Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sex and the City is almost old enough to drink a cosmo

With much fanfare this morning, Sex and the City is celebrating the 20th anniversary since its debut on HBO in 1998.

Popping up around the web have been stories about the show's place in the late '90s zeitgeist -- and critiques of how episodes don't hold up to our current standards when it comes to LGBT and other minority depictions -- plus click-through galleries of Sarah Jessica Parker's best and worst Carrie Bradshaw fashions.  A blog at cabletv.com has compiled a list of dozens of New York eateries patronized by the fab foursome of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.

But for me, the best way to reminisce about Sex -- and its huge impact on pop culture, on depictions of women on TV, and even on the world's view of New York (sorely needed after the crisis of 9/11) is via a brand-new book published today, Sex and the City and Us, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

The author of two other fabulous TV behind-the-scenes companions -- Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted (2013) and Seinfeldia (2017) -- Armstrong takes the reader step-by-step through Candace Bushnell's early years in New York, the origins and evolution of her Sex and the City column, and the development of that material with producer Darren Star into a new half-hour comedy for HBO.  From there, we go behind-the-scenes to learn how characters and storylines were conceived, and how everything changed once the show blossomed into a mega-hit.

Armstrong doesn't shy away from criticisms of the show as well, pointing out places where its conceits haven't quite aged as well as one would like.  And yes, there is mention and some explanation of the Parker-Cattrall "feud," the back-and-forths of which, as the planned Sex and the City 3 feature film met its premature demise, were only becoming public as the book went to print.

Personally, I'm still hoping all differences will be ironed out and SATC3 will eventually happen -- I guess that makes me an optimistic Charlotte.  Yes, some of those over-the-top Sex and the City 2 Dubai moments were more cringeworthy than fun -- oy, those outfits as they walked the desert dunes! -- but one of the things we've always loved about Carrie is her willingness to take chances, including with her fashions.  I, for one, would never have advised wearing a tutu on the Manhattan streets -- especially if there's a chance you'll be splashed by a bus (with your face on it) -- but Carrie somehow made it work.

Yes, some of Carrie's voiceovers or Samantha's double-entendres may no longer seem exactly cutting edge.  But twenty years ago today, Sex and the City was a show that changed the way single women were perceived, and perceived themselves.  It brought whole new glamour to their world, and to New York as a whole.  So let's sit back, binge-watch, and follow along in Armstrong's fabulous new book.  Because after all, as with pizza, even imperfect Sex is better than no Sex at all.

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