"Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" - Sex and the City: The Ending(s)

Curator's Note

Writing about the last episode of Sex and the City (HBO, 1998-2004) seven years after bidding farewell to the series, I am faced with a conundrum. I wanted to write about a series that finished its TV life at the peak of its popularity, leaving many fans dissatisfied with the way ‘our girls’’ narratives were resolved. Lets face it, however the series ended we would have been disappointed. Consider reactions to the finales of The Sopranos, Friends and Lost.  And what about the ending of Charmed, where the series finished only to return and then finish again, all because of network indecision?

I wanted to write about a show that ended its original run on TV only to be reincarnated some four years later in cinemas. A non-ending of a TV series rather like that of Dallas, which left viewers wondering whether a single gunshot signaled the end of J.R. Ewing; until 1996, when he returned for the first of two TV movies and, in 2010, when the series was released on DVD presaging the announcement that Hagman would reprise his role for network TNT.

The ending (or non-ending) of Sex and the City clearly fits into a long tradition of TV series that finish, only to pop up again as re-runs and DVD releases, before migrating onto film and sometimes returning, revitalised, onto our TV screens.

So, what are we now to make of the appearance of three more endings that never made the final cut? Hotly rumoured at the time and made to forestall leaks in the lead-up to the finale, each extract shows a different resolution to Carrie’s narrative: in one she marries the Russian, in another she breaks up with Big and in a third she announces that they are staying together in unwedded bliss. When the series ended in 2004 YouTube had not been invented. We would have to wait another year for that innovation. So how then does the uploading and re-viewing of these different scenarios two years after the end of Sex and the City (in December 2006) impact upon our understanding of the series’ conclusion. And do not these alternative endings say much about the polysemic and open-ended nature of TV texts whose narratives are never truly meant for closure?

If the advent of YouTube means that we can now choose an ending to satisfy our own desires which one would you choose?


Thanks for your post, I had no idea that alternate endings existed. I am a huge SATC fan, and it is difficult for me to imagine the series ending anyway than it did on HBO in 2004. In some ways, I hated the films, particularly the second, because I felt they were extending the show's life beyond its shelf life. Beyond viewer polysemic responses, I'll posit that this franchise's lack of closure was more dependent upon SATC brand abilty to act as  vehicle for promoting modern urban hyperconsumer lifestyles centered around  shopping and excess. I didn't know who Manolo Blahnik or Louis Vuitton were before I watched Carrie spend money on them.

 I can't imagine the series ending in any other way either.  Big and Carrie were signposted to be together from the first moment they met.  An elongated romantic comedy - spread over 6 years - that had to end with them getting together (much like Rachel and Ross in Friends).  

I think that the films have a very hard act to follow.  True they can pick up where the series left off but the key to romantic comedy is that we never know what happens once the 'right couple' are paired.  After all the promise of the 'happy ever after' is what keeps the audience happy.  Sex and the City (the films), on the other hand, have to work against this.  The first showed the wedding - and the 'right' couple had to be kept apart for this to work.  The second showed what happened after the wedding.  This, I think, is the key to why everyone hated it.  

Carrie was pilloried for being a spoilt little girl - after all who wouldn't want to cuddle up to Big night after night watching TV?  But, this is not how romantic narrative works.  And it all has to be wrapped up in 2 1/2 hours when we had grown accustomed to the long TV narrative.  Recipe for disaster I say!

Yes, the films had their flaws but I think it was more to do with having to tell the story beyond the 'happy ever after' than anything else.  

I would still like to see a third.  Just to see how they would wrap everyone's stories up.  If, indeed that is possible.

I think this is very interesting, because in consideration with the advent of YouTube also came the advent of fan culture and video poaching. These alternative narrative endings to popular shows are ways that fan's can have agency over producer's intentions and make varied finales for the various audiences that all have different desires. I think it is smart for companies to do this because it promotes the show as well as will make many viewers have their "happy little ending". However, this also has a downside because it proposes that the producers will let the audiences experience different narratives (to a limited degree), but that they will always have control over what we want to see. It is a proponent of fan culture, addressing various demographics and audiences, yet limiting what we see and what the overall narrative structure is. This is a consequence of the convergence of mass visual media like internet and television.

Kaycelyn makes an interesting point about fan agency being produced or activated through these available alternate endings. The appearance of these alternate endings years after the show ended invites viewers and fans back into the story and reactivates their fan involvement; now they can rehash what "should" have happened through discussion and further consumption of the text. As a fan of the show myself, I am partial to the ending of the show that actually aired because of my own character biases, but if one is familiar with the story, none of these endings provide particular closure. As the show has taught us, Carrie and Big cannot stay together harmoniously, and neither can any other relationships that the show has introduced for it's lead character. The reappearance of these endings is somewhat open ended for capitalistic reasons: although the show was ending its long run on HBO, this ending temporarily subsided fan's hunger for closure and allowed for the later films to promise a nice and tidy "happy ending", and multi-millions for the franchise. 

     I found this blog topic to be very interesting. I have never seen or even heard of any of these alternative endings to the show. However, I believe that I understand why they went with the ending (or lack thereof) that they did. Not only did it allow them to make the Sex and The City movies, but the open ended ending to the show provides fans with a lot of freedom to use their imagination to explore the different possibilities within narrative. Many fans, especially females (Sex and the City’s target audience), are prone to transformative - rather than affirmational readings of the text so this room for interpretation can be taken advantage of. While this is true, there is also the other side. I personally rely on the official last episode and the movies as the canon text of how they left off the show and do hope that another movie will be released to either continue the show or give it more closure. 

I haven't seen Sex in the City, but I have watched the movie. I cannot say too much in regards to the show since my knowledge of it is quite limited, but I do have a few words for the alternative ending argument. I think alternative ending is a product of fan culture. Alternative ending provides a way where audience can interact with the program. It allows audience to read, analyze, and engage with the context of the show instead of screening it as just another entertainment activity. Although alternative ending is a good practice in fan culture, it may not necessary be the same for writers. Of course, as writers, they are given the freedom to control the narrative. However, when writers are asked to restrict their writing in the context that fan favors, it takes away their authority and power in the television world. Therefore, I think alternative ending can be good or bad. I personally would prefer television program or film to have only one ending because alternative ending takes away the realism in television shows and films. In reality, there is no alternative to an outcome. Perhaps we can learn from our mistake, but we cannot reverse the choices we made. Therefore, when we are given the choice to choose what we want as an ending to a narrative, it is obviously unrealistic.



As fans of a television program, like Sex and the City, over time we find that we began to have strong emotions and ties to the storyline and characters and begin engage critically in the text and tone of the show. Some audience members start to manipulate and adjust the outcome and reasoning of certain scenes and situations the characters go through so that it is more suitable to the way they view and connect with the program. In this article I found it to be interesting that Sex & the City appealed to the fans by letting them become apart of the show by offering an unanswered conclusion for the direction of the main character that allowed the fans to choose the course Carrie would continue on. By creating a series finale that doesn’t determine the path Carrie would follow shows how the show appreciated their fans by letting them guide the characters in the life they wanted to imagine them living after the show concluded. I found it to be interesting that later, once YouTube was created, we were able to view three alternative endings for Carrie. These alternative endings also entice the fans because it visually allows the audience to see Carrie choosing one of the scenarios that the series finale lead us to imagine after the show. Like the article says “…The advent of YouTube means that we can now choose an ending to satisfy our own desires…” I however disagree with the last argument that the open-ended nature of the text and use of alternative endings prevents closure to the show. Personally, I think that as a fan of a series like Sex & the City we do find closure with the way the story was ended because it allows the audience to determine and imagine the closure they find suitable for the characters even once the show is over. Having only become a fan of Sex & the City through re-runs of the show and without the knowledge of the movies I had imagine Carrie with Big. This outcome was always satisfying to me personally because I always wanted to see Carrie end up with the love of her life.


This is something that I’ve questioned as well. When shows, particularly Sex and the City and Friends went to DVD, I had always found it shocking when watching the extras to see that there were alternate endings. The idea of having alternative endings of the shows created new ideas in my head because it makes me wonder if each show finale would've been as epic as it really became. For example, in the season finale of Friends, Rachel ends up getting off of her plane for Paris and becoming, once again, a couple with Ross. There was an alternate ending where Rachel continued her flight to Paris, which would have created a different mood for the entire ending of the finale. Like mentioned above, I almost always prefer the endings that the networks choose because it seems like the pleasing and satisfactory for the show as well as the viewers.

Sex and the City, is one of my favorite shows. I have always appreciated the way the characters have been created. They characters are multi dimensional and as L.S Kim has said “they act and do,” instead of just talk about their problems and situations, like Ally McBeal.  It is interesting to know though, that for the show that is dear to my heart, creators had three different endings and that each ending was left opened. To me I thought that Sex and the City was closed but after reading this I realized I was wrong; that like Sex and the City, all the shows I like have been left open to start again. They are left open so producers, writers, and pretty much anyone can work off it again to create more money. To have something that has made lots of money to stay open whenever someone wants to use it again to make another season, spin off, or as Sex and the City did make a movie is something most producers should do.  It is a smart thing to do and people will keep on doing it as long as they can.  If I was a producer I would do the same thing. 

  As an avid viewer of Sex in the City I was at first excited when I read about the production of the first film. But after watching both of them, its frustrates me how far removed from the show they truly are.  The movies take the the idea of glamour and wealth to the extreme, completely fictionalizing and trivializing all original messages of the show, which truly showed, for the most part, a positive representation of the working woman in a post-feminine world.  For example, in the second film,  poor quality humor is used at the expense of women in burqas.  The movies, especially the sequel, are for mere cheep laughs and contain none of the original charm of the much beloved HBO show. Sometimes it is best to end a series on a positive note, rather than ruining its dignity just for the sake of profit. But then again, media these days seems to only be about making the big bucks. 


America seems to continually be unhappy with the outcome of many season finales. Mostly because people have diverse perspectives from differently decoding the stories that the producers shell out within the given series. Everyone roots for different teams, i.e.. Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, or Miranda, somehow each set of characteristics relate to someone’s personal goals or interests. Within the public sphere some even extend from inside the show’s life, and into personal life. The lines blurred with favoritism stemming from personal preference of Brad Pitt’s choice whether to vote for Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie. While, I am not a big fan of youtube, but I love that the advent of youtube inspired splicing up episodes and creating multiple character story endings. This type of art inspires creativity for the people who use the internet and use their minds in a thoughtful, and provoking manner.

 I am quite the fan of Sex and the City, because it in some ways is both a feminine and feminist text; half the time, I feel like Carrie is speaking my very own thoughts about my relationships and experiences.  I could never imagine another ending, because ultimately audiences cannot dismiss their hopes of the long-time, rocky, and passionate relationship between Carrie and Big working out.  I agree with Eleanor Seitz's comment about the show's "ability to act as a vehicle for promoting modern urban hyper-consumerist lifestyles centered around shopping and excess." Although, I do think that relationships are the prominent and integral element in the series; consumerism and excess are merely surrounding these relationships, which in many ways give us a distorted view love and happy-endings.

I have to admit, Sex in the City is one of my favorite television series. In retrospect, the relationship between Carrie and Alexandr was not authentic like the relationship Carrie had with Big. In my opinion the dynamic between Alexandr and Carrie, took the comedy away from the storyline and instead brought in  a romanticized pre-feministic appeal to it. In fact, if I remember correctly this is probably the first time the viewers are privy to Big's real name: John. Come to think of it this could have been the producers way for Carrie to say goodbye to the single-life and hello to a more mature life.

Although, Carrie's and Big's relationship was filled with more downs than ups, it presented a realistic feel of the struggles in which relationships can have. I was pleased with how the series ended, to bad I can't say the same for the movies. I guess I will just have to wait for the new TV series about the teenage Carrie Bradshaw.

The title of this article strikes me as highly appropriate to both the form and content of the show. The show constantly talks about the breaking up of relationships. The initiation of and "breaking up" of  sexual, romantic, and friendship based relationships is a pivotal discussion plot in many of the shows episodes. Thus, how does a show that features so many break -ups, constructs its own "break -up" with it's viewers? Just like Carrie and Big, the main characters of the show have never formally said goodbye. There have been two movies since the end of the television series and there are currently rumours circulating in the press, of a third movie. There is also a show called "Carrie's Diaries"
 stating in the fall of 2012, this show will introduce viewers to the pre-New York City, teenage Carrie Bradshaw. This show is a further indication to the never ending tv narrative in the context of Sex and the City. The show followed Carrie and Big through six years of make-ups and break-ups, despite "breaking up" on many occasion, they still got back into contact. The tv narrative also has never formally ended, both the ending episode and the films hold an arguably open-ended position. As a fan of Sex and the City, I nervously awaited the ending episode, and hoped that Carrie would leave Alexander Petrovsky in Paris and return to her rightful place in New York with her "great love" Mr Big. Therefore, even after reading about these alternative endings, I would still choose the original ending that HBO aired. The fact that developed media technology such as "Youtube" has showcased these alternative endings highlights a significant shift in instrumentality of fans. The media of the internet provides viewers with a heightened involvement in the proceedings of the show. The clips of SATC on the HBO website, the popular re-runs of the show on TV and clips such as the one above from youtube.com mean that like Carrie and Big, despite the "end" of the tv series, the viewer never has to formally say goodbye. The seemingly inevitable  "breaking up" between a TV narrative and it's audience is conquered.

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