HBO // 1998 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 22nd, 2006
Carrie: Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.
Mr. Big: I don't get it.
Carrie: And you never did.
When you've got a great series like Sex and the City, the temptation is to pump out as many variations of the same product as you can. HBO Video has released every season of the groundbreaking show individually, and this past year offered a very handsome, very pricey collector's edition of the entire run. Now for all you impulse buyers comes the bargain priced Sex and the City Essentials collection. The discs are merely three similarly-themed episodes with a nice black-and-white photo of Sarah Jessica Parker (The Family Stone) posing as the lead character, Carrie Bradshaw. I'm not sure who's supposed to buy these volumes, since most hardcore fans already own the full collections in some form. Add to that Sex and the City's current syndication deal, and a casual viewer can catch edited versions of the shows nightly on basic cable or local television. If you're merely looking for a sample of the show or a favorite episode, this might be the way to go, but it seems to dampen some of the brilliance of the show itself.
Sex and the City morphed beautifully with well-thought-out arcs over its six-year run, which started in 1998 and wrapped up in 2004. Each volume of Sex and the City Essentials includes a hodgepodge of episodes from all the seasons, so any continuity is lost. Additionally, nothing has been done to improve the transfers, which were always soft and grainy with a lot of shimmering on the buildings and wilder clothing patterns in the fashion. All extras have been stripped as well, with no commentaries or featurettes included. This is as bare bones as it can get, folks; but at least it's a bargain for people who don't want to shell out forty -- or even two hundred -- bucks to get a season or the collector's box set.
This volume is called Sex and the City Essentials: Mr. Big. The episodes included are:
* "Sex and the City"
This is the pilot, which introduces all the major characters and themes nicely. Right from the opening narration, we know this is not Breakfast at Tiffany's or An Affair to Remember. Fans will recognize many differences in this version of the show from how the series eventually developed. When Sex and the City premiered it was slavishly based on the novel by Candace Bushnell. Almost all the dialogue sprang from the series' literary source. This episode was directed by Susan Siedelman (Desperately Seeking Susan), and had many characters talking directly to the audience (a concept which disappeared in the second season). The characters look and feel slightly different, but the chemistry is there from the start. When Mr. Big (Chris Noth, Law and Order: Criminal Intent) appears, you can feel the sexual tension as he casually hands Carrie the condoms that have spilled out of her purse onto the Manhattan sidewalk.
* "Ex and the City"
Big announces his engagement to Natasha in this season finale from the second season. The episode gets my vote as the best show in the series history for several reasons. The ending where Carrie and Big have a gorgeously shot The Way We Were moment is heartbreaking, but there's a sense of how alive Carrie is as she realizes she's far too complicated for any man to tame. All of the women are single at the end of the second season, and they've come to terms with it quite nicely. Had the show ended with Carrie tossing her mane of curly hair into the wind I would have been satisfied. It's an episode that tears me up every time I watch it -- oddly enough, I always find tears of joyful recognition, rather than sadness, rolling down my cheek.
* "I Heart NY"
Carrie learns Mr. Big is leaving for California, and she fears it's the end of an era. This story was the climax for Sex and the City's fourth season, and it featured a fine turn by Cynthia Nixon (Igby Goes Down) as Miranda gave birth to her son Brady. It's a bittersweet episode, which once again found all the girls single. The best moment has to be when Carrie and Big twist to Breakfast at Tiffany's immortal theme song, "Moon River."
Sex and the City Essentials: Mr. Big contains the best three episode selection of all these single-disc collections. It seems strange to only have three episodes represent Chris Noth's character, whose ghost haunted every episode of the entire run. Even when Big was not featured, viewers measured every man Carrie went out with against him. Noth was nearly fifty when the series began production in 1998, and he proved how sexy and alluring older men could be. He was suave, rich, powerful, and always a little distant yet warm. In the book his character was described as looking like Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Carrie ended up dating him indefinitely without ever marrying him. In an odd move, this disc doesn't include the series finale, which came to a similar close. That episode can be found on Sex and the City Essentials: Romance.
Random Trivia for Sex and the City's fans: The show recreated every chapter of Candace Bushnell's book except for one. Chapter 2 of the book includes a sordid misadventure where Carrie ends up in a bathhouse for straight couples who "swing." It included Carrie wandering around a sex club in a towel, watching random strangers get it on right in front of her. As racy as the show was, it was deemed too much for HBO. Plus, Sarah Jessica Parker had a no-nudity clause in her contract, which would have made some of the episode unflimable. But something tells me Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall, Big Trouble in Little China) wouldn't have minded going.
Review content copyright © 2006 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated