Darren Star started his career with the soap operas "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place". Neither was going to win awards, but both caught on with audiences and swept up ratings until both had gone on longer than they should have. In 1998, the producer/writer created HBO's "Sex and the City" (based on Candace Bushnell's book), a show that originally gained a solid cult following, but rapidly gained mainstream acceptance once word-of-mouth began and the awards started rolling in.
What is it about the show? Personally, I think it's a marriage of perfect casting and sharp writing. Two Star-produced shows that were promoted as such, "The $treet" and "Grosse Pointe", didn't last more than a few episodes when they premiered in 2000. Yet, "Sex" still continues to get high ratings and, if anything, is more popular and somewhat more substancial than before.
The film stars Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, a columnist who writes about sexual issues. She's accompanied by flirty, naive and adorable Charlotte (Kristin Davis), sexually agressive Samantha (Kim Catrall) and lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon). The casting is excellent; while there's many who seem to dislike one or the other, it's difficult to deny that the four seem like believable friends - and more so as the seasons have gone on.
The third season continued the show's raunchy nature, but started to move away from it slightly, as the show started to focus on commitment - Charlotte gets married to Trey (Kyle McLachlan) and Carrie meets Adian (John Corbett), but ruins the relationship by returning to Mr. Big (Chris Noth) for an affair. The series also jumped to Los Angeles for three episodes, although the show didn't seem to find much humor about Los Angeles culture. It's an example, in my opinion, of how the show can occasionally be inconsistent. Still, while not realistic, the show is often funny, insightful and entertaining. It's branched out a bit more in the third season and went in new directions rather than continuing to try and do what it's done up until this point. Hopefully, the creators will be able to continue to develop the characters and add a bit of range, while still keeping the kind of raunchy humor that originally brought it controversy and notice.
Season Three: Disc 1: "Where There's Smoke", "Politically Erect", "Attack of the 5'10' Woman", "Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl", "No Ifs, Ands or Butts" and "Are We Sluts?".
Season Three: Disc 2: "Drama Queens", "The Big Time", "Easy Come, Easy Go", "All Or Nothing", "Running With Scissors" and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (the audio commentaries are on the last four of these episodes).
Season Three: Disc 3: "Escape From New York", "Sex and Another City", "Hot Child In The City", "Frenemies", "What Goes Around Comes Around", "Cock-A-Doodle-Do".
VIDEO: "Sex and the City"'s season III episodes are, as were the last two sets, presented in 1.33:1 full-frame. The picture quality for the first season suffered from some problems, but the second season looked more consistent. The third season looks even slightly better than the prior one. Sampling several episodes, the picture quality looked very good. Sharpness and detail remained quite pleasing, as the epsiodes looked crisp and well-defined.
The one issue that was quite apparent in the first season and a bit less so in the second season still lurks here: noticable grain is occasionally seen. Still, it's slight and certainly appears less frequently than prior seasons. Pixelation and edge enhancement weren't noticed. Colors looked natural and vivid throughout, with no smearing. Overall, the episodes looked quite good - definitely better than the appearance of the first season and a little bit better than the second season's episodes looked. Surprisingly though, there were no subtitles included.
SOUND: "Sex and the City" is again presented by HBO with the show's original 2.0 soundtracks. The show's audio is perfectly fine, simply offering the dialogue and often-pleasant background score. Occasionally, some nice ambience enters in, as well. The audio maintains a nice balance between ambient sounds, music and dialogue, while all three sound crisp and clear.
MENUS: As with the prior two sets, HBO has offered elegant and fun animated main menus for this new set. Sub-menus are easily navigated, well-designed and informative, offering text summaries of the episodes and more.
Commentary: The other two season sets for "Sex and the City" have been bare-basics in terms of supplements, but this set actually adds a commentary from executive producer/writer Michael Patrick King for four episodes on the second disc. The producer/writer's commentaries are actually very good and have a lot to say. He goes into detail about the production and writing process and also has some good insights about the creation and development of the characters. Throughout the four shows, the chat gives a very good overview of how the show works.
Also: Episode promos, cast/crew bios, awards text, DVD-ROM weblink.
Final Thoughts: While I've never been a serious fan of the series, I've liked catching up on the show with the DVD releases - the third season continues to offer the same solid writing and performances. This new 3rd set offers slightly better audio/video than the already fine 2nd series episodes and even brings some additional supplements to the table. Definitely recommended for fans.