Season 1, Episode 12: Oh Come All Ye Faithful

“If I’d known he was Catholic I would never have gone out with him in the first place – they should make them wear a sign” – Miranda

ohcomeIT’S doubtful Miranda’s line would ever make it into a TV show produced in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean she’s wrong to feel uncomfortable about her boyfriend’s post-sex shower compulsion. She tries to ignore it but can’t help eventually pointing out the god-shaped elephant in the room, with disastrous results.

Carrie asserts that New Yorkers don’t enquire about the religious persuasion of their prospective dates, on the grounds that such a question is “too scary”. In the era of internet dating Miranda’s predicament is perhaps rarer, but ultimately the proof of the pudding is still in the fornicating.

Samantha goes to a jazz club alone, wearing a twinset. A suave fellow approaches and utters the line: “I couldn’t help but notice how you move to the music.” He gives her a bite of his donut and she simpers. What the hell? Is this a dream sequence? No, it’s a super-weird conversion to “believing in love”. But don’t worry – he has a 3″ penis, so it’s not going to last.

Charlotte has only a fleeting role in this episode, which is ironic given she goes on to convert to Judaism for a man. Two different psychics tell her she will never marry, which naturally comes as a disappointment given that she’s already bought her bridal lingerie.

Of course, the Big story continues to be Carrie and her insecurities, this time fuelled by his remark, after a Sunday-morning ambush, that his mother doesn’t need to meet “another girlfriend”. Parents don’t tend to have much of a role in Sex and the City – indeed, it only seems to occur to Carrie that Big might have a mother when she spots him accompanying her to church. I’m not sure the lady is ever seen or heard from again, but his hesitation about the introduction is the catalyst for the first of their many break-ups. As the series comes to an end Carrie mutters that she loves him and he just looks bemused, so that’s the end of that (for now).

Carrie’s column: Are relationships the religion of the nineties?

Fashion: Miranda’s church-going hat clashes with her ill-fitting dress and lipstick and Carrie also looks daft in a mismatched ensemble, but I suppose these outfits were intended to make them look a bit daft and out of place. There’s another meaningful mismatch with Carrie’s outfit for a doomed holiday – Parisian chic for a trip to the Caribbean? – but the combo of white off-the-shoulder top, navy high-waisted skirt and red mules looks fantastic on her.

Puns: Praying for some in season two.

Season 1, Episode 11: The Drought

“He’s just perfect perfect perfect perfect
… and I’m the girl who farts” – Carrie

droughtMR Big isn’t perfect at all. He has an entirely average physique, a floppy fringe he doesn’t really carry off, and at least one pair of old-man pyjamas. But he proves himself to have an excellent sense of humour in this episode when he puts a whoopee cushion on Carrie’s chair shortly after what the episode guide coyly describes as her “accidental emission” in bed.

Unfortunately our new favourite prankster somewhat insensitively follows this up by declining sex for three nights in a row, sending Carrie into yet another crisis of confidence that culminates in more pretty specific foreshadowing of things to come – “What if he never calls, and three weeks from now I pick up the New York Times and read that he’s married some perfect little woman?”

Meanwhile, Miranda’s going through a dry spell, Samantha’s driven to distraction by her flirtatious yoga teacher’s tantric celibacy, and Charlotte discovers that her boyfriend of several weeks has zero libido due to being on antidepressants.

Logically, the last of these problems deserves the most sympathy when the women get together – Charlotte having invested a fair bit in the relationship in the mistaken belief her beau was super keen – but its comedic potential is limited and Carrie’s self-absorption wins out, as always. In the end, Charlotte isn’t so very heartbroken. She articulates – and not for the last time – that while she might not be as liberal as the others, she could never be happy in a sexless relationship. In light of this, you might expect her to adopt a try-before-you-buy attitude to marriage…

Several features of this episode locate it very firmly in the late 1990s. One, Miranda’s frequent visits to Blockbuster video (an even more retro viewing experience than her later Tivo obsession); two, Carrie’s anxious wait for a landline answerphone message from Big; and three, sad to say, Samantha’s utterly incredulous assertion, in a diatribe about beauty standards: “A guy once broke up with me because I missed a bikini wax!”

Lastly, Mr Big has something approaching a Mr Darcy moment after making a surprise visit to Carrie’s (admittedly fairly grungy) apartment. After she reels off a list of its imperfections he stops her in his tracks with “I like it – I like it the way it is”.

Carrie’s column: “How often is normal?”

Fashion: Blunders continue to outweigh the triumphs. Carrie’s fail-safe seduction outfit is spoiled by her naff blue eyeshadow, Samantha’s yoga outfits assault the eyeballs, and Miranda wears the ugliest pair of denim dungarees ever manufactured. However, Charlotte wears a lovely bra in her scene of sexual rejection (I’m pretty sure it’s bridal lingerie – more foreshadowing!).

Puns: Carrie spends too much time worrying in this series. She tells Miranda she’s been putting on an act the whole time with Big, and hiding her imperfections. But surely that’s no excuse for keeping a lid on her terrible punning habit when among friends?

Season 1, Episode 10: The Baby Shower

“So all I have to do to meet the ideal man is give birth to him” – Miranda

babyshowerTHIS episode breaks from the established theme-with-four-strands template to focus entirely on a single storyline and a big issue – the gulf between childless single women and married mothers.

Lainey is a reformed wild child who’s surprised everyone by swapping flashing at Manhattan parties for domesticity in Connecticut. An invite to her baby shower serves as an unwelcome reminder of another lost friendship, and neatly coincides with a pregnancy scare for Carrie.

Samantha delivers the killer line of the episode – “Frankly, I think it’s sad the way she’s using her child to validate her existence” – but it’s swiftly tempered by a throwaway comment from Carrie and a voiceover describing Lainey and Samantha as arch rivals: “both wild, both sexy, both incredibly insecure”. Perhaps if the show had stuck with this conception of Samantha it would have avoided the accusation, endlessly repeated, that she was in fact a gay man in disguise. Viewers can process an insecure slutty woman – a confident one is a bridge too far.

Charlotte, naturally, is enthusiastic about celebrating the impending arrival, and the only one to actually buy a present – a fairly significant detail given Carrie’s later gripe about spending hundreds of dollars on such events with little hope of a return on her investment. But even Charlotte’s bubble is eventually burst when she discovers Lainey has committed an unforgivable act of betrayal: stealing her unique baby name. (Her eventual choices are much more sophisticated, so perhaps this was a blessing in disguise).

There’s a return to the vox pops that characterised early episodes, but this time they have a fantastical feel, with shower attendees confessing all to camera about the messy truth behind their perfect facades.

Carrie’s column: She’s so preoccupied with worries about whether she might be pregnant – and what kind of mother she might make – that she doesn’t actually get around to writing one.

Fashion: The maternity fashions in this episode are distinctly frumpy, without a “yummy mummy” look in sight. At first I assumed this was less a reflection of actual fashions at the time and more a way of providing a visual contrast between the mothers and main characters, but then I remembered the stir that was caused when pop star Melanie Blatt bared her bump on stage in 1998. The idea of pregnant women wearing figure-hugging gowns on the red carpet would have been completely baffling to viewers 15 years ago, and Lainey’s bump is discretely covered even when she’s gatecrashing a party in an attempt to turn back the clock.

Puns: No room for puns in this somewhat serious episode. I checked to see if it was the first written by a woman – it wasn’t, but it’s interesting to note the first seven were all by men.

Season 1, Episode 9: The Turtle and the Hare

You know who wants to get married?
Men who miss their mommies”
– Miranda

Black wedding

THIS is a very significant episode in the grand scheme of Sex and the City. Hots on the heels of the relevations about Mr Big’s ex wife, Carrie gets a shock when he lets slip he doesn’t want to get married again. That’s right, HE DOESN’T WANT TO GET MARRIED AGAIN. Worth bearing in mind for the future.

I’d forgotten all about Stanford’s granny and her inheritance-upon-marriage rule. There’s not really scope within the episode to discuss the fact that she seems to be sticking to this rule despite knowing Stanford is gay. And therefore, as this is the 1990s, unable to get married. Perhaps the deal is that he gets his when she dies, as is traditional with inheritances. I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m not certain, but I think Carrie breaks the fourth wall in this scene. I don’t believe that ever happens again.

Anyway, that plot strand is just a flimsy device, as is the one about an actual device – a Rabbit vibrator to which Charlotte becomes addicted. I have some serious hygiene concerns about the Rabbit scenes. Stop touching it in the shop! Stop touching it in Charlotte’s bedroom! Oh god, why are you putting it in your handbag? Gross.

Samantha’s plotline is also pretty weak, dependent as it is on the idea that her ballsy exterior masks low self-esteem and the even less plausible notion that she’d enjoy treating a man as a dress-up dolly.

There’s a nice retro touch when Stanford places a personal ad, but a contemporary-feeling result when the sole respondent arrives, looks him up and down and rejects him (the gay scene is “too competitive”, poor Stanford bemoans).

Carrie’s column: It’s not entirely clear which title she chooses for the column. She types up “Is it always better to marry someone who loves you more than you love them?” after a just-married friend whispers the assertion in her ear, but the final draft seems to be “In a city of great expectations, is it time to settle for what you can get?”

Fashion: The women all wear black to a wedding in the opening scene, which seems like a bit of a rude statement even if they do have to face the indignity of the children’s/weirdos’ table at the reception, but I’m no wedding etiquette expert. Carrie later wears a fairly minging royal blue and mustard tartan coat, but the worst offender in the episode is a cad Samantha meets at a wedding who invites her out for dinner and then – despite sporting attrocious blonde highlights – manages to chat up another woman instead. Stanford’s granny is super-chic in vintage Chanel.

Puns: Maybe I’m not listening closely enough.

Season 1, Episode 8: Three’s A Crowd

You in a threesome? You won’t even wear a thong!” – Samantha, to Charlotte

ep08_charlotte

IS Charlotte a prude? Or just a woman who knows what she wants and plays by her own rules, regardless of peer or partner pressure? It’s a surprising leap to go from an episode where she rules out blowjobs straight into one where she seriously toys with the idea of a threesome, and Carrie acknowledges as much.

The weaving together of contrasting stories linked by a theme continues to work very effectively, albeit Miranda’s strand about feeling rejected as a threesome buddy by the other three reveals an insecure, neurotic side that I’m not sure is evident anywhere else in the series.

While Charlotte is flirting with women at charity benefit nights, Samantha is becoming the third person in a marriage (unbeknown to the wife – at least initially) and Carrie is shocked to discover Mr Big was once married. As usual, it’s unclear to what extent the concealment of this information was a shady move on Big’s part. Had he omitted the detail during discussions of previous relationships, or had no such discussions taken place?

Curious to learn more about ex-Mrs Big, who happens to work in publishing, Carrie contrives a meeting. Refreshingly, the two women get on like a house on fire – but over lunch Carrie learns the marriage ended due to his infidelity, causing her further anxiety. The twist in the tail is that the divorcees are still on friendly terms, and Carrie’s research wasn’t quite as undercover as she’d hoped. We’re left to speculate about how she came up in conversation. Was ex-Mrs Big really such a fan of her work that she would happen mention the meeting when catching up with her ex-husband, or had he already told her the pair were dating? It’s a shame this character is never (to my memory) seen or hear from again. She would have been a plausible guest at the infamous wedding of film one, and could have popped up periodically to remind viewers that Big isn’t the slippery cad he so often appears.

Carrie’s column: “Are threesomes the new sexual frontier?”

Fashion: Charlotte sports a truly ridiculous hairstyle, but I do remember this half-up, half-down horror being a recognised trend circa 1999. Never forget.

Puns: Not a sausage.