Season Four of Sex and the City begins, as all great TV shows and movies should, with a Kirsty MacColl track! In this case it was “In These Shoes?”, from Tropical Brainstorm (2000), one of my fave albums of all time… although its awesomeness is somewhat tainted by the fact that MacColl met with a rather grisly fate not long after it was released. That makes it seem all the more fitting somehow, since this is the season when SatC wanted to prove that it could tackle more serious subjects than sex romps and shoe shopping. Unfortunately, the writers decided to dump all of their morbid material in the middle of the run, so in the space of just four episodes you get slapped in the face with the death of a family member, testicular cancer, and abortion, with barely a break in between to catch your breath, or fetch a fresh box of tissues. The season also ends with a “love note” to New York, which gained extra poignancy in the wake of the events of 9/11. Thankfully there was a lot of warmth and good humour woven into those tougher episodes, plus some great performances from the central cast to carry the load… and in truth, I think I prefer the show when it takes its characters seriously, and fleshes out their non-dating lives a little more. Unfortunately, this season also contains what I consider to be the lamest episode I’ve seen so far (ep 4.10), in which Mr Big and Aidan magically resolve their rivalry over Carrie by rolling around in the mud together. In general, I think both characters became far too broad and cartoony this season, which undermined the gut-wrenching potential of the “love triangle” that the series had worked so hard to establish.
Meanwhile, Miranda and Charlotte also had their own long-term relationships to wrestle with, and (in some cases) dissolve. But I’ve written about them already, and don’t want to get into any more specific spoilers, so I’ll just summarise: Trey = Meh. Steve = Yay! Samantha managed to pick up two potential partners this season, and swear monogamy to both of them… and yet, her friends always seem surprised and cynical whenever she claims to be in “love”. I appreciate that between these occasional commitments she’s pretty much engaged in around-the-clock shagging with any man who crosses her path, but still… she has yet to actively or maliciously cheat on a partner she’s sworn fidelity to, so it seems rather mean of her gal pals to mock her the way they do. Her first and foremost hook-up, was an artist called ‘Maria’, played by Sonia “The Brazilian Bombshell” Braga. Clearly Braga is a damn fine looking woman, but for some reason her hair really bugs me. I actually read a book of beauty tips aimed at Latina women once (it was cheap and had photos of Salma Hayek and Shakira in… that’s pretty much the only excuse I need), and it specifically stated that no grown woman should ever let her hair grow down below her bra line. I know that’s a fairly arbitrary call, but I have to agree… I’m an advocate of long hair for men and women, but there’s definitely a point at which it starts to look unwieldy and unnecessary. Braga’s hair hangs way past her waistline, which I found oddly distracting… so thank goodness she plays so many scenes with it safely tied up in a bun! Weird personal issues aside, I think it’s a shame they killed the relationship off so quickly, because I think Maria had the potential to be a far more interesting character than Richard, the generic businessman who Samantha eventually winds up with at the end of the season. It just seemed like they dealt with lesbianism in the shallowest way possible, and then shrugged it off with a cheap gag about how all women want to do is take candlelit baths and talk about their relationships. What about her Art? What about her career? What about her (entirely hypothetical) ex-husband and/or children? If they’d given her a daughter, Braga might even have been able to get her niece Alice to play the part! There was a deep well of potential there for conflict, comedy and slightly over-the-top “telenovela” emoting… but all they did was skim the surface.
The writers seems equally dismissive of gay men (which is a little odd, since they fall well within the show’s target demographic), and constantly depict them as a disposable, sycophantic “safety net” that any single woman can call upon when she wants someone to call her “fabulous” or “fierce”… and then promptly ditch again, before they can develop interesting storylines or lives of their own. I really wish Mario Cantone got more scenes as ‘Anthony’, because there’s something inherently amusing (but also rather admirable) about a wedding planner who’s so deadly serious over winning his clients the wedding of their dreams. It’s the application of an overtly masculine and combative mentality to a traditionally “feminine” and romantic occasion… just makes me laugh, is all. Dude should get his own spin-off movie.
Braga aside, there were a few other fun celeb-cameos to spot… Alan Cumming played a rather bitchy stylist who insisted on being called simply ‘O’ (ep 4.2)… Aasif Mandvi appeared as an arrogant tech support guy called ‘Dmitri’ (ep 4.8)… Ron Rifkin appeared as a fatherly fashion editor called ‘Julian’ (ep 4.17)… and Lucy Liu appeared as a stunningly beautiful, freckle-faced actress from Queens, called ‘Lucy Liu’ (ep 4.11). Hurrah!
– I kinda dig the “Queens” accent… based on what I heard of it here in Liu’s imitation, and from Ana Ortiz in Ugly Betty.
– I wish I had a partner like Miranda (or even an inner-Miranda of my own) to give me a kick up the arse when I’m procrastinating or trying to bury my head in the sand. Tough love FTW!
– She also knows how to pamper herself: The Daily Show and chocolate cake… now that’s livin’!
– Judge Judy would most definitely not approve of the characters’ behaviour this season… especially when one of them agrees to make a large loan to another, without discussing a payment plan or putting anything in writing. Tch!