Sex and the City Essentials: Mr.
Big is part of a collection of "best-of" episodes from
the HBO series Sex and the City. While established fans have
little to no reason to pick up a disc with a mere three episodes on
it, given that the show has already been released in season sets, the
Essentials discs are an opportunity for viewers like me, who
haven't followed the show, to try it out with committing to a whole
boxed set. (Commitment issues? Sounds like
a perfect Sex and the City topic.)
The Mr. Big collection
includes three episodes that, logically enough, all involve Carrie's
on-again, off-again flame, whom we only know by her nickname "Big."
As such, it's a bit of an odd collection to attract new viewers; it
feels more like it's aimed at viewers who would know the parts of the
ongoing story that are left out between episodes. But those are
exactly the viewers who already own all the discs...
In any case, let's take a look at
the three 30-minute episodes included on the DVD:
Sex and the City: Season 1,
episode 1. It's the first episode of the entire series, and it's
hands-down the best one in this collection. Snappy and fun, "Sex
and the City" introduces the characters and their often crazy
romantic/sexual lives. Though we know that the guy Carrie meets here,
whom she nicknames "Mr. Big," will be an important
recurring character in the series, in this first episode he's just
part of one thread in a lively episode involving all of the
Ex and the City: Season 2,
episode 18. An odd choice for an introductory collection, this
episode is the finale for Season 2. In the intervening episodes, Big
has moved from being a prospective boyfriend to being an
ex-boyfriend, and in this episode Carrie's tentative attempt to just
be friends with him is brought to a violent end by the news that he's
engaged. The "Big" thread is the least engaging in the
episode, as it tends toward the soapy; the other threads, with
Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha all dealing with "friend"
and/or "sex" challenges, are a lot more fun.
I Heart NY: Season 4, episode
18. Another season finale, this episode is definitely the weakest in
the collection. Carrie finds out that Big is leaving New York, and is
determined that he say goodbye to the city (and her) in style. This
story thread is the central one, and it completely lacks the snap and
energy that are what I like about Sex and the City. The other
threads are only so-so. Each draws on a lot of backstory, and I think
that viewers who are taking this disc as their introduction to the
series will find the dramatic changes in the lives of the characters
(especially Miranda) to be somewhat of a jarring shock.
The image quality here is
satisfactory. At times the image is a bit soft, but overall it is
clean and perfectly watchable, with good colors and contrast. The
episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is more
than sufficient for this dialogue-heavy series; the sound is clean
and it's always easy to understand the dialogue. A Dolby 2.0 track
and a dubbed Spanish 2.0 track are also included, as are English,
French, and Spanish subtitles.
There are no special features on
Taken as a whole, these three
episodes are definitely not the most inspiring introduction to Sex
and the City. Putting the first episode of the show in an
introductory series is a great idea; packaging it with two season
finales is a bit of an odd choice. Sex and the City Essentials:
Mr. Big feels like it wants to be bought by devoted fans of the
show, who will know all of the Mr. Big backstory and not mind the
enormous jump in overall story between episodes... but those fans are
the ones who'll want (or already have) the season sets. For the
casual viewer looking for a taste of Sex and the City, Mr.
Big is worth a rental for the first and maybe the second episode