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TV Series Review

Broadcast TV viewership is down eight percent from last summer. Basic cable channels, meanwhile, are up eight percent thanks to USA’s Monk, MTV’s Newlyweds, FX’s Nip/Tuck ... and reruns of Sex and the City on TBS. HBO made a killing selling Sex for six seasons straight. Now TBS has trimmed the salacious series’ R-rated romps and given it new life for a new audience.

The women of Sex and the City won’t admit it, but they live by a single credo: Men are scum, and we want to be just like them. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) has only one rule about sex, and that’s never to sleep with a man she’s known for less than a day. She has trouble following it, though, concluding, “I can’t be hemmed in with rules. I have to go with my emotions.” Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) convinces herself that “true romance cannot exist without good sex.” And Charlotte (Kristin Davis), devoted to finding the perfect man who has “looks, manners and money,” isn’t above posing for a painting of her vagina. But none of these sex-crazed sirens begins to compare to Samantha (Kim Cattrall), a nymphomaniac who sleeps with everyone from doormen to teenagers.

“Welcome to the age of un-innocence,” Samantha says. “You have two choices: You can bang your head against the wall, or you can try to find a relationship where you can say, ‘Screw it,’ and just go out and have sex like a man ... without feeling.”

Sex is more than a title here, it’s an obsession with few consequences. Editing has brought the series down from a TV-MA to a TV-14 level, but just because bare breasts and explicit couplings are no longer part of the package doesn’t make it watchable. Sexual positions are still seen onscreen, as are naked backsides. The s-word sometimes slips through, too, and discussions include the pros and cons of anal sex, the downsides of marriage and the hip-factor of homosexual hookups. Everything gets turned into innuendo or double entendres, from restaurant pepper grinders to paintbrushes. And just about everyone gets drunk.

Teen boys might tune in Sex and the City to be titillated. Bad idea. Worse yet is for young women to ingest its deeper messages: Shop for expensive shoes. Get over your passé, flowery femininity. Play the game and stop whining about sexual inequality. Make the playing field even by lowering yourself to the level of the most unscrupulous male lech and all will be well. It works for Carrie, who apparently hasn’t read Luke 9:25. After casual sex with an ex she gloats, “I left feeling powerful, potent and incredibly alive. I felt like I owned the city.”

Episodes Reviewed: June 22, 23, 29, 30, July 6, 7, 2004

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