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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/27/01

Sex and the City:
The Complete Second Season

1999 (2001) - HBO Home Video

review by Brian Ford Sullivan of The Digital Bits

Sex and the City: The Complete Second Season Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/C+/D+

Specs and Features

540 mins (18 episodes at approx. 30 mins each), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 3 single-sided, dual-layered discs (each disc contains 6 episodes - no layer switch during program material), weblink, program-themed menu screens, episode access, languages: English (DD 2.0) and Spanish (DD mono), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

When 4.4 million people paid to see the fourth season premiere of Sex and the City on June 3, HBO had to know once and for all that it had a hit on its hands. Originally envisioned as the first series to really look inside the kind of "girl talk" that had previously been glossed over by network television, the series has evolved (over the course of its first three seasons) into much more. It's become a character study, rather than simply girls sitting around a table talking bluntly about sex (although there's still plenty of that). The first signs of these changes were planted during the show's second season, as the cardboard cut-out characters (once described by Mr. Big as, "Miranda's the red head, Charlotte is the brunette and Samantha is trouble") expanded into deeper personalities, each with their own continuing story arcs.

The show's centerpiece remains Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), a thirysomething sex columnist with a vice for cigarettes and designer shoes. Each episode generally consists of her attempts to put together her weekly column, where she asks a question about relationships. "Is the perfect guy a myth?", "Are twentysomething guys the new designer drug?" - and so on. The show then fills in the gaps with Carrie and her three friends dating foibles that illustrate the answer to said question. It's this simple structure that provides a fantastic window for all the clever observations the show makes about dating, love and, of course, sex.

While the first season simply was "observations for observations sake," I found that the lack of any sort of character development made the show seem hollow at a certain point. None of the leads, aside from Carrie, ever seemed to grow or learn from said foibles. And while it may be neat to enjoy them on that level, I really wanted to find something to latch onto about these women to bring me back week after week.

It was much to my surprise, then, that the show hit the ground running in its second season, as each of the four women began what would become season-long arcs. For Carrie, it was about whether she could truly move on from her ex, Mr. Big (Chris Noth). For Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), the designated "bitter one", it would be overcoming the idea that all men are not to be trusted. For Samantha (Kim Cattrall), the designated "man-eater", it would be a flirtation with a committed relationship. And for Charlotte (Kristin Davis), the "old-fashioned girl", it would be the search to find what she really wants out of her life.

While all of these story arcs aren't addressed in every episode, it's nice to have an overall push in character development. I found myself particularly drawn to Miranda's relationship with bartender Steve (David Eigenberg), as well as Carrie's quest to rid her heart of old feelings for Mr. Big. On the flip side, Samantha and Charlotte remain more or less one-note characters - embodiments of opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to relationships. Still, the show's overall shift in tone during the second season was quite rejuvenating.

Let's take a look at each episodes in this set. HBO has included all 18 episodes from the show's second season, split across three discs as follows:

Disc One

#13: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The season opens with the gals on the cusp of new beginnings, setting the tone for the rest of the year. Carrie jumps into a relationship with "the new Yankee", but quickly finds that she might not be over her ex. Samantha has a difficult time with her boyfriend's "shortcomings". Charlotte begins a string of relationships with men that have odd quirks (this time it's somebody who continuously "adjusts" himself in public). And finally, Miranda complains that all the girls talk about is men.

#14: The Awful Truth

The second episode asks the question: Are there certain things in a relationship that one should never say? In this case, it's Samantha coming clean about her boyfriend's previously mentioned "shortcomings". Also, Charlotte attempts to replace a man with a puppy, Miranda delves into talking dirty and Carrie's further adventures with her ex, Mr. Big.

#15: The Freak Show

Are all men freaks? It might be that everybody is a freak... after Carrie ruins a perfect relationship with her new boyfriend, Charlotte finds she dates a man for his unique talent, Samantha actually finds something she won't do in bed and Miranda simply gives up on dating altogether.

#16: They Shoot Single People, Don't They?

Is being single such a bad thing? Carrie finds she likes the idea, Charlotte goes to extraordinary means to keep a man she previously thought undesirable, Miranda fakes her enthusiasm for a previous boyfriend and Samantha deals with a club owner who lies about their relationship.

#17: Four Women and a Funeral

Can a relationship bring you back to life? Charlotte wants to know this when she begins dating a recent widower, Carrie mends fences with Mr. Big, Samantha is exiled from Manhattan's social scene and Miranda has panic attacks after buying her own apartment.

#18: The Cheating Curve

Lies and cheating are the words of the day for the women, as Carrie hides her rekindled relationship with Mr. Big from the group. Also, Charlotte finds comfort in the "power lesbian" crowd after a man cheats on her, Miranda competes with her boyfriend's porno videos and Samantha gets (you'll have to watch to get this one) a "lightning bolt" from Thor, her personal trainer.

Disc Two

#19: The Chicken Dance

When two acquaintances fall in love at first sight, the four friends are dragged to their wedding... and are none-too-happy for the lucky couple that, in their minds, has stolen their dream relationship. Complicating matters are an uncomfortable Mr. Big, who accompanies Carrie, and a seemingly too-perfect man Charlotte meets there.

#20: The Man, the Myth, the Viagra

Easily the best episode in the entire set, this one deals with the "myth" of guys actually coming through in the end. While the episode focuses predominantly on Carrie trying to get Big to get to know her friends better, it's the fantastic B-story of Miranda's relationship with a kind-hearted bartender named Steve (David Eigenberg) that really makes it memorable. The episode closes with one of the best "wow" moments in the history of the show, as Miranda's traditional bitterness about men gets pushed to the edge.

#21: Old Dogs, New Dicks

The old becomes the new in this episode, as Carrie deals with Mr. Big's wandering eye, Charlotte comes to grips with an uncircumcised man, Samantha encounters a drag queen that she used to date before his change and Miranda struggles with her and Steve's opposite schedules.

#22: The Caste System

Insurmountable differences haunt Steve and Miranda's relationship as it hits its limits, and the two find they may not be able to mend all their bridges. Carrie and Big exchange awkward "I love yous," Charlotte unwillingly becomes a groupie and Samantha battles her new boyfriend's scheming Thai servant.

#23: Evolution

Have New Yorkers evolved past relationships? Apparently not - Carrie tries to leave things at Big's apartment, Charlotte is confused by her boyfriend's sexual orientation, Samantha's plan to get revenge on an ex misfires and Miranda finds she has a "lazy" ovary.

#24: La Douleur Exquise!

When it comes to relationships, how do you know when enough is enough? The question haunts Carrie as Big tells her he's moving to Paris for six months. Charlotte takes advantage of a shoe salesman's fetish to earn free shoes. Miranda struggles with a guy who only can do it when there's the chance of them getting caught. And Samantha tries to indoctrinate the girls to a new S&M-themed restaurant.

Disc Three

#25: Games People Play

Are games necessary to make a relationship work? That seems the case as Carrie deals with a fellow (Jon Bon Jovi) she meets at her shrink's waiting room. Further prooving the point, Charlotte takes up bridge to meet a nice guy, Samantha finds that her boyfriend only is happy when his sports team is doing well and Miranda finds herself in a dueling peep show with her neighbor across the street.

#26: The Fuck Buddy

A change of pace is the order of the day for the girls as they take on relationships they've never tried before. Carrie tries to get to know her "fuck buddy" (Dean Winters), Charlotte double-books her dates, Miranda gets involved with a mean, controlling man and Samantha finds herself "making love" with the couple next door.

#27: Shortcomings

Family issues complicate matters for the ladies' latest relationships. Carrie finds her new boyfriend's family is part of their relationship, Samantha dates Charlotte's brother and Miranda dates a divorcee whose ties to his family are still very strong.

#28: Was It Good for You?

How do you know if you're good in bed? The ladies try to answer this question as Carrie's new beau, a recovering alcoholic, may be using her as a substitute. Also, Charlotte is concerned when her boyfriend falls asleep during sex and Samantha is rejected at the last minute by a gay couple that wants to experience a woman.

#29: Twenty-Something Girls vs Thirty-Something Women

It's 20s versus 30s in the show's penultimate episode of the second season. Carrie is stunned to see Big return to the States with a 26-year-old in tow, Charlotte finds herself infected by crabs from her younger beau, Miranda sues her hair stylist for age discrimination and Samantha's competes with her young assistant, who starts her own PR firm.

#30: Ex and the City

The second season wraps with doors opening and closing for each of the girls. Carrie learns that Big is engaged, Charlotte reacquaints herself with a childhood love, Miranda meets Mr. Too Big and Miranda runs into Steve.

So there you have it - nine hours of comic goodness, with a dash of drama and character development. Along with Fox, HBO has spearheaded the move to deliver quality TV programming on DVD, with its excellent The Sopranos and Sex and the City: The Complete First Season. This new set continues their terrific quality track record.

Each episode is presented in its original full frame presentation, with nice sharpness and solid detail. The previous season set had some varying quality issues from episode to episode, however that doesn't seem to be the case here. While there's still some slight grain and artifacting from time to time, overall the series has never looked better. As for sound, each episode is presented in a serviceable Dolby 2.0 mix. Since it's a dialogue driven show, with little action or effects, the quality is about what you'd expect from television.

One side note - for some reason, each episode has no chapters stops. Hitting the "advance" button on your remote sends you to the next episode (nor are chapter stops available on each episode's menu page). As for extras, the set offers little more than promos for each episode, cast and crew information and a web link to the show's official site. Essentially, this is the same set as the first season, except that year two features more episodes - 18 instead of 12. Probably for that reason, you don't get a "behind-the-scenes" featurette of the sort that was included in the first season DVDs.

Overall, this is more or less the way all TV series should be released on DVD. You get all the complete episodes, previews and solid quality. And with 9 hours worth of material, for under $40 at most online and "brick and mortar" retailers, there's simply no reason to hold back. If you've been hearing all the raves about Sex and the City, these DVD sets are the best way to go back and see what you've been missing.

Brian Ford Sullivan

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