Friday, April 20, 2012

I Can't Believe I Sat Through Another Season! Sex & The City - The Complete Second Season Repeats.

The Good: Miranda and Cynthia Nixon's acting.
The Bad: Repetitive plots, No real character development, Melodramatic, Requisite HBO drug use, Lack of DVD bonuses.
The Basics: The second season of Sex & The City asks mildly different questions than the first season did, but otherwise is repetitive and dull.

When one begins as a reviewer, it is often possible they are bowled over by other reviewers, swept along on the current trends. I'll admit that ever since I watched the first season of Sex & The City (reviewed here!), I've had no desire to return to the series. So, when my mother asked me to start getting the seasons of the show out from the library, I did so grudgingly. However, as I have a lot of sorting to do in preparation for my annual trip to Las Vegas, I figured I might as well watch the second season when it came in. Whatever concerns I had as a novice reviewer about not fitting in with popular opinions have long since passed and now I have absolutely no problem panning Sex & The City The Complete Second Season.

This three-disc DVD set featuring all eighteen half-hour episodes of the second season of Sex & The City (there are no bonus features save episode previews for each episode and a review of the prior season before the season premiere) is overpriced and bears low repeatability. Watching the episodes once is boring and painful enough; watching them twice is a waste of time beyond reckoning, especially for those who have seen the first season of Sex & The City. The reason for the low repeatability of the season both on its own and in the context of the series is that the episodic show - it has a few serialized elements - repeats much of the same formula and events as the first season of the series! Beyond that, the episodes soon take on a highly formulaic quality and the failure for the quartet to evolve becomes irksome to watch.

Manhattan sex and relationship columnist Carrie Bradshaw is still pining for Mr. Big when she gets involved with a New York Yankee. Irked by the way all Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte do is sit around complaining about men, Miranda abandons her friends, until she is struck by seeing an ex. Samantha wrestles with a dry spell, whatwith not enjoying how small her otherwise wonderful boyfriend is. Samantha, Charlotte, Carrie and Miranda soon find themselves adrift and manless, relying on one another for companionship and conversation. But when Miranda buys an apartment, she finds herself in a longer relationship with a bartender who earns vastly less money than she does.

As Miranda works on her relationship with Steve, Carrie hooks back up with Mr. Big, whom she still finds emotionally unavailable. Samantha and Charlotte continue to date with them swearing off men, getting involved with older, wealthy men, and acting like a twentysomething in succession. But as things with Steve rock Miranda's relationship, Carrie finds the lack of firm commitment from Mr. Big spells trouble for their relationship as well when he abruptly leaves for France.

Sex & The City, for those who have not heard of or seen it, is an HBO production and while that means occasional softcore nudity in this season, what separates it from network television most is the frank dialogue about sex, anatomy and swearing. Unfortunately, it adds up to little; it is not funny, the show does not ask compelling questions that an emotionally-mature sixteen year-old girl hasn't already asked and answered for herself and the characters are so vacuous and dull that they are almost impossible to care about. Moreover, just as Disney has its own conceits - Disney princess look, teamwork resolving all conflicts, etc. - HBO has its own conceits and Sex & The City falls into all of them. The show is packed with promiscuous sex and drug use, though in this season it is limited to potsmoking and an alcoholic, outside the usual use of nicotine cigarettes. Samantha laying in bed smoking pot as she listens to her neighbors have sex is utterly pointless outside trying to keep the idea that either HBO is edgy or everyone in their thirties smokes pot. Either concept is ridiculous in my book.

The fundamental problem with the second season of Sex & The City is the same as the first season; almost every episode asks a question and all four of the women wrestle with the same question in one form or another for the episode. So, when Carrie declares all men in Manhattan to be sexual freaks, all four women find themselves dating men who are into deviant sex in one form or another. By the next episode, they are all single and suddenly, they are dating people who all have relationships with death. The "theme episode" feel of the series wears thin and the problem - outside not caring for over half the "problems" Carrie explores - is that Carrie's supposedly brilliant column poses questions which her witless voice-overs never develop.

More than that, one of my serious beefs with Sex & The City is the way it insults the intelligence of women everywhere. I'm not talking about the promiscuous sex (I'm fine with that), but with the idiotic voice-overs that tell what the medium already shows. The average voice-over on Sex & The City is something like "Meanwhile, uptown, Samantha was romancing . . ." Do the producers of Sex & The City truly believe that we viewers are so stupid that we need the transition? Do they think without the voice-over, if we simply saw Samantha beginning to get frisky with a guy we wouldn't figure out what was happening? The net result of the voice-overs is to either insult the viewer's intelligence or insult the intelligence or interest of Carrie's column readers (if one interprets the voice-overs as Carrie's column being written).

The dialogue in Sex & The City is about what one might expect from a program that is billed as television's ongoing "chick flick." The women giggle and laugh and rely upon each other with witty rejoinders, but little real depth. They are not Alpha Women, they are a parody of women in their thirties and the agonizing aspect of watching this season of Sex & The City is that the women act like they do not know they are parodies of the female ideal, instead, they act like they embody it. As a result, they strut around like they own Manhattan and act like their relationships are the only real problems in the world. Bafflingly, Miranda is a lawyer who can afford her own apartment (buying, not renting) who also never seems to be involved in any cases she needs to devote time to. She's just as accessible as Carrie (the writer), Samantha (the public relations specialist) and Charlotte (the art gallery owner).

Great television is based upon the idea that the characters are interesting in one way or another, but by the second season of Sex & The City, the characters are almost indistinguishable from one another - Charlotte's character is almost completely gutted this season - and it is hard to care about any of them. Still, for those considering this season, here are the principle characters of season two:

Carrie - The columnist who whines incessantly about losing Mr. Big. After going through a few sexual relationships (seldom do the women actually relate in their relationships in this season outside sexually), she hooks back up with Mr. Big. Once with him, she agonizes over whether or not they are right for one another, how much truth is important and what it means to be exclusive, before she leaves him again because he leaves for France without telling her in advance. After that, she continues dating men who are bad for her without growing in the process from the experiences,

Miranda - The lawyer struggles to find happiness while learning to do such things as talk dirty in bed to a man (in the process discovering the one thing that can't be said to a guy while talking dirty to him) and feeling rejected by seeing her ex, Skipper, who wants nothing to do with her. She soon hooks up with a sardonic bartender who insists she treat him with respect and she finds she likes Steve. She and Steve, though, have radically different incomes and this becomes an issue between them, which puts Miranda back in the single lane having more random relationships,

Charlotte - No longer the "good girl," she bends all of her principles and instead begins to view men as projects. Whenever she feels like escaping that trend - in between dating a guy who is reputed to give the most amazing oral sex and an attempt to play the field by asking out multiple men at a time - she finds herself getting a dog, embracing lesbian culture (less the sex) and learning how to ride a horse again,

and Samantha - The oldest of the group (perpetually thirty-five), she breaks up with a man who has a small penis and then begins dating rich men in society. This gets her in trouble as one of them is married and ruins her social standing. Going through usually one man an episode, Samantha is the archetype of the free sex movement, but even she runs into trouble when she meets a man who has an incredibly large penis.

The second season of Sex & The City asks some of the least sophisticated questions that illustrate how wrapped up the show is in itself or the characters are in themselves. Questions that pit twentysomething and thirtysomething women against one another and "Is it possible to be friends with someone you've seen naked?" are of limited interest to most people able to ask the question and watch the series and for those who take the answers seriously, Sex & The City offers poor answers to those questions.

The second season of Sex & The City is devoid of great performances, though Cynthia Nixon is excellent as Miranda. She is able to carry the serious moments with real depth and has a fun side that she shows in episodes like "Games People Play." But much of the show focuses on Sarah Jessica Parker and her acting is terrible. She pouts through most of the season and whines for most of her deliveries. Her idea of carrying a difficult emotional moment is to have Carrie look down like she's lost a penny and this season she does nothing to make us care more about the character than reading the scripts might have.

In fact, this is little more than a soap opera that focuses on four women hanging out, having sex and talking about relationships with one another instead of working on them with their love interests. It got lucky and for those who have not been subjected to this season, you can get luckier than I did by avoiding this season.

For other works featuring Kim Cattrall, please check out my reviews of:
15 Minutes
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country


For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the shows and seasons I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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