On this day in 1998, the cable network HBO airs the pilot episode of Sex and the City, a new comedy series chronicling the lives and loves of four single women living in New York City.
The show’s creator, Darren Star, was best known at the time for producing the long-running Fox TV series Beverly Hills, 90210, and its spin-off, Melrose Place. For Sex and the City, Star switched coasts, loosely adapting a book by the same name by Candace Bushnell, compiled from a number of her columns for The New York Observer. In the pilot, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), who authors a similar newspaper column for the fictional New York City Star, and her three friends—Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon)—discuss the issue of whether women are capable of having sex like men. Carrie also has an embarrassing first run-in with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), with whom she will begin a tumultuous relationship that will last the length of the series.
Sex and the City didn’t really break out with fans until the second season, when the format of the show changed a bit: Carrie stopped addressing the camera directly, and simply provided a voice-over narration, and the man-on-the-street-type testimonials by different characters were largely omitted. The main premise—that each episode provides fodder for one of Carrie’s columns, each of which features a different question about sex, love and relationships—remained constant throughout the show, as did the unusually frank discussion and portrayal of sex that became the show’s hallmark.
At the Emmy Awards, Sex and the City was nominated in the category of Outstanding Comedy Series in each of its six seasons; it won the award in 2001. In 2004, Parker collected an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, while Cynthia Nixon triumphed in the supporting category. To win, Nixon beat out co-stars Davis and Cattrall, who had been nominated in five out of the six seasons of the show’s run. Cattrall and Parker both took home Golden Globe Awards for their performances as well, and the show received three Globes for Best TV Series – Musical or Comedy.
As soon as the series wrapped up in 2004, buzz began about a possible big-screen adaptation. Though the project stalled due to questions over money and Cattrall’s reported reluctance to sign on to the project, the plans finally came to fruition in late May 2008, when Sex and the City: The Movie was released to mixed reviews but great box-office success, including a $55.7 million opening weekend haul. As with the series, Parker served as an executive producer for the movie, which was written and directed by Michael Patrick King. A sequel, Sex and the City 2, premiered in 2010.