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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 9/4/02

Sex and the City:
The Complete Third Season

2000 (2002) - HBO Home Video

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Sex and the City: The Complete Third Season Program Rating: A-

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

Specs and Features

540 mins (18 episodes at 30 mins each), NR, full frame (1.33:1), 3 single-sided, dual-layered discs (no layer switch during episodes), audio commentary on episodes 9 - 12 (by director/producer/writer Michael Patrick King), weblinks, episode previews, animated menu screens with audio, episode access, languages: English and French (DD 2.0) and Spanish (DD mono), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

"Do you swallow?"

"Only when surprised."

I'll fess up to it - before taking in this DVD set of Sex and the City, I was a virgin to the experience. Sure I'd caught a few moments of it here and there, but not since its first season, and nothing that I saw made me want to stay tuned for future installments. It was kinda nifty in a juvenile way to see a series that seemed, on the surface, to revel in its ability to piece together 30 minutes of television time by talking endlessly about a veritable buffet of sexual practices. But by its third season, the writers and the actors really nailed (so to speak) the characters, and made them more than just a bunch of mouthpieces for witty one-liners. If the sex talk is the hook, then the pure likeability of its cast is the payoff. The sex talk may be foreplay, but everything else is pure afterglow... or something like that.

Season 3 finds sex columnist Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) still dealing with the aftermath of her defunct relationship with Mr. Big. She finds greener pastures with Aidan (John Corbett), a sensitive furniture maker who caters to her every need. Samantha (Kim Cattrell) is still... well, Samantha. She'll bed whomever she wants whenever she wants without ever giving consideration to what others (especially her snooty neighbors) think of her sexual exploits. While Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is still experiencing big ups and downs in her relationship with on again, off again boyfriend Steve (David Eigenberg), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is on the lookout for something more permanent and satisfying than the dating scene. These are the big dramatic events that surround the women during the season, but the incidental stuff that happens in their day to day lives is where the real meat of the show is.

I laughed almost to the point of tears watching Samantha discuss the troubles associated with oral sex ("They don't call it a job for nothing!") and when Carrie and Miranda dissect a relationship damaged by laundry night ("When your boyfriend is so comfortable that he can't be bothered to wipe his ass, that's the end of romance."). A lot of it is girl talk, but it's not humor that's geared to offend the opposite sex. The truth is, there's plenty here for both men and women to enjoy. The writers' insight into interpersonal relationships and, of course, sex makes for some of the most accurate and hilarious moments in recent television history.

Sex and the City is probably the chattiest show on TV these days, and in that regard, actual location is almost always unimportant. Be it in a cafe, on a ferry, in an apartment, at a political rally or at a partner-swapping party, it's what the women are saying that's important. It's this focus on character dialogue and development that keeps the show fresh and funny. The show also manages to touch on several still touchy issues (interracial dating, STDs, marital indiscretions, bisexuality) without ham-handed delivery or a big blinking "public service announcement" sign. When Samantha goes to a clinic for her first HIV test, the moment is handled with as much seriousness as it is humor. But come on - you don't watch a show like this for the issues it takes on. An After School Special it ain't.

Sex and the City comes to DVD in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and looks just fine. The most apparent detriment to the overall image quality is some minor grain and compression artifacting that pops up now and again. There's also an edgy look that results from contrast level that seems a bit off, but that much of it is only noticeable if you look closely. I presume the DVD image was struck from the film negative, but curiously enough, the image quality has some of the same drawbacks as video, namely in the area of color reproduction. Colors can come across a bit intense at times, but flesh tones are consistently smooth and exact. Outside of that, this is a satisfactory image. The picture exhibits a high level of detail thanks, in no small part, to good shadow detailing and black levels to stand out against the some of the brighter costuming and set design choices. Weaknesses aside, the image still looks pretty good, and is a clear improvement over its broadcast quality.

The English 2.0 surround offers up little in the way of excitement, but it delivers in the all-important area of dialogue. It's front and center in the mix, and sounds clear without the need to adjust the volume to a higher level to catch all the chatty onscreen happenings. Surround channels are used infrequently, with only an occasional smattering of sound effects and musical cues. It sounds about as good as the broadcast does, and I don't know that even a 5.1 upgrade would add much more effect to the mix. HBO also included an optional French surround and Spanish mono track.

HBO's previous editions of Sex and the City were light on the extras, and they've taken the time to add a little more weight in that department to this DVD. Michael Patrick King, who seems to have had creative input in just about every aspect of the show, provides commentary for four of the middle episodes. It's a useful commentary, and he discusses both the entertainment and social impact the show has had in its relatively recent television run. He's complimentary to people on both sides of the camera, though sometimes he's so liberal to dole out the praise that it borders on overkill. He goes so far as to give kudos to Sarah Jessica for artistic instinct not to place paper cups from the same coffee establishment next to her laptop. Nonetheless, it's a worthwhile commentary track.

Each disc also has a ROM interface that will allow you to access the series' website. While usually not all that exciting, the website has a few fun features and a handy dandy guide that will catch you up on any previous episode (or season, for that matter) that you may have missed. Each episode is fairly self-contained, but knowing what has happened in previous shows definitely adds to the viewing experience. As for standard disc extras side, there are also previews (i.e. commercials) for each episode and some reasonably detailed cast and crew bios.

This is the season that will be remembered, among other things, as the first cable series to take home an Emmy for Best Series honors. After watching it, I can't say that the show didn't deserve it. It's a welcome change from the standard fare offered on network television. I can't fully speak of the quality of the previous seasons of Sex and the City, but this one had me hooked. The writing's first-rate, the direction is ideal (just let the women have their way with their characters) and the cast is superb. You couldn't ask for a better, more qualified team to carry off Sex and the City. If you've not yet seen the show, you might want to rent the first disc, and see how you like it. But beware; you may find yourself hooked after that. I certainly was. I watched the Season 2 discs on a "sick" day from work (cough, cough). Addictive indeed. Season 4 can't come down the DVD pipeline soon enough.

Dan Kelly
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