Sex and the City: The Made-for-TV Movie

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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

breaks.

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

interesting choice.

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

again.

Ironically, it will take a film to turn the old Sex and the City
back into a television show.

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