 years, and the kleptomaniac does his stealing in a secondhand bookstore in SoHo.
Which begs the question, How has a show so dismissive of middlebrow tastes and values and so depravedly and uniquely New York become a darling with HBO's audience in the heartland?
The answer, to put it simply, may be timing. The two elements that make ''Sex and the City'' a hit are, in fact, sex and the city. For the first time in a while, both are back in favor -- New York is cool as a travel destination, and sex no longer seems quite so dangerous or forbidden as it did a few years ago.
Instead of being put off by the endless talk of sexual performance and the frank language -- the scripts are littered with four-letter words and coarse euphemisms for body parts -- the young women at Tongue and Groove said they make sure to rehash episodes at the coffee machine, loudly. ''We are a mini-New York here,'' said Lara Preister, 24, a college student. ''It's not like we're Scarlett O'Hara and we get all upset when people swear. As long as it's funny, we laugh.''
And while critics have accused the show of dredging up a retrograde boy-craziness, some of the women in Atlanta seemed to think the opposite was true. They found liberation in the bloodless way characters discussed such things as how to stop a boyfriend from constantly adjusting his crotch and how to hang onto a man with a passion for performing oral sex. ''I love that on the show they talk about men the way that men talk about women,'' said Pat Khan, 40, a media company executive. ''It turns the tables, and I try to think of how I can do that in my own life.''
Even the show's outre fashion sense has found a way into the lives of women who until recently might have dismissed it all as kooky. The look of ''Sex and the City'' was created by Patricia Field, whose eponymous boutique on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village has for 30 years been ground zero for New York street fashion, and her associate, Rebecca Field.
''Shows like this do a good job of raising people's threshold for what is acceptable,'' said Simon Doonan, the creative director for Barneys New York. ''Maybe they themselves will never wear something that aggressively groovy, but if they watch they find ways to translate it.''
While few women in Atlanta are likely to pair a retro 1970's acid-washed skirt with a Calvin Klein camisole, Chanel spectator pumps and a vintage Gucci purse, as Ms. Parker did in a recent episode, for fans, the show has the allure of flipping through Vogue. ''I don't copy the show or anything,'' said Nikki Beets, 21, a waitress, ''but there are a lot of outfits that I say, 'Wow, I've to put something like that together.' ''
For Ms. Parker, 34, who not only is the central character, but also has the title of executive consultant, the look of the series is crucial to its appeal. A longtime fashion obsessive who speaks of clothes with the intensity and verve of a Conde Nast editor, she says that style nuances mean much more on ''Sex and the City'' than on a conventional show.
''Sure, you could do a show about four women in Boston or Milwaukee or Chicago, but it wouldn't be these women,'' she said in an interview in late June in her dressing room trailer, parked on a shady street in the Village. ''Instead, we're trying hard to create a very complex, layered, specific environment. For these women at this moment in time, getting even the smallest detail right is as important as making sure they're being honest in what they say.''
To that end, Ms. Field hired two young men this season who ''come from our school of fashion,'' she said, to search for clothes and accessories in shops all over the country. Every two weeks during the six months in which the show is shot, Ms. Field calls the actresses in for a three-hour fitting and fashion therapy session. ''Pat is an icon and I freaking grew up with her,'' said Ms. Parker, who spent her early childhood in Cincinnati but has lived in New York since she came here as a child actress at 11. ''I love the way her mind works.''
Not everyone involved with the show instantly buys into Ms. Field's fashion statements. Some crew members said there had been what the entertainment industry would call creative tension over how far to push the envelope. Mr. Star, after all, is the man who in ''Melrose Place'' evoked a Los Angeles of miniskirts, spike heels and breast implants. In many ways, those have been the stereotypical ways that female sex appeal has long been portrayed on television (mostly by male producers). And his previous attempt to portray New York was the misquided ''Central Park West,'' which was critically lampooned for its California vision of the fast-lane life of Manhattan.
''It's a process of evolution,'' Ms. Parker said, referring to how she and Ms. Field work to convince Mr. Star and others on the set to break the mold. ''Like last week, Darren said, 'So explain the yellow shorts to me, O.K.?' ''
One outfit that has become a flashpoint for the entire crew is what is referred to as the Heidi Dress, a gathered dirndl that Carrie wears on a picnic in a future episode. It was the idea of Ms. Field, who had a feeling that a Heidi moment might be in the fashion winds. Ms. Parker wears pigtails in the scene, and even took it upon herself to draw freckles on her cheeks.
Her ideal is the series ''Absolutely Fabulous,'' the British import that used avante-garde clothing and set design as a meticulous indicator of character. To that end, she and Ms. Field fought hard for the tutu that Carrie wears in the opening montage. They felt their fashion instincts vindicated when, months later, Badgley Mischka showed similar silhouettes. And the Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses that Carrie has sported since last season wound up in the July Vogue.
Ms. Field is more direct than Ms. Parker in discussing her skirmishes with crew members over how the female characters -- besides Ms. Parker, they are played by Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon -- should dress.
''The straight types just don't get the irony,'' she said on a recent night in the midst of shooting in Greenwich Village. Still svelte in her mid-50's, she leaned against a lamppost, ran her fingers through her fire-red hair and seemed to take in every bit of street fashion as she spoke.
''We had to say to the guys, 'Look, the girls in this show just aren't going to wear miniskirts with high heels,'' she said. ''No one in New York dresses like that. Period. That really was a blow to a lot of people.''
Among the other items barred from the set are scrunchies, butterfly hair clips and stockings. ''No one I know wears them, even in the winter,'' said Ms. Parker, who is even working on getting the makeup team to abandon foundation.
Rebecca Danenberg, a downtown designer who is one of the fashion industry's most carefully watched talents, is a fan of ''Sex and the City.''
''The reason the show works for me is that it looks like it came from an intelligent planet,'' she said. ''It doesn't look like Hollywood. It looks like Barneys.''
An Article from The New York Times
The Big City; TV Gives Sex In New York A Bad Name
By JOHN TIERNEY
Published: July 15, 1999
NOW that HBO's ''Sex and the City'' has unexpectedly become a national hit, people across America are getting a weekly glimpse at dysfunctional New Yorkers engaging in humanity's most brutal mating rituals. It's gratifying that outsiders care enough to pay attention to our parochial obsessions. But what is this doing to the city's image?
Like ''Seinfeld,'' another unexpected hit in the heartland, ''Sex and the City'' is a show about four only-in-New-York narcissists -- in this case, four narcissistic Tinker Bells with attitude. Their view of the world beyond downtown Manhattan was summed up in a recent interview by the show's fashion guru, Patricia Field, the owner of a boutique in Greenwich Village.
''Look, the girls in this show just aren't going to wear miniskirts with high heels,'' she said. ''No one in New York dresses like that.'' The show's star, Sarah Jessica Parker, elaborated the point by explaining why the four women in the show never wear stockings, even in winter.
''No one I know wears them,'' she said.
Boyfriends seem to be equally dispensable in this world. One of the characters, Charlotte, is a traditionalist who frets about not finding a man because she doesn't want to grow old alone. But her fears are dismissed by Samantha.
''Sweetheart, we're all alone, even when we're with men,'' says Samantha, who exults in her string of casual affairs. ''Slap on some armor and go through life like I do.''
The only male in New York who almost gets through their armor is Mr. Big, a smug, smarmy oaf to whom Ms. Parker's character is unaccountably attracted. The rest of the city's men don't even rise to his low level. Some are faithless cads. Some are not rich enough or interesting enough. The rest are hopeless in bed.
It's a grotesque picture of New York, but it's funny because there's a certain emotional truth to it. Some critics -- New York men, for instance -- would argue that the local men aren't all such losers. But the dating pool often looks that way to women.
Some critics -- New York women, for instance -- would argue that the city's women aren't really so crude and tough. But they can seem intimidating. At certain moments in the show, when another guy has been mercilessly rejected, I'm reminded of a first date I had with a successful executive in Manhattan.
We sat down in the restaurant, and she ordered a Bass Ale. ''I'm sorry,'' the waiter replied. ''We don't carry Bass.''
''Oh.'' She frowned. ''Then I'll just have a glass of water.''
I ordered a glass of house wine, but I didn't especially enjoy it. I wondered if it made me seem too . . . undiscriminating. I also wondered if there might eventually come a delicate moment late one evening at her apartment when I would see that frown again and hear her say, ''Oh. Maybe you should go home after all.''
THE rest of the date was a bit strained, and there were no more dates. I blamed her, although it could have been my fault: by obsessing on her Bass-or-nothing philosophy, maybe I was the one being too picky. Or maybe we were both to blame.
In any case, it seemed obvious that excessive pickiness was a local epidemic. I went on to obtain scientific proof by analyzing random samples of personal ads in New York magazine and in the city magazines of Boston, Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles.
By comparison with singles in other cities, New Yorkers described fewer of their own traits in the ads, but they listed nearly twice as many criteria for any potential date. One New York woman required a man who played polo (and was over 5 feet 10). The prototypical New York ad was the one beginning: ''Not willing to settle? Neither am I!'' It could have been taken out by any of the singles in the HBO show.
When New York's uncompromising men and women meet in the social battlefields of Manhattan, the result is a lot of veterans on both sides who are too scarred and toughened to ever get along with each other. Their best hope is to look for love outside the Manhattan singles scene, out among men who aren't jerks and women who aren't armored -- out there in the quaint communities where you can still see high heels and stockings.
But now that last hope is endangered. Now that the genial souls out there have seen ''Sex and the City,'' how many of them will ever risk going out with anyone from here again? After watching even one of the episodes, how can they respect us in the morning?
An Article from Time Magazine
Waiting for Prince Charming
Monday, Aug. 28, 2000
By JAMES PONIEWOZIK
To understand what Sex and the City says about women, it helps to understand what it says about men. It's simple: men are dogs.
This is not necessarily an insult. Sex (Sundays, 9 p.m. E.T. on HBO, which is owned by TIME's parent company, Time Warner) likens even its finest men to man's best friend. Sex columnist Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) meets her lover Aidan--a shaggy, happy-go-lucky golden retriever of a guy--when his dog cheerfully buries his snout in her crotch. Lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), cohabiting with scruffy bartender Steve, agrees to buy a pooch with him, and it becomes a metaphor for their unworkable relationship. Husband-hunting Charlotte (Kristin Davis) learns to control her new fiance with a hand on the wrist: Roll over, boy! Then there's Carrie's on-and-off-and-on squeeze Mr. Big (Chris Noth), a sexy, powerful (and married) alpha wolf.
Dogs are adorable--in theory. Take one in, though, and it can shed, stray, and worse. In its first two seasons Sex became a pop-culture icon for its astute bedroom politics, for the saucy Seinfeld banter (laced with corny double entendres) of its glam foursome, but above all for recognizing that a woman can live well without being at either end of a man's leash.
Its exceptional third season, though, has complicated the arch social comedy by experimenting with--gasp!--committed relationships. "What if Prince Charming had never shown up?" Carrie asks. "Would Snow White have slept in that glass coffin forever? Or would she have eventually woken up, spit out the apple, got a job, a health-care package and a baby from her local neighborhood sperm bank?" Maybe. But this year our heroines are considering another option: settling down with Prince Almost-as-Charming. (All but Samantha--the deliciously vulpine Kim Cattrall--who episode after bed-hopping episode takes Manhattan like, well, a man.)
It proves these women's ability to cut deep that they've been called both "evil, emasculating harpies" (USA Today) and male fantasies. Sex is fantasy, but not that kind. The high-powered Sexettes can afford Manolo Blahnik shoes, Le Bernardin dinners and swank Manhattan apartments. Their charmed circumstances would sweeten the solo life for a man or a woman.
But their conflicts are real and honest. Sex avoids p.c. feminism and love-conquers-all romanticism. These over-30 women can read the New York Times wedding section--"the single woman's sports pages"--with both envy and contempt for the 24-year-old brides nabbing investment bankers and ditching their careers. It also avoids pat sitcom solutions. When Miranda and Steve parted, he wasn't wackily written off but instead left as he showed up--a decent guy who proved wrong for her.
Love--or lust--in Sex is no '70s-style war between the sexes. It's a border negotiation over personal space, customs and autonomy. It's an accomplishment that Sex holds out the possibility of saying no to changing your life for a man. It is an equal one that it can also imagine, just maybe, saying yes.
--By James Poniewozik
An Article from The New York Times
Good Sex Tips From Samantha
By ALEX KUCZYNSKI
Published: January 27, 2002
IT would be awful to be one of Kim Cattrall's former boyfriends right about now.
Ms. Cattrall, 45, the actress who plays the vampish, bed-hopping Samantha on HBO's ''Sex and the City,'' has a new book out called ''Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm.'' In it, she punctures the Samantha myth, relating bluntly how for much of her adult life sex wasn't all that thrilling. ''Maybe I just wasn't a sexual woman,'' she writes. Ms. Cattrall was, she said, never truly sexually satisfied before she met Mark Levinson in 1998.
''That is two entire long, awful decades of bad sex,'' she said on a wintry afternoon, looking demure in a beige pantsuit and tiny pearl earrings, her blond hair curled into a pageboy like a Seven Sisters co-ed, circa 1955. ''Can you imagine?''
Then she said the words again, and each one must plunge a dagger into the hearts of her former paramours, wherever they are: ''Two. Entire. Decades.''
Ms. Cattrall and Mr. Levinson, her husband, had just had a lunch at Le Bernardin in Midtown to celebrate the book's publication with friends. He had vanished to the men's room, then returned to sit next to his wife, picking up her hand and kissing it.
''I waited for you,'' she said, gesturing at this reporter with notebook at the ready.
''Don't I always wait for you?'' Mr. Levinson said with a wink out of ''Love American Style.''
At a time when American culture is saturated with sexual images, and bookstore shelves are weighted with handbooks like ''Extended Massive Orgasm: How You Can Give and Receive Intense Pleasure,'' it is perhaps to be expected that an actress known for playing a sex-addled character would turn that fame to a sexual-instruction book. It is an all-American act of celebrity, comparable to television commercials in which an actor says, ''I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV,'' and then hawks aspirin.
One of the differences, though, is how frank Ms. Cattrall is about how unsexy she felt all those years, despite her sex-bomb role. After all, will this be good for Samantha Jones's image? Don't celebrities want to hide their sex lives from prying eyes, not map them for the American public? ''It's not necessarily a book about us,'' Ms. Cattrall said, not very believably.
She and Mr. Levinson have a serious message: they are missionaries out to initiate the uninitiated. They have found the secret to everlasting sexual satisfaction. (Here's the short version: be lucky enough to find your true love, and then be absolutely honest.) And they want American men and women, in their opinion a crude tribe when it comes to the subtle dynamics of sex, to know it.
''There are millions of American women out there who do not have a satisfying sexual life,'' Mr. Levinson said. ''And we want to help them.''
He wore a blue blazer and a tie with a picture of a pink cat on it, painted by a folk-artist friend. Mr. Levinson, a broad-shouldered man who is ruggedly handsome, even with tufts of gray hair sprouting from his ears, is the founder of Red Rose Music, a high-end audio-equipment company. He is also a jazz musician (fluegelhorn). He and Ms. Cattrall met at a jazz club.
''And ever since, it has been blissful, a blissful and deep learning experience,'' she said, sipping a verbena tea, while Mr. Levinson ransacked a tray of petits fours.
Ms. Cattrall said that one of the truths she understood with Mr. Levinson was that she had spent so much time wandering in a sexual wasteland because most of the men she had been with thought of her characters, not of her. She calls it ''the Rita Hayworth Syndrome.''
''They thought they were with the girl from 'Porky's,' '' she said, alluding to her role as a foul-mouthed gym coach in that 1982 teenage comedy. ''As an actress, I know that most of the roles I play are nothing like me. But that doesn't mean the men don't think I am the character.''
So she's not at all, not even a smidge, like Samantha?
''Nope,'' she said, and shut her mouth into a straight line. ''And that's why I wanted to write a book about what had so long eluded me in a relationship. Sex wasn't fulfilling for me. It certainly wasn't fulfilling for the men I was with.''
Mr. Levinson, who had his head tilted and was staring at his wife, shook himself from his reverie.
''And we've all been there,'' he said.
The idea for the book came from meetings with publishers a few years ago, when ''Sex and the City'' caught fire with viewers. Most wanted Ms. Cattrall to write a book like ''Samantha Says: Sex Tips for Girls'' or something -- anything -- to do with the show.
''I did not want to write a book about 'Sex and the City,' '' she said. ''But what I did like was the fact that 'Sex and the City' had raised the bar for women talking about their sexual experiences. So I thought perhaps the female audience would be receptive to a really good instructional book and share it with their partners.''
The book is certainly instructional. Rather than merely presenting floaty charcoal images of a couple bonded in more electric versions of Rodin's ''Kiss,'' the soft-focus drawings are supplemented with small technical drawings in bright red, which show exactly where Slot A and Tab A should go.
''See, here?'' Ms. Cattrall said, pointing to Page 50. There was a picture of a sexual organ accompanied by an exercise for lovers that, suffice it to say, involves circling motions and counting. The preferred form of counting is ''one Mississippi, two Mississippi.''
''See that? Microdetail,'' she said. ''It is a very specific exercise. And men like things that are specific and visual.''
Explicit is the name of the game these days for sex manuals. Even ''The Complete Idiot's Guide to Tantric Sex'' (out this month from Alpha) has step-by-step instructions for ''Doing the Yoni Massage'' and ''Enflaming the Dragon.'' Laurence Kirshbaum, chairman of the books division at AOL Time Warner, which published ''Satisfaction,'' said that because the book was edited by a woman it has a welcoming feel to it.
''And by all reports thus far, it is very effective,'' Mr. Kirshbaum added. He did not deny that Ms. Cattrall's confession of an unsexy past was a strong marketing angle.
When Ms. Cattrall decided to enlist the help of her husband in writing the book, he had no hesitation. ''We confirmed that the majority of women don't have good sex lives,'' he said. ''And most people don't admit that. And this isn't just this year or last year or the last few years, and it's not a few women. It's millions of women.''
''Going back decades,'' Ms. Cattrall said.
''A vast, vast number,'' he said, smiting the white tablecloth with his hand. A teacup jumped. ''Most women have unsatisfactory sex lives, and the main reason is that the majority of men don't know what to do in bed.''
A waiter clearing the next table practically dropped his tray.
Many American women do seem to have unhappy sex lives. The National Health and Social Life Survey, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 1999, found that 43 percent of women complained of dissatisfaction in the bedroom, 10 percent more than the men who participated in the study.
Dr. Jennifer Berman, the co-director of the Female Sexual Medical Center at the University of California at Los Angeles, said that more women than men typically report that they have problems like low libido and an inability to achieve orgasm easily, and she said she could not wait to read Ms. Cattrall's and Mr. Levinson's book.
''I support anything that gets women thinking about their bodies,'' she said.
But, she added, ''You also don't want to give women misinformation, like, 'If you do X, you will have an orgasm, guaranteed.' ''
Dr. Berman, who is co-author with Dr. Laura Berman, her sister, of ''For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Reclaiming Your Sex Life,'' said that she only hoped readers would not read the book with expectations that they would be instantly transformed into Samantha Jones, human Orgasmatron.
She said of Ms. Cattrall that she ''surely has the same sort of body issues as the rest of us, and perhaps that is due to lack of experience, or education, just like everybody else. But the truth is the character of Samantha is unrealistic. Swinging from the chandeliers every time you have sex is not realistic sex.''
Chandelier-swinging is not a factor, Mr. Levinson said. Harmony is.
''Everything can be just right -- jobs, work, life, family -- but if it's not working in bed, the relationship is going to fail,'' he said.
''You have to complement each other,'' she said.
''Yin,'' he said and kissed her hand.
''Yang,'' she said.
''Love,'' he said.
''Honesty,'' she said.
''And the little drawings help,'' he added.
For some links of Sex and the City go to https://www.sitcomsonline.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/36339/si/go%20to/what/allfields/name/Mr.%20Television
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Keywords: Sex And The City