In 1998, HBO was a subscription-funded cable channel known for movies and boxing. Its only established scripted series was the cult spoof, The Larry Sanders Show; its first drama, Oz, had debuted the year before to widespread indifference. No one, it was thought, would buy a subscription for a female-led sitcom – least of all one that featured the fading stars that were Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall, plus a couple of total unknowns. Most importantly, TV comedy was rarely about women and it absolutely did not deal with female sexuality, so the idea of a TV show centred around a niche newspaper column about the even more niche Manhattan dating scene, featuring four women and their sex lives, was clearly insane.
'Sex and the City', then – a romcom TV series that followed the lives of columnist Carrie, sex- mad Samantha, workaholic lawyer Miranda and eternal romantic Charlotte, as they navigated dating, sex, friendship and romance in Manhattan – was doomed from the start. And indeed, The Hollywood Reporter wrote off the first episode as ‘flat, bitter and flaccid. Perhaps if you’re a young woman in that Large Apple and figure there are too many women and no good men, you might find amusement here. Best of luck.’ Variety was equally dismissive: ‘plays spin the bottle with the issues and lands everywhere but the right places’ and ‘talk show fodder played out as fact-driven drama’.
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