- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

NEW YORK

“Sex and the City,” opening in theaters today, looks to be a surefire hit. Women across the country discussed the finale of the television series that aired on HBO from 1998 to 2004 for weeks afterward. They’ve been anticipating the big-screen version ever since - and the series has picked up millions of new fans since TBS started airing sanitized reruns of the frank look at the (sex) lives and loves of four women in New York City.

While the series saw the four stars - Sarah Jessica Parker as writer Carrie, Kim Cattrall as PR exec Samantha, Kristin Davis as art curator Charlotte and Cynthia Nixon as lawyer Miranda - go through a string of men, the movie focuses on their relationships with the four men they ended up with when the show came to a close. Some may wonder why the world needs a movie based on a television series that ended four years ago, but Miss Nixon said the reason is to look at what happens after happily ever after.

“More things happen, and some of them are good and some of them are bad,” she says. “A lot of them are unexpected.”

That focus on not finding a relationship, but making one work, is why forgiveness - something not often addressed in the series - is such a big part of the film.

“Forgiveness is a theme that [writer-director Michael Patrick King] thinks about a lot. He’s kind of a religious guy,” Miss Nixon reveals. “When the series started, we would date guys for just one episode and break up with them for seemingly inconsequential reasons and there wasn’t any real price to pay. You can’t keep doing that, you shouldn’t keep doing that, especially when you hit the ages that we are.”

Mr. King responds, “Forgiveness doesn’t really have to do with any religion except the relationship religion. … It’s really about love. The hardest thing about being a human being is feeling everything love implies - great sorrow and great happiness and loss and all that. I have four female leads, so that’s a lot of ways to show forgiveness.”

When the series started, the women were in their 30s and starting to worry about finding a marriageable man. Ten years later, that issue becomes even more urgent, but their relationships have grown up along with them. Forgiveness, Mr. King says, is “the grown up expression of love. Just like fairy tales are really bad for you, if you think they’re reality, if you think love is perfection rather than every day making something better and loving and forgiving and loving and forgiving, that’s really bad for you.”

Those are some surprisingly sobering thoughts in the middle of a summer chick-flick that’s also filled with prominent shots of expensive designer clothes and bags. While people like to look at that stuff, it’s not what they’ll take away from the film, Miss Davis says.

“That’s our favorite part of the whole entire endeavor, other than the fact that we all get to work together, that it makes you have these conversations,” she says. “The second the movie’s over, it makes you think about your own life, and your friends’ lives. I saw the movie and I had to call an ex-boyfriend. And I know what happens in the movie!”

All four women found it a bit hard to put into words just what the series has meant to them. “Sex and the City,” which started debates about men and women’s sex roles that still go on, was a cultural touchstone, after all.

“When we started the show 10 years ago, we were on a network that was really under the radar,” Miss Parker recalls. “It was pretty male dominated - sports, the great ‘Larry Sanders Show.’ Still, there was this male audience that dictated programming.” That changed once “Sex” hit the airwaves. It not only gave new life to HBO, it spawned a whole genre of female-centered television programming.

“I’m a New Yorker. My mother worked as a correspondent in the ‘60s for CBS News, and I’ve been coming to the city since then,” says “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” star Chris Noth, who plays Miss Parker’s love interest. “It’s fun to be a small part of its cultural history.”

“It was a rare, magical occurrence,” Miss Davis says. “We just feel lucky and try to live up to it.”

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