Sex and the City: The Complete Fifth Season
May 30, 2002
Just in time for the last run of episodes of Sex and the City, HBO and Warner Brothers have released the truncated fifth season on DVD. This set offers the best transfers so far with crystal clear resolution and strikingly vibrant colours. For the first time 5.1 surround sound has been applied to each episode. In fact, the show looks and sounds better then when it originally aired on HBO. Unfortunately, the amount of supplemental material is still on the skimpy side but the quality of the show is what counts.
“When you are single and live in New York, there is no end to the ways to fill your day. Museums, parks, theaters, concert halls, night clubs and countless restaurants.” Carrie narrates this monologue that opens the fifth season of the show. It perfectly encapsulates the central theme of the season: being single in the city. As the season begins Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are all getting over men in their lives. Miranda (Nixon) has had a baby boy and is adjusting to being a single mom. Samantha (Cattrall) is still getting over her relationship with Richard (Remar) who is trying to win her back. Charlotte (Davis) is also getting used to being single, having just separated from her husband. Finally, Carrie (Parker) is trying to figure herself out after a bad break-up with a boyfriend who wanted to get married and have kids.
The best episodes of this season are the ones where our four leading ladies celebrate their individuality. From their trip to Atlantic City to celebrate Charlotte’s birthday to Carrie and Samantha’s cross-country train ride for Carrie’s book reading and signing gig in San Francisco, these characters revel in the bachelorettehood. They prove that older women do not have to conform to the traditional belief that by a certain age you must be married and have children. Times have clearly changed.
Sex and the City’s strengths are many, most notably its great writing, fantastic cast and the locations. The show is actually shot in New York City and this gives it a real sense of place, unlike Friends (also set in the Big Apple) which only offers a simulacrum of the city. Sex and the City really captures the high level of energy inherent with living in Manhattan. People are more aggressive, they don’t hold back anything and aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. For anyone who lives or has lived in the city, there are not only many landmarks on display that only they will recognize but also a few obvious ones that anyone who has a passing familiarity with the city will know.
What makes the show so good is the four leading ladies. The rapport between each of them is genuine as it should be after having four seasons to perfect their chemistry. Each character has their own distinctive personality and story arc. Charlotte is the eternal optimist, Samantha the realist, Miranda the cynic, and Carrie is the romantic of the group. Seeing them get together every episode to talk about their problems and laugh along with them becomes a comfort for the audience.
Sex and the City has some of the best writing of any program on television. The scripts cleverly mix comedic observations on life, love and relationships without ignoring the serious aspects but being careful to maintain a proper balance—something that isn’t easy to pull off, as a program like Moonlighting found out the hard way. The dialogue that the characters speak is smart and witty. The observations on New York City culture and cultural stereotypes is of the same high quality of Woody Allen circa the ‘70s and ‘80s, before he burned out creatively in the ‘90s.
One of the show’s producers and writers, Michael Patrick King contributes three audio commentaries for three of the episodes. On the season opener, “Anchors Away,” he talks about how they set the tone of that particular season and how the events of 9/11 affected how they depicted life in New York City. He has a very engaging voice and conveys a lot of good information and observations on this track. Fans of the show will definitely want to check out his commentaries.
“Interactive Trivia Game” is a bland game where one has to answer questions that pertain to the fifth season. The answers are in the form of multiple choice and shown on an unimaginative design with static pictures. A wrong answer is greeted with another unimpressive static picture, while a right answer is rewarded with a clip from one of the episodes. It’s a shame the DVD producers didn’t take pointers from the Legally Blonde 2 DVD which had the cast and crew actually ask the questions and offer funny answers to right and wrong answers specifically done for the disc. A missed opportunity to be sure.
“Behind the Scenes with Costume Designer Patricia Field” is an interesting look at one of the most important aspects of the show: what the characters wear. Field talks about how the clothes are picked (she gets them from a wide range of sources: from thrift shops to the latest fashions from high profile designers) and the process that she goes through in getting them fitted for the actors. She also talks at length about the distinctive style of each character and how what they wear reflects who they are.
Despite the short number of episodes for this season, it is the strongest box set yet in terms of quality of the transfers and the amount of extras. Comparing this set to the first season box set only reinforces the great leaps of quality and quantity that has gone into these DVDs. Hopefully, for the show’s swan song season, HBO will go all out and produce a deluxe edition loaded with interesting and entertaining supplemental materials.