HBO // 2003 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // May 31st, 2004
"Just how dangerous is an open heart?" -- Carrie Bradshaw, from "The Domino Effect"
HBO's hugely popular Sunday night staple, Sex and the City, recently took its final bow after six seasons. When originally broadcast, the final season was broken up into two parts -- the first twelve episodes airing in the summer of 2003, and the final eight episodes popping up several months later. Unfortunately, HBO has also decided to release the final season on DVD the same way, breaking it up into Season Six, Part One and what we can only assume is the forthcoming Season Six, Part Two. Why the division, you may ask? Simple -- why charge an exorbitantly high price for one comprehensive set when you can charge an exorbitantly high price twice for two truncated ones?
As Season Six opens, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker, Ed Wood) is just beginning her relationship with Jack Berger (Ron Livingston, Office Space), the writer with whom she left off with at the end of season five. Charlotte (Kristin Davis, Sour Grapes) is still seeing her former divorce attorney, Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler, Natural Born Killers), but religious differences are proving to be an obstacle if the two intend to get serious. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, Amadeus) is finally coming to the realization that she is, in fact, in love with Steve (David Eigenberg, The Mothman Prophecies), the father of her baby. Samantha (Kim Cattrall, Big Trouble in Little China) is conducting business as usual -- sleeping with most of the men she comes in contact with -- until she meets Jerry (Jason Lewis, Next Stop Wonderland), a waiter-turned-actor that might finally be her match.
For the most part, the twelve episodes presented here work to develop each of these story lines. As opposed to past seasons, where the focus was more of a "guy of the week" nature, Season Six basically follows one or two relationships for each of the girls. Carrie and Berger soon run into romantic speed bumps, when Berger's insecurities begin to surface -- many stemming from the fact that both he and Carrie are writers, and one of them (I won't tell you who) is more successful. Charlotte begins to consider converting to Judaism in order to make things potentially permanent between her and Harry, but even that proves to be not quite enough -- it's more than just a faith that stands between them. Samantha turns boy toy Jerry into a star (re-dubbing him the more Hollywood-friendly "Smith Jerrod"), all the while struggling with her newfound affinity for that dreaded word: commitment. Miranda, discouraged by the presence of a new woman in Steve's life, distracts herself by hooking up with an attractive new tenant in her building (Blair Underwood, Full Frontal).
Because the season was designed as one entire arc and the split between Part One and Part Two is pretty arbitrary (though not necessarily abrupt), there is no cliffhanger-style ending at the end of the set. It should lead effortlessly into the final half of the season.
For better or worse, Season Six finally has the Sex and the City gals growing up. Without spoiling too much for the folks who don't know how the whole thing played out, I will say that every man that the girls ultimately end up with is present here in Season Six, Part One (I just won't say who). The connections between the characters and their plot lines begin towards their logical conclusions, but without the feeling that everything is being tied up too neatly. The show is finally able to move beyond just character development -- which it had become quite good at -- and begin to explore relationship development. Other than Carrie, the series had never really examined how its characters interacted in actual adult relationships; we usually just got to see them on dates.
The above quote, taken from the episode "The Domino Effect," pretty well sums up where the girls are at in Season Six. Their hearts are finally open, leaving them truly vulnerable and exposed -- for some of them, it's the first time. Charlotte must finally abandon her dreams of surface-level perfection in a mate, resigning herself to being sick in love with the last guy anyone who watches this show would expect (kudos to the show, too, for finally shattering their "cute guy" stigma and making Evan Handler's Harry the most appealing male cast member the series has seen). For all of Samantha's readiness when it comes to sex, she finds her greatest challenges in dealing with the little things -- holding her boyfriend's hand, for one. I recognize it's an obvious and rather clumsy character conflict, but it's handled with delicacy and sweetness. Miranda, the most notoriously closed-off of the bunch, is shocked to find that opening her heart to Steve isn't quite enough -- just because she finally decides she loves him does not mean that the rest will automatically fall into place (though the show does undercut this rather poignant dilemma somewhat with its resolution).
Then there's Carrie. It is she who poses the "open heart" question, and it is she who feels the ramifications of an open heart most of all. Though she's experienced heartbreak in the past, it was typically as a result of her own misgivings. Season Six, on the other hand, gives us a Carrie that wants and tries to make love work. She opens herself up to suitors, both new and old, and finally gives up relying on quirkiness and game playing to create something lasting. As always, she's the glue that holds the series together; for all of her witty repartee and romantic ruminations, it is Carrie's flaws that make her so endearing. As much as I like Sarah Jessica Parker's performance, however, I think I'll always be partial to Kristin Davis' Charlotte -- mostly because she's so damn cute (and reminds me a great deal of the wife-to-be). This, of course, says more about me than it does about the show.
I will say this: I must take objection to the show's treatment of Jack Berger. In my universe of admittedly wishful thinking, Berger was the closest thing to me that ever stumbled through show's New York sets. He's fast and funny, unkempt and scruffy in a good-looks-be-damned way (and if you haven't guessed, I'm no longer comparing him to me). It may be a result of all of these qualities -- or it may be because he's a writer, too -- that he and Carrie have better chemistry than most of the other romantic counterparts the show has delivered; watching the two trade their '40s-style back-and-forth is to want these two kids to make it work. He is, sadly, too easily dismissed and made too big a fool of. It's my own fault -- I grew too attached to him. Shame on me.
Despite much popular opinion to the contrary, I've always felt that Sex and the City is pretty universal. Sure, it's probably too preoccupied with sex, but what romantic relationship isn't in one way or another? That is, after all, what the show is about -- once you get past the clothes, the clubs, and the crassness, it's about how people relate to one another as friends, lovers, and family. While the characters' outlines may be somewhat broadly drawn (at the surface level, each woman is a "type"), the actors and writers have fleshed each one out enough so that she or he is a fully realized individual -- no one can be pinned down to a stereotype. The writing is first-class, too. Despite several puns and wordplays guaranteed to induce eye rolling, it actually is (was) one of the most literate shows on television -- it's in love with language, and not just the blue kind. I would also argue that each individual show, which begins with a general theme and sees it through to the end (usually without being too direct about it), is as tightly constructed as an episode of Seinfeld -- but not as funny.
HBO's set of Sex and the City -- Season Six, Part One is on par with their releases of previous seasons -- it's a good collection, with a reasonable amount of extras. The twelve episodes are spread out evenly across three discs, presented in their original 4:3 full frame aspect ratio. The image is bright and colors are strong -- Carrie's garishly colored outfits are properly garish. The 5.1 audio track is decent, but actually kind of unnecessary -- the show revolves around people talking to one another, so the benefits of a 5.1 track are underutilized.
Four episodes ("To Market, To Market," "Great Sexpectations," "Boy, Interrupted" and "One") are presented with optional audio commentary by the show's executive producer and sometimes writer/director Michael Patrick King. The talks he delivers are informative; he discusses how the knowledge that this would be the show's last season freed the writers up to explore the characters more deeply and gradually steer them towards their final destinations. He also gives a great deal of insight into the characters' motivations and the intentions of each episode, as well as a reasonable amount of background information. The only other supplement of note is a full-length taping of the cast and King (as in Michael Patrick… not a ruler) speaking at a Museum of TV and Radio seminar. It's a moderated panel discussion, mostly consisting of the cast discussing their involvement with the series and what they feel its strengths are. It is fascinating, though, to see just how seriously Kim Cattrall -- for my money, the weakest member of the ensemble -- takes herself. Wasn't she in Mannequin?
As much as I enjoy Sex and the City -- and all of HBO's original programming, for that matter -- I cannot forgive them for their astronomical prices. It may just be that the studio knows that the caliber of their original series is so high and fans will want to get their hands on it so badly that they can charge just about anything. And we do -- close to $100 for thirteen episodes of The Sopranos, or upwards of $50 for eight (count them eight) episodes of Oz. Because of the way the seasons have been staggered, Sex and the City is the worst offender in the bunch. Having recently released the criminally brief eight-episode-long Season Five at a price equivalent to previous full-length seasons (close to fifty bucks), HBO is now asking full price for another half season with Season Six, Part One. Chances are good that Season Six, Part Two will soon follow, most likely at an equally steep price -- we are essentially paying twice for what should be one item (we'll call it the Kill Bill school of business).
Sex and the City -- Season Six, Part One proves to be an accomplished (half of a) swan song for the series. The show ditches some of its trademark formula and repetition and finally takes a serious look at itself, culminating in what is probably the best season in the show's six-year run.
The Court finds HBO guilty of price gouging, but the gals of Sex and the City are free to both Dolce and Gabbana to their hearts' content. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Bromley; 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 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Four Episode Commentaries by Michael Patrick King
* Museum of TV and Radio Seminar
* Cast and Crew Biographies
* Episode Previews
* Official Site
* Review of Season Four
* Review of Season Five