Sex and the City Essentials: Romance rounds out a set of "best of" discs from Sex and the City. We've had Lust, Mr. Big, and Breakups; now we have three episodes on the theme of "romance." The episode choices are rather odd here, though, making this a poor choice as a sampler of Sex and the City episodes for new viewers... and for longtime fans, the Essentials discs offer too limited a selection to substitute for full season sets.
Let's take a look at the three 30-minute episodes included here:
Baby, Talk Is Cheap: Season 4, episode 6. The main story thread here is Carrie's obsession with Aidan, now that she's decided that she wants him back in her life. I found this part of the story to be not particularly interesting; it really requires that the viewer have a fuller context for the story to appreciate it, and that's lacking here. The other sub-plots involving Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha are better, but only Miranda's encounter with "Marathon Man" has real sparkle.
Hop, Skip and a Week: Season 6, episode 6. It's a passable episode, but one that seems more concerned with moving the dramatic story threads forward rather than telling an effective comic story. Charlotte's experiences with the "synagogue singles scene" are by far the best part of the episode, but the thread involving Carrie and her would-be boyfriend on a "break" just feels too heavy.
An American Girl in Paris (Part Deux): Season 6, episode 20. Whose bright idea was it to put the final episode of the entire series on a three-episode sampler? Just the second part of a two-part series finale, at that! Regardless of how good the episode might be, or how beloved of fans, it's just an exceptionally poor choice for a disc that seems largely aimed at new fans.
The three Romance episodes appear in their original television broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The image quality is satisfactory, with good colors and contrast, and a generally clean print. There's nothing here to distract the eye; the image is sometimes a little bit on the soft side, but that's not a big deal for the show.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack handles the show's dialogue perfectly well, with the actors' voices always sounding crisp and distinct, and the other elements of the soundtrack balanced well. A Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is also included, as is a Spanish 2.0 track. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided as options.
There are no special features on this set.
The episodes here aren't bad, but are poorly chosen no matter who the intended audience is (something that's far from clear, anyway). If you're a devoted fan of the show, you'll want to see these romantic episodes in fuller context rather than lifted out of the surrounding season. If you're a newcomer who's interested in sampling the series to judge whether or not to watch a whole season, the heavy reliance on backstory and drama will likely be off-putting... not to mention that including the show's very last episode on a sampler is a really bad idea. I'm going to say that viewers are better off skipping this one; the Lust, Mr. Big, or Breakups collections are better choices if you're looking for a taste of Sex and the City. Skip it.