HBO // 1998 // 3111 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // November 4th, 2010
Get Carried Away.
It's hard to believe that it's been over a decade since the four well-shod ladies from Manhattan invaded popular culture with the fashion sense and frank talk of sexuality. Despite the resolutely '90s outlook of the show, Sex and the City didn't finish up until well into the next decade, with an unexpected sequel to an unexpected feature film after a successful six-year run on HBO. To coincide with the release of Sex and the City 2 on DVD, HBO is also releasing this massive box set, a lavish collection of all six seasons of the show, both feature films, and exclusive new extras. It might not be enough to tempt holders of the old editions, but for fans who've never bought a Sex and the City DVD, this is the way to go.
Sex and the City has always been about the lives of four close friends living in Manhattan. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker, Footloose) is a shoe-obsessed writer who turns her life into her weekly column. Samantha (Kim Cattrall, Big Trouble in Little China) is a sexually liberated and financially successful woman who always seems to be looking for Mr. Right Now. Charlotte York (Kristen Davis, Couples Retreat) is the archetypal conservative good girl who wants the romance and big wedding. Finally, Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon, Tanner '88) is the career oriented cynic of the bunch.
The show and its two sequels follow these ladies through single womanhood in their thirties in Manhattan, following them in relationships (sexual and otherwise), career arcs, motherhood, and marriage.
I won't spend too much time belaboring the show's strengths (which are many) nor pointing out its flaws (which are few outside of the perhaps ill-advised Sex and the City 2). Suffice it to say that Sex and the City was a formulaic show in the best sense of the word. Each episode tends to involve some entanglement for one or more of the ladies leading to some small or large bit of self-insight. Nothing particularly shocking, but the focus on successful women who are frank in their talk of sex and not afraid to use men without committing to them was a fairly novel thing to see, even on cable. The fact that the dialogue was smart, the acting top-notch, and the design of the show first-rate certainly helped. One could fault the show for its formula, for the failure to have Carrie become more self-aware throughout the series, or even for the lack of reality implied by these women's lifestyles, but at the end of the day Sex and the City creates an interesting world in a clever way, easily silencing most criticism.
What's important now is this Sex and the City: The Complete Collection. Fans who've bought the previous single-season sets, or even the previous collection of the series minus the films, will only find three new things in this collection: all of Sex and the City, the wonderful packaging, and an exclusive writers' roundtable. The first fact is not to be dismissed. Having all six seasons of the show in one place along with the two feature films is a good thing for fans. It also allows for an easy appraisal of the show's scope and consistently strong writing.
The packaging of all these discs, twenty of them, in fact, is a beauty to behold. The outside is a sturdy white cardboard in the shape of a book, with a strong magnetic clasp keeping it closed. There are a number of quotes from the show adorning the front that when turned on their side reveals the shape of a cityscape. Inside, the set looks like a spread from a fashion magazine. The discs are housed in thick cardboard pockets featuring pictures from the show often overlaid with semi-transparent sheets of plastic featuring yet more quotes. It's a totally impressive and stylish art object that fans will love to put in a prominent place on the shelf.
Finally, there's the 90-minute writers' roundtable. It's broken up into four sections, covering everything from the show's frank sexuality to the fashion and design. It's a really informal set of conversations heavily illustrated with clips from the show. It's a bit more lightweight than I'd prefer, but it's a nice way to cap the show's long run.
For the not-new stuff, this set appears to contain all the old discs that were included in the previous releases. Video is generally strong and bright with no serious compression problems. Sound is clear and audible throughout, especially Carrie's narration and the show's jazzy opening music. With the exception of the second disc of the Sex and the City movie's DVD release all the old extras from the individual releases have been included. The commentaries are generally strong, and the featurettes give some nice context to the show's production.
So what's not perfect with this release? Well, for many, Sex and the City 2 is the elephant in the room. I would argue its both unnecessary and a bit ill-conceived overall, not maintaining the high level of wit the show is known for. The lack of the extra disc from the first film's DVD release is a bit disappointing as well, making this slightly less than definitive. It's also a bit strange that there's only the packaging and the 90-minute roundtable to entice fans to purchase. Maybe HBO is thinking that they won a lot of new fans with the films so those people will need both the features and the show on DVD. Finally, the set's design is like a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes: pretty to look at, but not very practical. The way the DVDs are housed in the cardboard makes them difficult to remove and replace, necessitates putting fingers onto the shiny side of the DVD.
Sex and the City is a landmark of popular culture. Not only did it open up dialogues about woman and sexuality, but it did it with some of the most clever writing on television. Although some may quibble with the quality of the feature films or with the relative lack of new extras on this set, there's no denying that taken as a whole Sex and the City: The Complete Collection is an amazing DVD release of a wonderful show.
Carrie and company are free to go.
Review content copyright © 2010 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 3111 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* IMDb: Sex and the City
* IMDb: Sex and the City: The Movie
* IMDb: Sex and the City 2