Sunday, August 21, 2011

DEAR "SEX AND THE CITY," PLEASE DIE ALREADY. SINCERELY, BIG FAN

Within the last week, just randomly checking the main headlines on imdb.com, I read about five different stories about whether or not there's a new "Sex and the City," movie on the works. This'll be the third since the show went off the air. I've also read about an apparent pilot deal HBO has with CW about a prequel to the show, taking place when Carrie Bradshaw was in high school, and one article about rumors about an entire new season of the show, to air on HBO. Look, this is hard for me to say, because I am a fan of "Sex and the City." I didn't miss an episode when I had HBO, and I eventually got through all the DVDs, and even occasionally watched reruns, despite how badly edited down some of them were. But, this is getting ridiculous now. This show has been off the air since 2004. Seven years ago! And it's not like the show, ended without a legitimate conclusion. It actually had one of the best finales of any show ever. It was satisfactory, it concluded every character's major storylines in a believable way, and yes, in an unbelievable way, Carrie got her fairytale happy ending, with Mr. Big. Alright, predictable, but is was emotionally cathartic, and a perfect ending to the series. Yet, we got a movie. It wasn't a good movie, and while it had some moments of inspiration as sort of an afterword, much of the movie was exactly what the show wasn't. Uninspired, contrived and sitcomish. Yet, it was popular and a box office hit. As was the second movie, which got some of the worst reviews of any film last year. (Yet, the movie is on my netflix, and unusually high for a film with such bad reviews.) But, now I'm just confused by this excessive need to continually bring these characters back and give them a new adventure/dilemma(s) to deal with. Why? What is it about these women, that we are going so far out of the way to keep them in the public's mind, despite the show having long been off the air? Believe me, there are many shows I wish were still on the air, and a few I wish for one reason or another to come back, but  "Sex and the City," is not one of them, especially after the first movie so drastically failed to live up to the standard of the show. I don't know the answer to this desire for more of the show, but I have a feeling it's got something to do with need for nostalgia, and the many fans of the show that might be legitimately disappointed that there isn't another particularly comparable show on TV currently. I don't think there is, and I don't think there can be one. The show had the creative freedom that being on HBO provides, which make similar attempts to recreate the structural formula on the show have failed on basic TV, including "Miss Match," and "Cashmere Mafia,"  which were both produced by famed "SATC" writer Darren Star, as well as the numerous other attempted basic TV copies, the most memorable one to me was "Lipstick Jungle," which was also based on a Candace Bushnell book, who wrote the original "SATC". These attempts, like most attempts at replicating a previously successful show was based on the most basic plot outlines of the show, which simplistically includes, hot, modern women, usually working women, who are close friends, although generally the reasons/explanations for their friendship are rarely if ever explained, they talk frankly about sex, love and dating, which in the hands of the wrong writer, can very easily be confused with each other, and some apparent romantic-comedy cliche(s) that women seem to love and fascinate over the way men fascinate about porn. (That last part, I'm borrowing a bit from the hypotheses of Whitney Cummins.) They copy the words, completely missing the music, as most copies of successful show formulas have noted. (I'd give examples of failed attempts to remake "Friends," but there's too many of them.) However, the interesting and unique part of "Sex and the City," that I believe many of the shows critics, and many of its fans completely miss, is the hidden reality(ies) of the characters in the show that we don't get to see. Yes, the show exists in a fantasy, a Woody Allen-esque New York, filled with beautiful, interesting, smart intellectuals and the bright light of the city is as much a character of the show and any of the actresses. I'm sold already; I love this world, but why this New York and why is the shows is so glamourous. It's not simply a choice in storytelling, it's because the entire show is the creation of it's main character. The title, "Sex and the City," refers to the column Carrie Bradshaw rights for the fictional newspaper, New York Star. The column is a modern female take on the world of dating. Many local weekly periodicals used to have a female writer that would discuss such things, my favorite was the "Sonya," column that used to run in the Las Vegas Weekly. In this article, she discusses not only her personal life, but the life of her three friends. There's some debate as to whether or not the friends are actually based on real people or made up by Candace Bushnell, but the only things we ever actually really know about the characters, with the exception of a few rare occasions, is through the words of Carrie Bradshaw, and her article which purposefully limits the scope of what she talks about to essentially their sex lives. This is the little key to the show, that I think everybody gets tripped up on, they think it's simply that "SATC," had women talk frankly about sex, and they copy it, and they come up with incredibly unrealistic characters. A lot of those who don't care for the show think they are shallow characters. They're not. We just only get to see this very narrow, perspective, that's altered and manipulated, through Carrie, so at times, if you don't read between the lines of the show, it could come off as shallow. It's her voice rewriting these adventures, and leaving out many of the other facts about there lives. This was the part of the show that always remained the most fascinating, because it was through these tales where we had to think and look at how exactly is Carrie Bradshaw telling these stories compared to what might have actually happened, including her own tales of sexual misadventure. Sometimes she's probably retelling things her friends told her exactly verbatim, but much of the time, they're stories that are reworked by her, sometimes heavily exaggerated, other times they might be completely made up, possibly giving one story to a different character. She focuses on certain aspects, and not on others. We always get only part of the actual story, and sometimes, it's possible we only get something out of her imagination. My favorite trick this involves is giving all her friends and lovers fake names. Mr. Big, her most famous on-again/off-again lover is the most obvious one, but none of her characters use their actual names. Samantha Jones, Miranda Hobbs, and Charlotte York, are the names she gives these friends in her article, not the real names of the characters. All three have big jobs that women who would simply sit around hip New York restaurant drinking cosmos wouldn't be sober enough or qualified enough to have in real life. Samantha Jones, a high-powered press agent, has a man-sized personality, work ethic and sex drive, and is given a name, that is typical shortened to a masculine form, "Sam Jones." Miranda Hobbs, is named after a Supreme Court Case, and a law that makes extortion illegal, is a workaholic lawyer that puts career before love. Charlotte, is about as innocent and childlike a name you can get (with the exception of the fact that the word "harlot" is in the middle of it),  is very young to be able to have the education to run an art gallery,  however "York," which is not only a name that sounds like it comes from Old Money, it's the name of the city they're all in, which is also a clue to her more romance-fantasy visions of love, which come from a more sheltered and wealthy background, one where she can afford to study art in college, and not have worries about getting a job after. I bring up this critical part of the show for a few reasons, one, I think it's the most critical part in regards to truly understanding the show, (It's also a tricky thing not only to write, but especially to act.) secondly, with the movies, I have started to wonder whether Michael Patrick King, the longtime producer/director of the show, and the writer/director of both movies has forgotten this aspect of the show, which is also a reason this series should be put to death by now, and third and most importantly is because of this unusually storytelling conceit, there are only a few distinct moments of the TV series, that are we aren't simply getting hints or allusions to the more everyday realities of the characters, and we actually get a look at them, not through Carrie's column. I believe there are only three moments this occurs in the series, and two that I absolutely positive about. The first one involves an episode where Carrie's laptop suddenly crashes, and she has to take it to the shop. She's now, unable to write, and therefore unable to create (and she also loses all of her old columns. so symbollicaly, everything she's created is now gone), so for this brief period of time, we get to see the real lives of the characters of the show. The other was the final episode of the show. The second half of the two-part episode, involves Carrie, running off to Paris with her current lover, Aleksandr Petrovsky, and this time, she abandons her laptop in her New York rent-controlled apartment, and even her voiceover now, has completely disappeared, and were now no longer given her words to help elaborate or place in context any of the scenes in the show. Here, especially, we're given brief glimpses into the real worlds of her friends, and while some might have happy conclusions, none of them are reminiscent of the spirit and tone of Carrie's column. They involve Samantha, after breast cancer chemotherapy trying to regain her sex drive, Charlotte having to deal with the extreme difficulty of adopting a child from China, (This after numerous attempts at Charlotte getting pregnant have failed) and Miranda, having to deal with her mother-in-low, who is quickly beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's. While this is happening, Carrie is now stuck in Paris, realizes she's with a man who won't reciprocate love as equally to her as she does to him, and ends their whirlwind fairytale romance. Just as all hope is lost, and Carrie is stuck alone in a foreign country, without a job or a husband, (And sorry for ruining the ending for anybody, but it's been seven years, that's long enough to have caught it by now) suddenly Mr. Big makes the grand gesture she has long waited for, arriving in Paris to sweep Carrie off her feet, if she'd takes him. It is a fairytale, romantic moment, that the best romantic-comedies couldn't have come up with, but the key fact is that it's really happening. This dream-like prince saving Cinderella from the ball before midnight, and it's not a creation in Carrie column, it's not an exaggeration, it's not something she's altered and rewritten, or something that happened to somebody else. This time, it's real life, and we are finally seeing her get what she always wanted, which makes it special, especially after six years of hoping with Big, and a lifetime of hoping that these kind of romantic-movie moments of love could actually happen to her, and it has. It's a perfect and complete ending to a wonderful, ground-breaking series. It's Michael Jordan hitting that last shot in the Finals over Byron Russell, winning the championship for the Bulls. And now, we have movies and sequels and prequels, that are all afterthoughts that aren't necessary. They couldn't have ended it any better, and yet they're still trying to keep it going. Everything since is Michael Jordan on the Washington Wizards. No matter what, it will never equal, or even come close to the quality of the show anymore, it's era and time, has become long gone, and there's no reason to continue. I don't know if this is a fan-led charge to get some kind of new "Sex and the City," out there, or if its created by it's own creators, but either way, it's really gotta stop, now. It's the week where all the Emmy ballots are due, and the news in the industry is about a tv show that ended seven-years ago.

And after achieving the perfection that most people could only wish they had the opportunity to achieve, they continue to pick at the masterpiece, and see if something more can be done, and I coudn't help but wonder...  (Yeah, I had to do it. I mean, I do love this show!) ...are we all just obsessed with "Sex and the City," or are we just nostalgic?
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