The odd phenomenon of the television show that turned into a film.
Yes, I am talking about Sex and the City. No, I am not talking about
the fact that a long-anticipated feature film of the HBO series has
just got the green light from New Line Cinema to start production this
fall – although this too is true, as reported yesterday by Michael
Ausiello of TV Guide.
Instead, I am thinking of the original Sex and the City, which
always seemed more comfortably cinematic than its fellow television
hits. Of course, Home Box Office had already positioned the series to
sidestep many of traditional television’s constraints, letting stories
flow more smoothly between episodes and over nonexistent commercial
But take an HBO show like The Sopranos, which used the structure of
indefinite episode output to create unpredictable realism and loose
ends. Held up to this, Sex and the City took the opposite route. It
wanted to make dramatic, cinematic sense of its characters’ lives, and
by the end, it had.
Sure, the female protagonists of Sex and the City flirted with
tangents, and played hard-to get with an overall plot arc. However,
the show’s fast flicker of changing issues had slowed by the fourth
season to match its character’s deepening relationships. Suddenly
everybody had a husband, a baby, a medical condition. And Carrie?
Carrie had Big.
Carrie met Big in the first episode of the first season. He returned
every few weeks to have relationships, carry out affairs, and maintain
sexual tension with her. At last, the series finale called him back to
sweep Carrie off her feet and claim she was "the one." Disney has had
more ambiguous endings.
Where can a movie adaptation go from there? Either the film takes
place sometime within the series timeline of "eternal spring," or it
picks up after producers have let snow fall on fictional New York, and
drawn a heart around Big and Carrie. The latter would kill the
finale’s fairytale closure, and I suspect it would be the more
Without the upcoming movie attached, Sex and the City remains the
neatly outlined story of how Carrie met Big. With the movie, the show
suddenly returns to a more open-ended slice of life unfolding. It
loses its cinematic bookends – even if its sequel only fills these in
Ironically, it will take a film to turn the old Sex and the City
back into a television show.