Coming of Age

Coming of Age

It may feel dated now,but the Sex and the City series had its own way of looking at love and life

Before the 2010 disaster of a movie,Sex and The City,the television series,actually had a pretty good reputation: it began life as an under-the-radar hit,then became a cultural phenomenon that made Manolo Blahnik a household name. The unfortunate thing is that the movies (yes,there are two of them!) have tarnished a show that was truly path-breaking in its depiction of the lives and loves of four women navigating New York City. For once,a television show talked about female sexuality treating it with a refreshing frankness and looked at sex from the female perspective. The four principal characters — Carrie Bradshaw,Miranda Hobbes,Charlotte York and Samantha Jones — are attractive,professional women trying to get to their happily-ever-afters,but they also have a lot of fun along the way. And,there is no cliched portrayal of female friendships.

The show begins with the four friends deciding to have “sex like a man” — that is,without getting emotionally involved. That sets the tone for the show and it is immediately clear that SATC will earn its name. Still,it is remarkable how dated some of it seems: there’s a cellphone the size of a book,references that are more than a tad tired,and (in)famous clothes that are now well and truly out-of-style. The first season also makes for uncomfortable viewing because of oddly placed confessionals that some of the characters make,taking you right out of the scene,and the bits where Carrie stops to talk to the camera. This is less frequent in the second season,and disappears altogether in subsequent seasons. Now-famous stars — Gabriel Macht,Timothy Olyphant and Bradley Cooper — make regular guest appearances,especially as male eye-candy in early episodes.

But the show is still relevant not because of the fabulous and not-so-fabulous style statements its characters make,or even because of all the sex talk. It is important because it deals with the fear of loneliness that single women above a certain age grapple with,especially in a society that rewards coupledom; it’s also relevant in negotiating the different ways men and women navigate sex and relationships. SATC attempts to explore what makes relationships tick and it does all this with little judgement or prejudice.

Unfortunately,in later seasons,the show starts taking the women’s minor problems too seriously,their tics and neuroses becoming less endearing and more annoying. The outfits become outlandish as SATC’s reputation as a trendsetting show spread,and the moments of sharp truth that characterise the best of its early episodes get lost in the increasingly cringe-inducing one-liners. SATC was never a subtle show,but by the end,it started to get painfully obvious and worse,unfunny.

Disappointingly,the DVDs are skinny on the extras. The first season lacks any,while season two has anaemic cast and crew bios to liven things up. Season three comes with a three-and-a-half minute feature,better to introduce new audiences to the show than for viewers already halfway through it. Seasons four,five and six offer nothing extra,not even cast or director commentaries (which,given that the cast has reunited twice,could not have been difficult to arrange). The set comes with a “collectible booklet”,which is more a glorified episode guide.