‘Sex and the City’: What Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha Were Doing 15 Years Ago, Today
Fifteen years ago today, HBO debuted Sex and the City, a comedy of sorts about four single women living, working and trying to find love in the concrete jungle that is New York. Very quickly, the show went on to become one of the most discussed, debated and important shows in modern-day history, for reasons that were both good and, well, not.
But back on June 6, 1998, it was just a rusty pilot, in which protagonist Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her three girlfriends — Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) — openly (and, by 1998’s standards, frankly) discussed the pros and cons of sex vs. love, sometimes to each other, other times to the camera. (Thankfully, that quirk disappeared midway through season 2.)
So what were Carrie and the girls doing back then? For those who can’t remember, here’s a little refresher.
At the start of the show, Carrie, a cynical-hopeful sex columnist for the fictional New York Star, debates a question that would remain a constant throughout the show’s six-season run: Was it still possible to find love in Manhattan? Or were all women destined to keep living in the sex-driven age of uninnocence (show’s pun, not mine) while they dreamed about marrying Alec Baldwin? Her fashion was a bit on the rough side (that hair!) but even then she knew a thing or two about trends. (Manolo Blahnink strappy sandals are mentioned around the four-minute mark.)
After her British friend Elizabeth (who, like many of the show’s early secondary characters, was never to be seen or heard from again) is unceremoniously dumped by a well-to-do banker, Carrie heads to Miranda’s drag queen-infused birthday dinner, where she and the girls debate whether love is indeed dead. It is there in which Samantha informs everyone that, for the first time in history, women are as rich and powerful as men. Which, of course, means they can have sex like them, too.
This leads Carrie to the Thought Heard Round the World about nine minutes in:
Was it true? Were women in New York really giving up on love and throttling up on power?
She decides to test her theory by sleeping with “the loathe of her life,” Kurt Harrington, after running into him at a bar. (Hey, it’s research!) The plan, in which she will have a pleasurable, but emotionless, relationship, works swimmingly — that is, until she accidentally drops condoms (ultra-textured Trojans with a reservoir tip, for those keeping score at home), in front of a charming, attractive man on the street. Of course, this man, named Mr. Big (or, John James Preston, ugh), would eventually become Carrie’s husband by the time those crap-awful movies came about. But in that moment, he was just That Really Handsome Guy Who Once Wore Cool Ties on Law and Order.
This being television and not real life, Carrie bumps into Mr. Big again at a club called Chaos, which is described as a modern-day Cheers, where “everyone knows your name, except here they were likely to forget it five minutes later.” Fun! They flirt, and chat and get all intellectual about things. Then, on the car ride home, Carrie poses her sex vs. love theory to Big, who, ha, laughs in her face because it’s obvious to him that she’s never been in love before. Carrie quickly freezes in her place thanks to some handy-dandy post-camera editing, and is left to think about that on-and-off for the next six years.
And voila! A show is born.
Miranda, a cynical corporate lawyer, is sick and tired of dating in Manhattan when we first meet her, and spends much of her time ordering crappy food at delis and complaining about things in parks (which, again, would become another one of the show’s constants).
But because she’s now in her thirties, she refuses to settle. Which makes things very difficult when Carrie sets her up with Skipper Johnston, a website creator and hopeless romantic. They have their first date at Chaos (where else?) and it goes pretty badly, but not so badly enough that she can’t go home and sleep with him. (Hey, men do it, too!)
Skipper would stick around for about a season in change — basically until the writers created the similar-acting Steve Brady and cast the similar-looking David Eigenberg to play him. (Steve, of course, knocked up and married Miranda in the end.)
Charlotte, an optimistic art dealer, chooses Team Love early on in the episode, a team she would continue to support through two marriages and six seasons. (Constants!) She tests her own theory out on Capote Duncan, one of the city’s “most notoriously ungettable bachelors.” They go to a cocktail event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the date goes so well that she agrees to go back to his apartment. But since Charlotte can’t buy into the sex-over-love theory (she just wanted to see his artwork), she calls it an early night and hails a cab home to W. 4th and Bank.
Unfortunately, that address turns out to be music to Capote Duncan’s ears, because — gasp — it’s close to Chaos! So, deciding that he “really needs to have sex tonight,” he shares a cab with Charlotte downtown, never to see her again. (Hey, maybe he hooked up with Elizabeth in the end.)
In our first encounter with Samantha, a sex-obsessed something-or-other, she’s talking all about her ex, Drew, and how he taught her that, yep, women can have sex like men and it can be wonderful. (Whaddya know? Another constant.) She’s a beautiful, successful woman who, as Carrie would later describe, “had the kind of deluded self-confidence that caused men like Ross Perot to run for president.”
And it’s this self-deluded confidence that leads her to hit on Mr. Big, whom she describes to Carrie as “the next Donald Trump, except he’s younger and much better looking” when she sees him at Chaos, of all places. Unfortunately, Big prefers love to sex, leaving Samantha’s whole theory in peril as she’s left to drink alone in the dark shadows of that stupid-looking club. (Seriously, what the hell was that place?)
But wait! Because this is still television and not real life, Samantha eventually gets her moment in the spotlight when she and Chaos’ other sex-hungry patron, Capote Duncan, meet, go back to his apartment and have man-style sex, which was hopefully never discussed with Charlotte.
So, that was the set-up for the show, which, for all of its pilot-happy flaws, actually managed to lay out a solid and consistent foundation for its four main characters. The quality of their subsequent storylines is a whole other issue, but let’s save that thought for another anniversary.