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HBO presents
Sex and the City: The Complete Second Season (1999)

"So what are we going to do? Sit around bars, sipping Cosmos and sleeping with strangers when we're eighty?"
- Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: December 17, 2001

Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
Other Stars: Chris North
Director: Allan Coulter, John David Coles, Victoria Hochberg, Alan Taylor, Allison Anders, Pam Thomas, Michael Spiller, David Algrant, Darren Star, Michael Patrick King

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic language, sexual dialogue, sex, nudity)
Run Time: Approx. 600 minutes
Release Date: May 27, 2000
UPC: 026359924828
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-BB- D

DVD Review

Darren Star, creator of such hit shows as Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210, developed Sex and the City with one main focal point in mind: women talking graphically, realistically, and openly about sex, as, he believed, happens in real life all the time but not nearly often enough on television and in films.

The first season of the show (which airs on HBO, which means there's plenty of freedom to use coarse language, nudity, and sex) did just that, but little more. The four main characters, Carrie (Parker), Miranda (Nixon), Charlotte (David), and Samantha (Cattrall) begin the first episode by deciding to "have sex like men," and from there, the series moved onto various other questions that examined the sexual differences between men and women. The only problem was, in the first season, that while the situations were funny, ribald, and refreshingly candid, the characters were basically one-dimensional, except for Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie (who is the queen bee of the foursome), a journalist who writes a column called Sex and the City. It is her observations for her column that get the ball rolling in every episode, as she examines the sex lives of her friends, and tries to shed some light on the different ideas men and women have about sex and relationships. None of the other characters ever grew much past the personality types thrust upon them in the first episode—Miranda, the self-assured lawyer, demanding when it comes to matters of the heart; Charlotte, blissfully naïve, and somewhat of a prude; and Samantha, the one who, well, sleeps with everybody.

Luckily, in the second season, the characters really begin to emerge as rounded personalities and go through some changes. And don't worry, all the humor and sexual adventures remain. Continuing storylines pop up—Carrie reunites with Mr. Big (North), her emotionally unavailable but loveable boyfriend, whom she broke up with at the end of season one. And the other women get steady dates too, allowing them to work through relationship troubles and reveal more of their personalities than was evident in the first season's episodical one night stands. In its second season, Sex and the City really blossomed into an excellent comedy, which both entertains and talks candidly about the gender divide.

Sex and the City: The Complete Second Season is presented on three DVDs with six episodes each.

Disc One:

Episode 1: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Carrie, eager to prove she has gotten over her breakup with Mr. Big, starts seeing the newest member of the NY Yankees, but she finds she misses Big more than she thought. Miranda, determined to elevate the discussion, becomes frustrated when her friends talk only of men and sex. Charlotte can't stand her new boyfriend's habit of constantly adjusting himself in public. Meanwhile, Samantha wishes her boyfriend had something to adjust—he's the first guy she's every really cared about in a long time, but his equipment is a bit too small for her needs.

The second season opener feels much like a first season episode. It's funny, but outside of Carrie, who gives us a glimpse of her inner emotions, none of the other women does anything "out of character," except perhaps Samantha, who at least doesn't dump the too-small guy right away. A decent episode, and one worth an average three stilettos out of five:





Episode 2: The Awful Truth

Carrie, after receiving flowers for her birthday from Mr. Big, invites him to her party, in the hopes of, perhaps, getting their relationship back on stable ground. She's disappointed when he says he may arrive at the party "with someone." Miranda, meanwhile, has a boyfriend who likes dirty talk in bed, but she's never done it before. She sees sex as the "one time in my overly articulate life when I should just shut up." Charlotte, deciding the perfect man will never arrive, gets a puppy so she'll have something obedient to cuddle. And Smanatha agrees to see a relationship counselor with her boyfriend, because she can't bring herself to have sex with such an undersized partner.

An all around funny episode, with some nice emotional resonance in the Carrie/Big relationship (which, if you can't tell, is a major focus of the season), a nice adventurous streak from Miranda, and some welcome cynicism from Charlotte. Of course, Samantha is more superficial than the other characters, and it takes more for her to change, which results in a great payoff for the "too small" storyline: "Oh yeah? Well, did you ever think that maybe your vagina is too big?" Four stilettos:





Episode 3: The Freak Show

Carrie and friends decide that over 30 single men must all be freaks (over 30 single women are "choosey"). Carrie comes face to face with her inner freak, however, when her paranoia about weird men threatens to sabotage a new relationship. Samantha picks up a rich lawyer in a bar, but he has some interests that she doesn't share. Charlotte dates oral sex wunderkind Mr. Pussy, embracing one man's inner freak for her own benefit. And Miranda swears off men entirely.

This episode is a mixed bag, with Carrie and Charlotte's storylines generating a lot of laughs, but Samantha's and Miranda's falling flat. The writing is fine, it's just that the scenarios are a bit clichéd and familiar. Still, well worth watching for the aforementioned relationship between Charlotte and Mr. P. Two and a half stilettos:





Episode 4: They Shoot Single People, Don't They?

Carrie decides she's proud to be single when she is chosen for a photo shoot, "New York Women, Single and Fabulous," until she learns the importance of punctuation—the article was "Single and Fabulous?" and Carrie, who had stayed up all night partying, is on the cover looking haggard. Charlotte tries to hook up with Tom, her neighbor, who wants to move to Salt Lake. She, scared of being single, really just wants someone who can hook up the VCR. Miranda discovers the perils of faking when she encounters an old boyfriend who never really rocked her world (though she let him think so).

One good storyline (Carrie and the bad photo shoot), tacked onto three rather tired subplots. The Miranda "faking" thing has been done to death, although it is more original than most as she tries to teach the guy how to get a real response. The Charlotte segment, however, is dull all the way through. Two stilettos:





Episode 5: Four Women and a Funeral

When a New York fashion maven dies, the girls attend the funeral. Charlotte picks up a guy, while Samantha becomes determined to support the deceased's charity foundation (to help wayward models), but when she proves she is willing to do anything for a donation she is ostracized from the New York social scene. Meanwhile, Carrie starts making up with Mr. Big, and Miranda buys her own apartment, inducing panic attacks and fears that she's too independent.

A strong show all around, with some nice character development for all four ladies. The writing is especially sharp as well, with strong jokes in all four storylines (even the abrupt "deus ex machina" ending for Samantha). Four stilettos:



Episode 6: The Cheating Curve



While Carries reunites with Mr. Big, she keeps it quiet, and the three others each experience a bit of cheating in their relationships. Samantha gets "branded" by her new trainer at the gym, who takes to shaving women's legs on up, and leaving a personal touch. Charlotte, after being cheated on, goes out with a group of power lesbians and finds herself enjoying their company. Miranda, meanwhile, deals with her new guy cheating on her... with the women in his porno videos.

The strongest episodes seem to close out each disc. This is the most consistent, most humorous episode of the season thus far. The essential Mr. Big and Carrie chemistry finally comes back into play. And while none of the subplots are wholly original, all are done extremely well to take advantage of the personalities of the four women. Funny stuff, and a good way to end disc one. Four and a half stilettos:





Disc Two

Episode 7: The Chicken Dance

Miranda hires a new interior decorator for her apartment, but the woman not only has questionable taste, she manages to steal Miranda's prospective boyfriend, whom she'd known for years. In fact, the two make quick plans to marry, making Miranda a bit insecure, but mostly angry. Carrie brings Big to the wedding and is disappointed that he doesn't want to sign the card for their gift, while Charlotte finds a love at first sight of her own.

A nice episode for character growth, with more developments in the Big character, nice spontaneity from Charlotte, and some welcome, self-righteous anger from Miranda. Not a lot of laugh out loud material, but it's all still very amusing. Three and a half stilettos:





Episode 8: The Man, the Myth, the Viagra

Carrie makes plans for Big to meet her friends, but he is reluctant. Miranda finally meets someone nice when she begins dating Steve, a bartender. Samantha, meanwhile, decides that she doesn't mind the affections of a 70-year-old, as long as he has the cash.

A rather slight affair that still manages to be very funny. The Samantha/old man scenes are a scream, and the plot thread has a great payoff. Steve represents some welcome stability on the show, with another character besides Carrie involved in a serious relationship. Three stilettos:





Episode 9: Old Dogs, New Dicks

Carrie decides that she wants to rid Big of some annoying habits, like checking out everything with two X chromosomes. Samantha chances on an old boyfriend who is now a drag queen. Charlotte is horrified that her new boyfriend is not circumcised, and Miranda deals with Steve's odd schedule as a bartender.

Another strong episode all the way around. Carrie's attempts to change Big are amusing, and the growing relationship between Miranda and Steve sees her character growing as well. Charlotte's reactions to her new guy's equipment are priceless ("I don't need one that can make its own carrying case," she says). Three and a half stilettos:





Episode 10: The Caste System

Is there a dating caste system? Miranda deals with dating outside her class as Steve has problems letting her pay for things. Carrie and Big exchange their first "I love you," though not at the same time or in the same way. Charlotte dates above her status when she meets a film star, and Samantha loves her new guy but has issues with his aggressive Thai servant.

Another contender for funniest of the season, with some nice emotional content to boot. The Miranda/Steve relationship is dealt with very well. Carrie and Big continue to be the most compelling aspect of the show. Charlotte's fling with the movie star is fine, but Samantha's encounter with the "other" woman in her date's life is probably the funniest thing on the show thus far. Four stilettos:





Episode 11: Evolution

Miranda struggles with her biological clock when one of her ovaries stops producing eggs. Samantha decides to take revenge on Dominic, the only man to truly break her heart. Carrie tries to leave some possessions at Big's apartment, and Charlotte has to figure out if her new date is gay/straight or straight/gay.

Another great episode! Miranda gets some character development, true, but also, most shockingly, Samantha does as well, when she realizes she might not be as sexually ruthless as she thought. The funniest part, though, is Charlotte's questioning of her date's sexual orientation. Four stilettos:





Episode 12: La Douleur Exquise!

Samantha introduces the group to the hottest S&M restaurant in town, where they discover the fine line between pleasure and pain. Carrie realizes she's a masochist when it comes to her relationship with Big. Miranda dates a guy who likes to have dangerous sex, and Charlotte's shoe fetish becomes a problem when it meets with a shoe salesman with a foot fetish.

Again, the episodes that end the discs seem to be the best. All four storylines are great in this one, and all tie in nicely to the fetish theme. Carrie's relationship with Mr. Big hits a speedbump, providing some needed emotional resonance as the two break up again. Miranda's plot feels familiar until the surprise conclusion, which is hilarious, and the shoe fetish plot for Charlotte has a sticky, but amusing, conclusion. Five stilettos:





Disc Three

Episode 13: Games People Play

Carrie dates a new guy she met in her analyst's waiting room and realizes she dates the wrong kind of men. Samantha becomes interested in sports when her new boyfriend can only perform if the Knicks win. Miranda flirts with a peeping tom in the apartment across the street.

A comedown from the high quality of the last few episodes, but still not bad. Carrie's "wrong kind of man" storyline has a great payoff, as does Miranda's peek-a-boo with a neighbor. Seeing Samantha yelling and screaming at the basketball game is quite funny as well. Three stilettos:



Episode 14: The F*** Buddy

Missing Mr. Big, Carrie falls back on the sexual affections of an old friend, but might be ruining her go-to guy for sex when she tries to make more out of it. Charlotte starts taking initiative and asking men out, but experiences problems when she double-books. Samantha flirts with an erotic encounter with her neighbors (until she sees them), and Miranda dates a guy who can be a bit, er, forceful.

Another decent episode, but nothing outstanding (the episodes without Mr. Big just never seem as strong). Carrie's relationship with her "f*** buddy" is a bright spot, but the Samantha and Charlotte plots fall flat. Miranda's dealing with a controlling guy is amusing but slight. Two and a half stilettos:





Episode 15: Shortcomings

Carrie dates a short story writer who proves to be brief in bed as well, but she falls in love with his family. Miranda explores the world of the rugrats when she dates a man with children. Charlotte's brother, dealing with a divorce, comes to town and sleeps with Samantha.

A nice balance of funny suplots and character development. Carrie's storyline is great, as her affection for the guy's family outweighs her affection for him. Miranda has some great material in her interaction with children. And the Charlotte vs. Samantha subplot adds some much needed depth to the bond between the two characters. Four stilettos:





Episode 16: Was It Good for You?

Carrie is so good in bed she becomes the new drug for a recovering addict. Charlotte fears she isn't so good when her date falls asleep during sex. Samantha is invited to join in the sexual exploration of her gay male friends, and Miranda, well, buys new sheets.

Aside from a goes-nowhere Miranda storyline, this is a very strong episode. Samantha's flirtation with helping two guys explore the uncharted frontier is great, and Carrie's attempts to help out the recovering alcoholic earn some laughs as well. But it is Charlotte's story that generates the most laughs, as she persuades the group to attend a tantric sex workshop, with messy result for Miranda. Three and a half stilettos:





Episode 17: Twenty-Something Girls as Thirty-Something Women

Carrie and the girls take a vacation in the Hamptons, where they confront the enemy: younger women. Charlotte decides to play the part, telling her date she is only 27. Samantha deals with the defection of her PR firm's assistant when the girl tries to hone in on Samantha's territory. Samantha gets an unwelcome surprise when she runs into Big on the beach... on the arm of another woman.

The reappearance of Big, and another great episode. Samantha's storyline is great, dueling with the ego of an inexperienced 20-something. Charlotte learns there are consequences to dating less mature men (got crabs?), and the Mr. Big storyline heats up once again. Four and a half for this one:





Episode 18: Ex and the City

Carrie, attempting to be friends with Big, learns that he is engaged, which sends her into a tailspin. Steve comes back into Miranda's life. Charlotte revisits her childhood relationship with a horse, and Samantha dates Mr. Too-Big, when even she can't handle a big package.

An excellent episode, this one nicely wraps up many of the season's storylines and provides some growth for each character. The Samantha subplot is pure fun, and it's nice to see Steve back in the picture. The way the Big/Carrie relationship is wrapped up (for now) is perfect, and the season ends on a real high point. Five stilettos:



Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The first season release of Sex and the City was, I'm sorry to say, pretty pitiful in terms of video quality. Colors were dull, black level was poor, and the images were so grainy, they looked more like VCD bootlegs than studio produced DVDs. I'm happy to say that, with this release, HBO has improved the image quality tenfold. It's really like night and day. Of course, there are still quite a few problems with the picture. Grain is vastly reduced, but still visible in well-lit shots, especially scenes taking place outdoors in the sun. Artifacting is apparent more often than I'd like (though I suppose I'd like it never to be apparent), and while blacks look more solid, shadow detail is still lacking. Colors look much better this time, full and saturated with natural fleshtones throughout. Not the best transfer of TV to DVD, but suitable, and much preferable to the first season, probably better looking than you'd see on most cable hook ups.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: This is an entirely dialogue driven show, so don't expect a whole lot out of the 2.0 mix. About all there is to say is that dialogue is presented clearly and cleanly, and when music is used, it fills out the narrow front soundstage a bit, and is well integrated so as not to overpower speech. There is no audible hiss on the track. I really can't complain about the presentation, as there isn't much more to the show than dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
20 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Awards and Nominations
Extras Review: Extras are pretty slim, but with six episodes packed onto each disc, it isn't much of a problem. In addition to text summaries and TV spots for each episode, the set includes some meager supplements on each of the three discs. Disc One has a rather extensive cast and crew biography/filmography section. Disc Two provides a text list of the award nominations earned during the second season. And finally, Disc Three includes some video extras: a short featurette fluff piece on the second season, a promo for the season one DVD release, and an ad for the second season's television airing.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

The second season of Sex and the City is amazingly consistent entertainment, a quality that won it the Golden Globe® for best comedy series. Each and every episode on this three-disc set is worth watching and re-watching. Subsequent seasons are supposed to be even better (the show recently picked up an Emmy® for best comedy in its fourth season) and I can't wait to own them on DVD. Not for the prudish among you, but well worth a look for everyone else.

 


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