overthinking the idiot box

May 2, 2005

Sex and the City: Seasons 1-3

by Erin O'Brien

I'm late.

No, not like that. I'm not tardy or pregnant. I'm late for the bandwagon. It left without me and I'm here waiting on the corner, puzzling over the schedule.

See, there's this whole black hole of TV that aired at the dawn of the millennium that, for various reasons, I just missed. Quality television, too; shows that everyone was caught up in and talked about over water coolers. It's like a whole era of pop culture that I slept through.

But now, thanks to the miracle of DVD, I can see all the shows that everyone was talking about...five years ago. Watching these makes me sort of want to pick up the phone and call my friends and be all, "Holy cow, did you just see that?!" But, of course, I'm the only one who just watched that. My friends all saw that five years ago. But now, thanks to Netflix and DVD's, I can watch all those shows that apparently everyone else in the known universe has seen and loved.

One of the first shows I rented when I got a Netflix account about a year ago was Sex and the City.

And Sex and the City is one of those shows that I really should have watched. I'm a few years younger than the characters, but, like Carrie Bradshaw, I'm single in New York City, I have a job in the media, I live in a tiny rent-stabilized apartment, and I sometimes make questionable fashion choices.

I've watched the first three seasons now, and I must say that I'm hooked, despite the fact that I was prepared to hate it. Because for all the similarities between Carrie and me, there are about a hundred differences. Is life in New York really that glamorous for the 30-something singles set? No one that I know can afford the apartment in the posh neighborhood and the $300 shoes and still take cabs everywhere. I mean, have these women heard of the subway?

And yet, while Carrie leads a fabulous life, she's also deliciously flawed. She makes bad decisions sometimes, everything from getting tangled up with the emotionally unavailable Mr. Big to choosing new shoes over paying rent on time. (Well, I guess the latter is something I've definitely faced before. We won't talk about all the times I've stood in a store contemplating a new dress versus paying the phone bill. Ain't life in New York grand?) She gets invited to all the best parties, but she also steps in dog poo every now and then. Whenever you start to envy her life, she'll find herself in a situation that you can totally relate to. I may not own any Manolos, but I've gone on a few bad dates.

The sidekicks, too, run the risk of being archetypes, but really end up being interesting, fully-realized characters as the series progresses. Samantha is obviously the slut, but she also manages to get herself into messes that make her question herself. In season 3, for instance, she suddenly doubts her own lifestyle after inadvertently letting a burglar into her building along with a late-night caller. On the other end of the spectrum is the innocent-seeming Charlotte. She blushes at profanity but grows to love her rabbit vibrator, and declares loudly, when her new husband proves to be impotent, that all she really wants is to get fucked. Miranda is sort of the middle ground, and she's maybe my sentimental favorite. She's so pragmatic (and she's a cat owner!), but then she'll find herself with a guy who only likes to have sex in places where they might get caught, or she'll fall head-over-heels for an irresponsible bartender instead of the smart lawyer-types she thinks she belongs with.

The bottom line is that, even though the New York experience of these ladies is totally unrealistic, it's still kind of fun to escape into their world. Especially when it turns out that these women have just as many problems as you do.

And so, I'm improbably hooked on a show that is no longer airing new episodes. Worse, it's the sort of show that makes you want to call your best friend to scream about it. But everyone else was so over this show when it ended last year. I can't visit message boards or online communities about the show for fear of finding out prematurely what happens in the last three seasons, before I've had a chance to see them.

At least the DVDs are instant gratification. Unlike the poor suckers who saw the show as it aired, I can watch a whole season over the course of a few days without having to wait until next week to see the new one. Wondering what happened with Aiden? Well, here's disk three, I'll just put it in the DVD player and find out! Although, I will admit, it kills the suspense a little. Here I was expecting the Mr. Big saga to be long and epic, but whole chapters of it can get resolved by watching a few consecutive episodes one afternoon. ("That's it?" I ask my TV. "I thought this Mr. Big thing was, well, a Big deal!")

In the end, as Samantha might say, it's all fabulous, honey. Bring on season 4!

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Return to Vol. 1, Episode 3.