When it was originally on: 1998-2004
Original network: HBO
Where you can stream it now: HBO or Amazon (included with a regular Amazon account, no HBO extension required).
Had I seen it before: I’ve seen the first five seasons. I don’t think I ever meant to watch that much of it, but it’s been a go-to guilty pleasure for a couple years so here we are. I’ll probably watch season 6 someday.
Why I picked it: Sex and the City is relatively early in the timeline of HBO originals, and it’s the first one explicitly aimed at women. Earlier this week I reviewed the Desperate Housewives pilot and discussed my interest in female-centric shows and the stigmas that typically surround such shows. Sex and the City helped pave the way for many similar shows, and while I would definitely say it feels a bit dated now, it’s still a pivotal show in television history for that reason.
What I liked: Um. There had to have been something right? I mean Mr. Big isn’t as toxic as he is in many future episodes so that’s cool.
What I didn’t like: So many of the pilots I’m reviewing are ones for shows I haven’t seen, which makes the Sex and the City one an exceptionally interesting case study. This is because there’s no example I’ve come up against so far where the pilot seems to be in stark contrast to later episodes. There’s fourth wall breaks. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of humor or jokes. Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda are relatively minor characters compared to later episodes. It just feels like the whole thesis of this pilot is in direct contrast to what the show eventually became, and I liked the later version better.
The biggest problem I have with this pilot is how it’s trying so damn hard to say “Look at us! We’re making points! We have something to say!” And yet. . . I don’t actually know that it’s saying anything of value. What? Men and women are different? They view sex differently? How revolutionary. I wish it felt like Carrie had actually learned something new or profound over the course of the story. I don’t really feel like Carrie has any unique or interesting insights about sex, which is kind of odd since she supposedly makes her living writing a sex column. Hell, Samantha’s sex-with-no-emotion approach is far more interesting than anything Carrie says or does in this pilot, especially by 1998 standards.
I would actually go so far as to argue that the whole “hot take” Carrie writes about that fuels this whole episode is not even her original idea, it’s Samantha’s idea. Of course Carrie’s conversations with Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda will continue to fuel her writing for the show’s whole run, but that’s just it: Carrie is the least interesting of the four, but the show focuses on her more than anyone, even moreso in the pilot. Charlotte and Miranda are almost inconsequential here. The show’s greatest achievement is in showing how all four of these women approach sex and relationships differently, but all their approaches are still valid and they can still be friends and learn from each other’s perspectives. The pilot just didn’t seem to have this mission in mind.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Honestly, the pilot didn’t make me want to watch Ep. 2. As someone who DID stick with it anyway I can testify that the show certainly does get better, albeit still a bit dated.