The Good: Honest, Interesting, Fairly good acting, Good plots
The Bad: Flat characters, Low connectivity, Derivative
The Basics: If you've never seen Ally McBeal, watch this. Otherwise, poor characterization, episodic nature and low resolution don't outweigh the excellent casting and interesting questions posed.
Perhaps the thing to remember when reading this review is that: 1. I'm a huge fan of Ally McBeal and 2. I liked Sex And The City. That said, after a very close call, I've decided not to recommend Sex And The City: The Complete First Season to other viewers.
Sex And The City: The Complete First Season follows the sexual exploits of four women in Manhattan. The cast is more than competent, the four women chosen are all interesting and beautiful, at least by Hollywood standards. In truth, Kim Catrall's character is somewhat refreshing for the occasional horrific camera angles that make her look less than Hollywood beautiful. Otherwise, we've all seen these twiggy women in other things and my instant impulse is to offer them a snack.
Also successful is the whole plot angle. Each episode asks a question and seeks to answer it in the course of the episode. It's miraculous how each theme fits into the character's lives perfectly. For instance, in the episode asking the question about threesomes, just happens to be the only time all of the women encounter it. It's more than just nitpicky; just a little annoying. Why? On something like Ally McBeal the writing is worked in such a way that often serious issues are returned to and different characters wrestle with different questions at, well naturally, different times.
The plot succeeds in that it asks interesting questions. And from there we go into the problems. The first, huge!, problem is in the characters. Any show where I sit down and watch twelve episodes in the course of two days and I'm stuck on the actor/actress' names as opposed to the characters, that's a sign of poor characterization. Why? I ought to be able to separate the actors from their roles if their characters are good. Miranda. Miranda is the only character whose name stuck with me.
Kirstin Davis plays a completely gorgeous, if naive woman, Kim Catrall plays a woman who isn't terribly different from her role as Valeris (the Vulcan in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), and Sarah Jessica Parker plays the lead protagonist whose name starts with a C, as I recall. Parker's character, Carrie Bradshaw, spends the first season chasing after Mr. Big, but having sex with other guys she has less emotional attachment to.
Now, I'm not much of a prude, so I have little problem with the promiscuity on the show. That's fine, each of the women make the choice for that. In fact, the whole liberal sexual angle is pretty wonderful. The problematic aspect is that in addition to having little emotional context to the characters (hence being Sex And The City as opposed to Love Making And The City), there's not much to them. Bradshaw is a woman who writes about relationships - and mostly sex - in the city, but the character never seems like a terribly interesting person who would actually have much going for her outside that. That is to say, in order to be a writer and dispense advice, it helps to have a personality. Outside having a spending problem and a taste for expensive shoes and an apparently high tolerance for alcohol, there's not much to her character. Moreover, the character Miranda seems to have more of a social life and more time on her hands than any lawyer I've ever met.
The whole New York City club scene and the extravagancies of New York (some of which are universal to all big U.S. cities, but many which are VERY New York) are played up and is distracting to those who either are ignorant to such things or find them unappealing.
I've often confessed to enjoying serial television (Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Ally McBeal, Once And Again). Sex And The City is not terribly serialized, though the first season follows - mostly - two plot arcs: Carrie and Mr. Big and Miranda and Skipper. The show is largely episodic, but it seems inappropriate as each episode seeks to answer a crucial question. When the question is answered, the characters ought to grow. Yet, by the next episode, the characters are largely unchanged and still largely uninteresting.
The final nail in the split decision for me came down to the fact that Sex And The City is derivative and unbalanced. It borrows a lot of the frank, earnestness of Ally McBeal, but lacks the strength of that show which is that it is balanced, along gender issues. The problem with Sex And The City is NOT that it provides a women's point of view. Instead, the problem is it ONLY provides a woman's point of view. It doesn't male bash, but it strikes a blow to feminism in that it doesn't offer the equal dialog feminism seeks.
That is, instead of liberating all, it simply puts men in the roles women have cast off; as voiceless and one-dimensional.
Ally McBeal offers much more vibrant characters realistically asking many of the same interesting questions Sex And The City tries to, but fails with its glossy cast, intriguing questions and pathetic characterization.
I'm recommending against season one of Sex And The City, though I enjoyed it enough that if I ever have the opportunity to watch the second season, I'll take the opportunity. There's potential in this series, but the first season doesn't realize it and it doesn't manage to be something great or unique either. At most, it's interesting at best, humorous at times and the very least it does it pose interesting questions that individuals and couples ought to ask themselves.
For other works with Sarah Jessica Parker, please visit my reviews of:
Did You Hear About The Morgans?
Strangers With Candy
State And Main
For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the shows I have reviewed!
© 2012, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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