A Four Girl Ensemble series running on HBO for six seasons, followed up by two movies and a prequel series. Single thirtysomething (or fortysomething) ladies date lots and lots of men (and one woman) and go through every possible dating foible out there. While earlier seasons had a Guy of the Week set-up and dating foibles drove the plots, the later ones were considerably more character based and focused on their respective long term relationships. While mostly episodic, there were several story arcs.Adapted from Candace Bushnell's tell-all New York Observer column (and subsequent book) of the same name.
Sex and the City provides examples of the following tropes:
Averted with the phone numbers. The producers signed up for phone numbers expressly so they could use them on the show and not have to do this. However, Carrie's address for the first few seasons, 265 East 73rd Street, doesn't exist (it's right where Second Avenue crosses).
Played straight though in some episodes in earlier seasons such as the episode "Valley of the Twentysomething Guys".
Adam Westing: Matthew McConaughey in "Escape from New York". Lucy Liu also appears as a client of Samantha's in "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda"
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Miranda starts dating a guy who is a bossy asshole in public, which she hates, but also a bossy asshole in the bedroom, which she loves.
The Artifact: The first season's episodes usually included montages of extras talking directly to the camera, supposedly answering Carrie's questions for her column and allowing the writers the opportunity to pad the show out a little with throwaway lines. By the second season, the characters could more effectively carry each episode, and they began reducing those scenes and got rid of them as a narrative device at the end of the season.
The Beautiful Elite: As far as middle aged single Manhattan women go, they're pretty good finds to say the least.
Big Applesauce: And how. To make it more interesting, nearly every one of the stores, clubs, and restaurants they hit is real. In interviews with some of the creators, they mention one of their goals for the series was to show that New York City is more than just the crime-ridden alleys and full of scary homeless men you see on TV.
Bigger Is Better in Bed: Several episodes mention this, but it's notably subverted in one where Samantha thinks she's going to have the best sex of her life with a well-hung man, and finds out she actually doesn't enjoy it.
The syndicated version. MAD referred to it as The View II. Some of the censoring of lines were not quite subtle.
"Get the frig out of my friggin suit, lady! There's a friggin fire!"
Upon finding out Miranda doesn't have a hotel room reserved for her: "Great. Great. Great." Carrie, embarrassed: "I'm sorry about her, sir, she's from New York."
Consequently, The Movie. Though it did feature a near-shot of a male member, and had one of the most revealing sex scenes.
Braces Of Orthodontic Over Kill: Miranda wore braces in "Hot Child in the City", after learning she was a tongue thruster. She had her braces removed by the end of the episode once she decided that being a tongue thruster was the lesser of two evils. Although the braces she wore looked normal, it's worth mentioning because she was in her mid-thirties, making her older than the usual children/teenagers you normally see wearing braces on tv.
Break The Motivational Speaker: When Charlotte takes Carrie to a relationship motivational speaker, Charlotte's almost tragically unsuccessful attempts at trying to find Mr. Right ends up stumping the speaker, who ends up suggesting she might just not be trying hard enough. Much to Carrie's frustration.
Brooklyn Rage: When the foursome goes to L.A., Miranda goes out to meet an old friend from New York — who has become much happier, skinnier, and abandoned all his "toxic rage" since leaving. It's an act.
Camp Straight: Charlotte dates an incredibly flamboyant straight guy, and thinks she's found the best of both worlds when it comes to men. But in the end she realized she wanted to be with a guy who's willing to step on a spider for her, and not stand on a chair screaming like a girl.
Captain's Log: Once per Episode finds Carrie at her computer summarizing the day's events. Played with when in one episode as she is typing on her computer, the narration suddenly is interrupted when the computer malfunctions.
The Casanova: Too many to count. Heck, there are even female examples — such as Samantha who loves hot, steamy, casual sex.
Caught with Your Pants Down: Miranda had a brief encounter with a guy who actually called his parents over specifically for them to accidentally walk in on them in bed, much to Miranda's horror.
Cerebus Syndrome: Somewhat in the final season. Charlotte struggles with infertility and a miscarriage, Samantha develops breast cancer.
Chronic Hero Syndrome: At first Charlotte thought it would be romantic dating a guy willing to punch out sleezy men who harass her. Until she realized he wouldn't stop picking fights with people over the smallest reason.
Converting for Love: Charlotte couldn't marry Harry unless she converted to Judaism for him. She takes the classes and ceremonies, and becomes a proud genuine Jewish believer, and willing to put away her treasured Christmas decorations to be "authentic", even when Harry says she doesn't need to. Even when they briefly break up she stays with the religion because it's what she truly identified with now.
Derailing Love Interests: Steve was a nice charming guy when dating Miranda the first time. But when the writers decided they needed to have her be single again, Steve suddenly became obsessed with the topic of babies and watching cartoons all day. This happens frequently with any Temporary Love Interest the girls pick up that only last an episode or two.
Digital Bikini: In the censored versions of the episodes they give the characters digitally added lingerie over their topless/nude bodies. If you didn't know otherwise you probably wouldn't even notice. Especially since Sarah Jessica Parker always wore a bra in her sex scenes anyway.
Discriminate and Switch: Samantha announces, with some trepidation, that she's in a committed relationship with a woman. Carries' aghast response: "You're in a relationship?"
Doomed New Clothes: Carrie's pink tutu, and the dress she wears when she falls in the river with Big.
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The Movie ostensibly had a message about rejecting the importance of labels (in both senses of the word), despite large chunks of the movie which are practically in-movie commercials for designer labels. The orgiastic display of wedding dresses alone... In a larger sense, the series as a whole falls victim to this concept. We're supposed to be at least somewhat horrified by the narcissism and shallowness that's all-too-frequently on display, but the characters and their environment are a bit too glamorous for the "moral" to really take. Bushnell's original columns were considerably more trenchant in their appraisal of their social milieu.
Double Standard: Miranda is often the one to point these out, like when she gets pity for being single in her 30s that one wouldn't bestow upon a single 30-something male. Yet she hypocritically insists that there must be something wrong with a 30-something unmarried man, whereas a 30-something unmarried woman is simply being "choosy".
Escapism: The biggest reason for the show's success. Everyone knows materialism is bad and the girls' One-Hour Work Week is hardly realistic, but millions of viewers tuned in just to see the four ladies live glamorous lives and screw hot guys in New York.
Everybody is Single: For most of the series. In the last season everyone had either gotten married or started up serious relationships. When Carrie mentions to someone that none of her friends are looking for a date right now, it sort of caught her off guard because she had never said this before.
Female Gaze: One of the first things Samantha said about Smith is "Will you look at that ass?"
Fetish: Entire episodes revolved around them, including ones which were Squick to some of the girls, such as a guy who wanted to be peed on.
Firemen Are Hot: Played straight and later averted (i.e., a calender-full of dancing mounds of muscle juxtaposed with a bunch of fat, hairy dudes eating chips).
First Gray Hair: Samantha, and not on her head. Leading to a horribly botched dye job. At the end of the episode, she solves the problem by shaving it all off.
Flanderization: With the exception of Carrie, all the female protagonists get this, particularly Charlotte, who goes from being the more innocent person (VERY relatively speaking) in her peer group to just being a complete moron.
Food Slap: Samantha Jones dresses in her finest and heads off to meet Richard, who's sitting at a table in very nice restaurant, waiting for her. As Samantha approaches him, he smiles and tells her how great she looks. She gives him a big smile back, tosses a drink in his face, turns on a dime, and triumphantly walks away.
Formally-Named Guest Dog: Carrie's book reading is interrupted by the appearance of one Mr. Winkle, a real celebrity dog, who has a book of his own which he's signing (by putting his paw print on it).
Friends Rent Control: Carrie can afford to buy her apartment back after she sold it. Miranda and Samantha have the money to live the lifestyle depicted, but not the free time. And averted with Charlotte, who came from money and got her large apartment in her divorce settlement.
Gretzky Has the Ball: Charlotte's King Charles Cavalier Spaniel is purchased because it has "one leg shorter than the others" and shown at a Westminster-like dog show in that episode, without training, while in heat. There's a lot wrong here, starting with the fact that estrous is an immediate disqualification from dog shows. The idea that an unevenly hocked dog with no prior experience, an amateur handler and a disqualifying (as well as obvious and terribly disruptive to the other dogs) medical condition could win any sort of legitimate major dog show is as accurate as saying Carrie Bradshaw could enlist and play for the NFL. The only thing remotely justifying about it is that the judge was enamored with the handler — but even that wouldn't have helped her get all the way to the show ring. Although, from what her previous owner said, she'd had extensive training and been entered in dog shows before, but never managed to win.
Happy Ending Massage: In one episode, the group learn a new sex technique, called tantric massage. The guy in their class ejaculates in Mirandas face and hair. Ew.
Hypocrite: Carrie's reaction to Aidan buying her a new computer, when most of what she buys could easily cost double.
Aidan: It's like a little purse. Carrie: That's a very expensive "purse".
The "I Love You" Stigma: Carrie once dates a recovering alcoholic who is extremely excited to experience sex without beer and loves it to bits. He says he loves her way to early and Carrie wants to slow down. He doesn't take it too well and relapses.
"When you're tired of New York, you take a nap-a. You don't move to Napa!"
This is lampshaded in an episode where Carrie tries to write an article for Vogue and the editor hates it, saying her cheap puns are terrible.
Infallible Narrator: Not only does Carrie seem to know every intimate detail in the lives of her three best friends, it looks like she describes it all in her popular magazine column! And her friends are never bothered by this!
Informed Attractiveness: Many men are described as exceptionally attractive and charming in-series, in a world of attractive, charming men. The girls get this treatment, too, particularly Sex Goddess Samantha, who is hot, but exists in a world of model-class women.
Ironic Echo: Carrie chews out Miranda in the movie using almost the exact same lines that Miranda used to hammer Steve earlier on.
"I'm sorry. I can't. Don't hate me."
It's Always Spring: For the first few seasons, thrown out entirely by the time of season 6.
It's All About Me: Carrie, who frequently redirects conversations back to herself and in the movie, whines that Big isn't taking the wedding seriously when he's trying to work.
It's Pronounced Tro-PAY : Aleksandr Petrovsky fails to teach Carrie the difference in pronunciation between his name and "Alexander". She gets around this by always referring to him as "My Russian".
I Was Quite a Looker: Samantha plans ahead and decides to have professional nude pictures taken now, so when she's "...80 and my tits are on the floor..." she can look back and remember.
Ivy League For Everyone: Carrie and Miranda went to Ivy League schools (Brown and Harvard Law, respectively). Charlotte went to Smith, a Seven Sisters College (which was essentially the Ivy League for Women until the actual Ivies went co-ed). It has been mentioned that Samantha has been to college, but never said which.
Jerkass: Too many to count, but the guy who gave Miranda an STD particularly stands out.
Jizzed in My Pants: Carrie dates a guy (whose family she adores) who always finishes even before they get it on.
Lady in Red: Samantha wears tight red dresses very often.
Law of Inverse Fertility: Charlotte is dying to get pregnant, while Miranda manages to get accidentally knocked up with one working ovary and testicle. Also, Charlotte finally does get pregnant the "old-fashioned way" after giving up following a miscarriage and a successful adoption.
Like Parent, Like Spouse: Carrie wonders if her problems with men have to do with her father walking out on the family when she was 5, though Miranda assures her that she has the exact same problems and her dad was home every day at 7.
Likes Older Women: Smith, and that college freshman Samantha slept with who promptly fell in love with her. In fact, nearly all of Samantha's boyfriends fall into this character, as most of them appear to be much younger than her.
Lingerie Scene: Notably with Carrie. Because Sarah Jessica Parker was a producer on the show, she never had to do her sex scenes topless, while the other women did. Especially noticeable during the episode set during Fleet Week. Through the course of the episode, Carrie ends up, unintentionally and uncomfortably, seeing the breasts of all three of the other ladies (Miranda when she was nursing her baby, Charlotte when a sailor convinces her to flash him, and Samantha because why the hell not?) Carrie was the only one who got off scot-free.
Love Freak: Charlotte is a true and passionate advocate of true love, and one season was determined to get married by the end of the year. This was mostly used as a foil to Miranda's jaded views on relationships, and Samantha's very casual outlook on love.
Lower Deck Episode: Stanford is the only character outside the lead 4 who ever got his own subplots now and then.
Man in a Kilt: Trey's wedding and during other formal occasions in his social setting, which is old money New York family of Scottish descent.
Man Child: One of Steve's key flaws is this, as he watches Scooby-Doo and talks with a vaguely-childish rhotacism (his "r" nearly becomes "w"). Miranda gets over it after a while. The actor who played Steve later gave an interview in which he good-naturedly complained about going from a guy who read Chekhov in bars to someone who was addicted to Scooby Doo.
Maternally Challenged: Carrie spends an episode now and then questioning if she's cut out for motherhood, and Miranda had next to no idea how to care for a kid, which is why her maid became so useful.
May-December Romance: Particularly Samantha (in her forties) and Smith (in his early twenties), though it's very down-played trope. Which made for some episodes of her being self-conscious. When she starts finding gray hairs (and not on her head), she worries that he'll stop thinking of her as an "older" woman and start thinking of her as an "old" woman.
Never Lend to a Friend: Carrie needs to get a mortgage on her apartment, but has apparently managed to spend all her money on shoes (no, really) so she doesn't have it. Miranda and Samantha offer to loan her the cash (she refuses) but Charlotte doesn't, because of this trope. Carrie whines about it, and Charlotte eventually changes her mind and lends the money to Carrie, who promises to pay it back with interest. It's never mentioned or brought up again.
No Bisexuals: Samantha refers to herself as a lesbian when she becomes involved with a lesbian artist, despite the fact she significantly enjoys sex with men as well.
No Guy Wants an Amazon: Miranda had to deal with this constantly. When Carrie dated a struggling writer, he resented her rising popularity and eventually couldn't handle her unintentionally overshadowing him.
Old Maid: All the girls, but they still get laid a lot and find guys all the time. The main overriding concern is whether they'll find someone to stay with- or whether this is something they even want.
Out-of-Character Moment: The only way for a last-minute hook up with Big to work in the show was for "The Russian" to inexplicably become a selfish neglectful jerk with violence issues. It's established pretty early on that Aleksandr and Carrie have nothing in common, and when Carrie naively goes to Paris with him, (as well as out of stubborness), Aleksandr constantly leaves her by herself while he works.
Samantha: First the gays, then the girls, then the Industry.
Pet Homosexual: Stanford and Anthony. Stanford does have his own occasional subplot though.
Pretty in Mink: So many furs. And in keeping with the "Everything's Better With" spirit of this trope, the furs are some of the few outfits worn more than once.
Product Placement: And how. Absolut asked them to make an entire subplot in an episode involving Samantha getting her boyfriend on an enormous poster in Times Square for their newest drink, Absolut Hunk.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Shortened fifth season due to Sarah Jessica Parker's pregnancy. Also, the length of time between the series and The Movie due to negotiations falling through with Kim Cattrall in the first go-round.
Right Through the Wall: Samantha's neighbours who always have loud sex after the late news. She joins in one night, and they invite her for a threesome.
Romantic Spoonfeeding: Harry buys Chatlotte some icecream dessert and she eats it while they walk on the street. She offers him a bit on a spoon and he later takes another bite from the cup.
Roommate Com: The four women from New York are not room-mates and in their thirties (older than the classic version), but otherwise the pattern fits very well — they date a lot and sleep around a lot, and most of the time they are seen at parties, shopping for shoes or having brunch together.
Serious Business: The episode where Charlotte's latest catch wants to try having anal sex with her. She and her friends have a group meeting and discuss the pros and cons of whether or not she should go through with this as if it was a serious personal crisis. For a woman like Charlotte who's dating a guy she really likes, it kind of is.
Settled for Gay: Carrie once seriously contemplated marrying her gay friend to help him access his inheritance. She decided against it after realizing she would be unable to convince Stanford's grandmother of his heterosexuality.
Sex With The Ex: Discussed frequently throughout the series. Carrie, Samantha and Miranda all hook up with ex-boyfriends, with varying degrees of success.
Carrie liked comparing her romances with various classic romance films. Including quoting lines and singing the theme to The Way We Were. Plus an episode between her and Big had the theme to Breakfast at Tiffany's playing throughout.
More subtle in one of the early fifth-season episodes where they go out to the Hamptons. Miranda says a sarcastic "Fabulous..." in response to something, followed immediately by Samantha shouting "Absolutely!" into her cellphone behind her.
Shrouded in Myth: One of the earlier episodes involves a man known only as "Mr Pussy", who is a cunning linguist of legend amongst Manhattan women. When Charlotte tries to date him, Samantha is aghast that she's "bogarting Mr. Pussy!"
The Smurfette Principle: A rare inversion: the show had no male characters at all in the main cast; even Big and Steve (the two most frequently recurring characters) appeared in rather less than half the episodes of the series. Carrie's friend Stanford, the next most frequent, showed up in less than a third of the episodes.
Sports Widow: One of Samantha's Guys of the Week refuses to have sex while his basketball team is playing. Sam tries to indulge his fandom, but when he turns out to have a team for every season, she walks away.
The Stoner: Samantha's often shown lighting and smoking a joint. The other girls happily smoke pot too, though none of them resemble the stereotypical unglamorous example of a marijuana smoker.
Stress Vomit: Carrie throws up in the sink when she discovers Aiden's engagement ring. She finds it ugly and she's not very certain about their relationship. A reaction this strong surprises her though.
Suddenly Sexuality: Ultimately averted. Samantha had a fling with a woman for a few episodes, which by her standards is pretty long. But in the end she realized she liked penis too much, and couldn't exactly settle with just using strap-ons.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Miranda's recurring love interest in season one was Skipper. But the rest of the series he's replaced by a very similar but slightly more attractive Steve.
Maria does one of these half-deliberately towards the end of her relationship with Samantha.
Teeny Weenie: An arc during one season dealt with Samantha's frustrations that an otherwise ideal partner was underendowed, and how she couldn't tell him. It ended (along with the relationship) when she blurted it out during couples counseling.
Subverted when one of the girls sets Carrie's gay friend Stanford and Charlotte's gay friend Anthony up on a date. Both men are insulted and annoyed because they have nothing in common apart from their sexual orientation.
And then un-subverted in The Movie when the two end up getting married
The Topic of Cancer: Samantha learns she has breast cancer. She luckily found out quite soon when she wanted to get bigger boobs.
Trailers Always Spoil: Or more to the point, DVD menus always spoil. If you have never watched the series before and are watching them on DVD, alot of plot items are given away on the seasons 2-6 DVD menus.
Transvestite: Samantha deals with some noisy ones outside her apartment by pouring a bucket of water on one of them.
True Love is Exceptional: Charlotte, who thought Trey was her prince charming but ended up finding true happiness with Harry.
24 Hour Party People: Anytime the girls hosted a birthday party, baby shower, wedding etc.; most of their guests were a bunch of random characters that were never seen before and would never be seen again for the rest of the series. Carrie frequently had pals she'd known for years who only appeared for one episode, but this can't explain all of them.
Two-Timer Date: Charlotte, who in one episode sets up dates with two men on the same night. It backfires on her when the first guy brings some chicken soup to her apartment since she said she was sick ... only to run into Charlotte and the other guy.
Charlotte only sleeps with short, pudgy, hairy Harry on a whim, but ends up falling for him, and he's by far the nicest guy in the entire series, and they're by far the happiest couple together. Since Kristin "Charlotte" Davis has frequently topped "Most Beautiful Woman Alive" lists, it's a particular stand-out.
A less extreme version is Miranda (slightly more attractive than normal) and Steve (slightly less attractive than normal).
Undignified Death: Lexi Featherston trips on her Manolo and falls out a window to her death in "Splat!"
Completely averted when Carrie cheats on Aiden with Big, as she and everyone else on the show agree that she was not in any way justified in doing it.
Played straight in The Movie when Carrie reacts to Big's temporary cold feet like he left her at the altar (even after he had changed his mind to go through with it), going so far as to chew him out in the middle of the street and have a Heroic BSOD over it. Her reaction may seem over-the-top to some, but considering all the things Big put her through over the course of the TV series and him almost standing her up was probably the straw that broke the camel's back. Carrie could have seen the situation as a panic attack, and stayed on the line to calm him down. Instead she saw the situation as an abandonment — an instant confirmation of all of her worst fears. She dropped the entire relationship instantly and cut off all communication. It seems unfair to many viewers, when you compare it to Big's "abandonment", which lasted for 60 seconds and consisted of calling carrie and trying to *talk*.
The Un Reveal: Big's real name, until the final episode. (John James Preston.)
Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Unintended by the writers, but arguably Carrie Bradshaw — juvenile, shallow, whiny, and self-absorbed. Yet, we're supposed to root for her because of her great sense of style. She does occasionally get Laser-Guided Karma, such as the episode where she realizes she has "spent $40,000 on shoes and has no place to live".
Vacation Episode: The girls go to Los Angeles for a couple of episodes in season 3, and the series finale takes place with Carrie in Paris. The second movie is one as well, with most of the action taking place in Dubai.
Watch It Stoned: One of Samantha's boyfriends got her to indulge in his vice of taking Viagra recreationally.
Wedding Day: Many, whether it's for the main girls or another character. Miranda kept hers rather low-key though. Charlotte and Harry's is notable for being of the "everything goes wrong" version. They see it as a sign of good luck.
When Charlotte finds out about Carrie's affair with a married man, she is pissed. Especially because she herself is married, and wanted Carrie to imagine how Charlotte would feel if she found out her husband was cheating on her. Also when Carrie is low on money and needs some assistance, Miranda and Samantha offer some money to lend, but Charlotte instead points out that Carrie is almost 40 and maybe should be more focused on her responsibilities first before shoes and parties.
Miranda also gives Carrie one when she hints she's meeting up with Big again after the Natasha debacle.
Stanford calls Carrie out for going on about Aidan for "Ten blocks and, what, two years?" and giving him the minimum of replies when he asks her how his boyfriend is doing.
Workaholic: More of an Informed Attribute of Miranda's. She's trying to make partner at her Law Firm (which can be a grueling prospect in real life), while getting into adventures with the girls and raising her son alone for periods. At one point she tries to shorten her work week to 55 billable hours and the other attorneys are aghast (Which is a little bit Reality Is Unrealistic because that's still right on Partner track levels of billing). Lawyers who understand the importance of sleep ask for 6-8 a day, which still translates to a good 9 hours spent at work a day.