×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Sex and the City’ Brought ‘Candid and Comical’ Take on Relationships to HBO 20 Years Ago

It’s the 20th anniversary of “Sex and the City,” which debuted June 6, 1998, under lots of pressure. Pay cabler HBO needed a tentpole hit to replace its popular “The Larry Sanders Show,” which was ending after six seasons. Some pundits were skeptical about the new series, but in an April 27, 1998, interview with Variety, HBO exec Chris Albrecht predicted success: “It has a great female point of view and that’s something we don’t have a lot of.”

The series, created by Darren Star based on Candace Bushnell’s newspaper columns, centered on four women in their mid-30s and older, as they dealt with work, romance, sex, health, fashion and life. But the core of the show always remained the friendship among the quartet. It became a huge hit, and when “The Sopranos” debuted six months later, HBO got an unprecedented one-two punch, with comedy and drama series that could score big in industry awards, media coverage and audience buzz.

Creators of any TV series hope for one home-run hit. With “Sex and the City,” Star had the distinction of three enduring series — including “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Melrose Place” — that tapped into the zeitgeist.

In an interview with Variety’s Michael Sheats shortly before the debut of “Sex and the City,” Star praised HBO, saying, “I can’t think of another place that would give us the freedom to produce this candid and comical take on contemporary sex and relationships.”

The “candid and comical” combination proved keys to the show’s drawing power as the women — played by Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon — explored their personal triumphs and insecurities, as well as those of their partners. The show was consistently funny, often touching and sometimes shocking.

In a 1998 preview of upcoming cable series, Variety had it as Pick to Click. The show took a quantum leap from its pilot to its second episode. And while the first season was popular, the comedy really hit its stride in the second season, among both men and women (including “Which character are you?” discussions). It also helped set fashion trends, thanks to the imaginative work of costume designer Patricia Field.

A team of women writers and producers, as well as directors including Nicole Holofcener, Allison Anders and Susan Seidelman, helped ensure that the female point of view was presented accurately and with a sense of fun.

“Sex and the City” earned 54 Emmy nominations, with seven wins; there were two big-screen adaptations, and the series remains popular in repeats. Now, 20 years later, the stars are still creating headlines, from the online feud between Parker and Cattrall, and the New York gubernatorial candidacy of Nixon.

More TV

  • James Schmerer

    James Schmerer, 'MacGyver' and 'CHiPs' Writer, Dies at 81

    Prolific television writer James Schmerer, whose credits included “The High Chapparal,” “MacGyver” and “CHiPs,” died on Oct. 4 at his home in Eugene, Ore., following a stroke. He was 81. Schmerer, a native of Flushing, N.Y., launched his television writing career in the 1960s and became a member of the Writers Guild of America West [...]

  • CBS

    CBS Directors Initiative Unveils Class Of 2019-20

    CBS has announced the four participants chosen for its 2019-2020 Directors Initiative. The initiative, which is now in its 16th year, aims to provide a platform for experienced directors to gain access to showrunners, execs, managers and agents, as well as shadowing network and TV studio shows at CBS throughout the year. This year’s participants [...]

  • Lori Loughlin

    Lori Loughlin Charged With Bribery in College Admissions Case

    Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, were indicted on a charge of conspiring to commit federal programs bribery on Tuesday, in connection with allegations that they paid $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California. Loughlin and Giannulli already faced charges of conspiring to commit mail fraud and money [...]

  • Live+7 Ratings for Week of Oct.

    Live+7 Ratings for Week of Oct. 7: 'This Is Us' Overtakes 'Masked Singer'

    “This Is Us” and “The Masked Singer” continue to dual it out at the top of the delayed viewing ratings chart, with the NBC drama narrowly overtaking the Fox singing show after seven days of delayed viewing for week 3. “This Is Us” was the biggest grower of the week, adding a 1.5 rating to [...]

  • Gary Newman

    Fox TV Group Alum Gary Newman Joins Attention Capital as Executive Partner

    Former Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman has joined Attention Capital, the startup venture launched earlier this year by another Fox alumnus, Joe Marchese. Newman and another media biz veteran, Lisa Gersh, were named Tuesday as executive partners of Attention Capital. Newman will focus on acquisition and investment opportunities. Marchese, who previously headed advertising sales [...]

  • Matt Lauer Kurt Sutter

    From Sutter to Lauer, Hollywood Sees a Flurry of Letters From the Edge (Column)

    Let’s talk about the whacked-out letters that hit the media sphere in the past eight days. One was that bizarre mea culpa dropped Oct. 17 by the no-holds-barred showrunner Kurt Sutter in response to getting canned from his series “Mayans MC.” No stranger to complaints of unprofessional behavior on his sets over the years, Sutter [...]

  • Lisa Ling attends the 2018 Baby2Baby

    Lisa Ling Inks Overall Deal at HBO Max, Sets Dan Rather-Inspired Docuseries

    Lisa Ling, the former “View” co-host who currently emcees “This Is Life with Lisa Ling” on CNN, has inked an overall deal with forthcoming streaming service HBO Max. As part of the deal, which marks an expansion of Ling’s relationship with CNN and HBO Max parent company WarnerMedia,  HBO Max has given the greenlight to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content