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We spend a lot of time around here talking about onscreen New York apartments, and after a recent viewing of Sarah Jessica Parker's new HBO show, Divorce, we couldn't help but wonder: Why haven't we ever gotten around to Sex and the City?
The show's right up there with Friends in the annals of "unrealistic TV apartments," but even as Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda all manage to effortlessly afford enormous one-bedrooms in Manhattan, the show has its fair share of real estate-related subplots, too, with varying degrees of believability. (Lest we forget the time Charlotte gave Carrie her wedding ring to help her pay for an apartment, since Carrie had spent all her money on shoes.)
But if a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing right, so in the interest of being thorough (and as an excuse to avoid the news cycle for the next few months), we're revisiting every single real estate-related moment of the series, one season at a time. Without any further ado:
Just a few minutes into the pilot, Carrie hits us with her first-ever pun regarding the death of romance in the '90s: "Cupid has flown the co-op." So it begins.
The episode's opening parable also has a real estate angle, ending with a guy ghosting on a woman he's been seriously dating after taking her to an open house for "a townhouse he'd seen in Sunday's New York Times," and hinting at filling it up with children:
The wronged woman in question laments to Carrie, "In England, looking at houses together meant something." (It does seem like an unnecessarily over-the-top move to woo someone you plan on ditching a week later, but maybe the dating scene was more different 20 years ago than we realized?)
We get a few glimpses here and there of Carrie's apartment, which is shown in the first couple of episodes to be above a coffee shop sign, a feature that disappears later on:
More important though, we get our first introduction to Mr. Big, whom Carrie runs into on the street. But we first meet him when Samantha tries to hook up with him at a club. She describes him to Carrie as such: "See that guy? He's the next Donald Trump. Except he's younger and much better looking." Hmm.
The only apartment we see in the second episode, "Models and Mortals," is in an incredibly unsettling context. In researching a story about men who only date models, Carrie pays a visit to her friend Barclay, "one of those Soho wonders who maintained a fabulous lifestyle in spite of never having sold a single painting." And he does seem to have a pretty incredible loft:
Unfortunately, Barclay is also a sexual predator. He as an elaborate setup of TVs in the loft, the better to screen all the videos he tapes of himself having sex with models who haven't consented to be filmed. The less said about the fact that this is presented as an artistic quirk, the better.
In the end, Carrie's takeaway isn't that her friend is a criminal who should be reported to the authorities, but rather, "That being beautiful is like having a rent-controlled apartment overlooking the park: completely unfair, and usually bestowed upon those who deserve it least. I take that back: Beauty is fleeting, but a rent-controlled apartment overlooking the park is forever." Not inaccurate.
"Bay of Married Pigs" also features sexually predatory behavior that goes largely unquestioned. This time around? It's indecent exposure.
The episode opens with Carrie leaving the city for a visit to a friend's Hamptons house, telling us, "Hamptons house guests are always required to sing for their supper—brokers give investment advice, architects, design advice. Single people give married friends tidbits from their sexual escapades."
It's all going well, until Carrie wakes up to find her friend's husband intentionally standing bottomless in the hallway, waiting for her to come out of her room and catch a glimpse. Unsurprisingly, she heads back to the city ASAP.
Later, she finds herself dating a guy who desperately wants to get married, and the proof is in his apartment. When he hosts a party, Charlotte tells Carrie, "No guy buys a classic-six on the Upper West Side unless they're seriously thinking about marriage." This being an early episode where characters still break the fourth wall, Carrie tells the camera, "Some people read palms. Charlotte reads real estate." But she wasn't wrong—he even has an extra office he's hoping to turn into a nursery:
In the end, Carrie dumps the "marrying guy," they run into her friend's flasher husband at the party, and Samantha gets drunk and sleeps with Charlotte's (uncannily attractive) doorman.
After running into each other all over the city, Carrie and Mr. Big finally make a plan for a "drink thing" at a club opening that Samantha's promoting. But after calling home from the club to check her landline voicemail (!), she finds he's called to cancel, and asks Miranda to listen to the message to suss out whether the vibe is romantic or friendly. ("Sometimes you need a second opinion—with doctors, real estate, men.")
Fed up with decoding cryptic voicemails, Carrie decides to start sleeping with uncomplicated twentysomething men, which is going well until she spends the night with one, and wakes up in his "twentysomething apartment," full of "Urban Outfitters candles" and pizza boxes.
The place looks like a slapdash loft conversion (and possibly not even a legal residential space), complete with a graffiti-covered, toilet-paper-free bathroom that looks more suited to a bar than anyone's actual apartment. (The fact that someone saw fit to hang an amateurish drawing of a pot leaf in here leaves us with some follow-up questions, too.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there's Samantha's mahogany-and-red-bedding sex dungeon of a boudoir:
After a couple of episodes without much in the way of apartments, we finally get a look at Mr. Big's abode, which looks to be in a classic co-op, based on the hallway and a traditional layout with a large bedroom, separate living room, and as we see in later episodes, a sizeable kitchen. It's all posh enough, but not exactly the high-end new development spread we'd expect from "the next Donald Trump."
His home bar is a nice touch, though.
After disappearing into her relationship for weeks, Carrie returns to her social life to find that Samantha is newly obsessed with getting a new apartment. Sam is working with a broker, Pamela, who makes her promise not to work with anyone else. This is a touch dramatic, but not necessarily unusual in the world of apartment sales, where brokers prefer loyalty:
Cut to voiceover: "Samantha didn't believe in monogamy, especially when it came to real estate agents." Instead, she goes to see a "prewar six with classic lines" with another broker, Rick, who offers other services, as well.
But besides the sexual perks, Rick is actually the better broker—he takes Samantha to see a gorgeous apartment right when it hits the market at midnight. Turns out, Pamela is doing the same thing, but for another client, and catches Rick and Samantha mid-hookup. Pamela calls her out for working with another broker, but Samantha (correctly) hits back that she shouldn't have given someone else first dibs. Pamela leaves, Samantha and Rick pick up where they left off, and it's unclear who ends up getting the apartment.
Not much real estate in this one, though we do get a depressing moment from Samantha (who's generally shown to be a lot more desperate in this season than we'd remembered), who takes on a new, unappealing boyfriend, "The Turtle," telling Carrie that he's a "cute little fixer-upper." Carrie tells her that "he's a man, not a brownstone," to which Samantha responds, "Honey, when I'm done with him, he'll be Gracie Mansion." Samantha and the Turtle are broken up by the end of the episode.
Elsewhere, we also get a quick glimpse of Charlotte's large one-bedroom (since when do small galleries pay so well?) when Carrie and Miranda stage an intervention between her and her addictive new vibrator:
"The baby shower" is ostensibly about the foursome going out to visit their former friend "wild Laney," who's moved out to the Connecticut suburbs with a hedge-funder husband, and is now heavily pregnant. Her party balloons even match the tulips:
But this is also the episode when we learn Carrie's address, 245 East 73rd Street, a house number that, as many a frustrated tourist can tell you, doesn't actually exist.
The actual price of her junior one-bedroom (there's technically no door between her bedroom, walk-in closet, and living room) has been the source of much speculation, and TripleMint has offered up an estimate that it would have been around $700/month (if it were rent-stabilized, that is), and today, would cost between $2,500 and $2,800/month. If it were real, anyway.
Of all the moments in Sex and the City that are tough to relate to as an adult in 2016, "The Drought" has possibly the most baffling Carrie Bradshaw moment to date, in which she decides to paint her entire apartment just to distract herself from a fight with Mr. Big. It seems like there are... much less effort-intensive ways one could go about that.
More relatable, however, is Carrie's obsession with her across-the-street neighbors, who are constantly having sex in front of an open window. Eventually, Carrie invites the girls over to take in the spectacle over a giant bag of gummy bears. Having once seen an entire party slam to a halt to get a look at a friend's Prospect Heights neighbor who always strutted in front of the window naked, this checks out.
As Carrie and Mr. Big's relationship comes to a head, we get fewer real estate-y quips, but more glimpses inside their respective apartments. First, there's Mr. Big's kitchen, complete with tons of cabinet space and a huge kitchen island:
We also see a little more of Carrie's foyer and common space, as well as the exterior of her building (that neon coffee shop sign is long gone by this point):
Oh, and Charlotte goes to see a celebrity psychic who lives in a brownstone between Central Park West and Columbus. Unclear if this means she's self-funded or extremely successful, but we sort of like the idea of the Upper West Side secretly being populated with quack psychics.
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