12A - The Michigan Daily - - Thursday, September 7, 2000
Producer King talks about why 'Sex and the City' sells
The Los Angeles Times
Michael Patrick King's job is
enough to make a mother proud.
Froud and a little red-faced. King is
he executive producer of the saucy
BO hit comedy series "Sex and
tihe City," but he's also the product
if an Irish Catholic family that
never discussed sex, he says.
Now King's mother, a former
manager of a Krispy Kreme Dough-
nut shop in Scranton, Pa., finds her-
$elf having previously unimaginable
graphic conversations with her
show-business son. "Her love of me
is only slightly bigger than her
hame (over) the idea of the show,"
Nominated for an Emmy as best
comedy series for the second time
in three seasons, "Sex and the City,"
created by Darren Star and based on
the urban tales of former New York
Observer columnist Candace Bush-
nell, has become a water-cooler
dhow for women (assuming, that is,
that women hang out at water cool-
The series stars Sarah Jessica
Parker as relationship columnist
Carrie and co-stars Cynthia Nixon,
Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis as
Carrie'S upscale gal pals; like cul-
tural anthropologists working on
one long research project, the
women sample various men and
then convene for lunch, at which the
ribald conversation is conducted at
"McLaughlin Group"-like speed.
This season, "Sex and the City"
has grown out of its surface con-
ceits; the plots have thickened (Car-
rie finds a dream guy, then ruins
things by taking up with Mr. Big, a
former flame); and the show, whose
four femmes were featured on the
cover of Time, has become some-
thing of a rarity, a sitcom people
You don't have to spend much
time with King to hear the show's
voice - that crackle and pop about
relationships and Prada products,
the frank talk about sex that makes
the show empowering to some and
merely a collection of crass, femi-
nized jokes to others (in addition to
The sassy and sex-driven ladies of HBO's hit "Sex and the City."
King and Star, the show's small
writing staff this season' included
Jenny Bicks and Cindy Chupack).
With creator and fellow executive
producer Star nurturing two other
shows into existence (the WB com-
edy "Grosse Pointe" and the Fox
drama "The Street"), King has been
busy, having written six episodes
this season and directed two others.
His success didn't happen
overnight. King arrived in New
York two decades ago as an aspiring
actor, became a playwright and a
stand-up comic, dabbled in improv,
eventually moved to Los Angeles to
write for television and came out as
a gay man, got jobs on "Murphy
Brown" and "Cybill," created the
very short-lived sitcom "Temporari-
ly Yours," and consulted on the first
season of the NBC sitcom "Will &
Grace" (the quick-witted King
worked during tapings, punching up
scenes on the fly).
King, 41, who also has a deal
with HBO to create a show of his
own, was in Los Angeles recently to
shoot two "Sex and the City"
episodes with guest appearances by
Carrie Fisher, Matthew
McConaughey, Vince Vaughn and
Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Question: The way the women on
the show talk about sex strikes
some as offensive or unrealistic. If
nothing else, "Sex and the City" has
touched off a debate: Do women
really talk like this? Some point to
you and Darren Star and say the
show is really a gay man's view of
sex and relationships, your sensibil-
ities filtered through four women.
Answer: I've heard that. Occa-
sionally I've heard it from writers.
... What I hear from women is,
"This is real. This is my girlfriends
and me." ... I also write Mr. Big. I
also write Steve the bartender. I
don't hear people saying Mr. Big is
a character written by gay guys. It's
just a thing to say.
There's an outrageousness to (the
show). But I don't know necessarily
if that's a gay outrageousness, or
just an outrageousness.... Maybe
the gay profile is something that's
on the edge, so that's what people
are perceiving as gay. I don't know.
I mean, I'm writing four characters.
... You can get four straight people
to write this show badly, or you can
get four gay guys to write it worse.
It's not about, "Oh, Michael
Patrick King is a gay writer." It's
about, "Somehow he understands
the dynamic of these four charac-
ters." When it works. I mean,
believe me, if this show is the right
show for me to write, it's not
because I'm gay. It's because I
understand something about emo-
Q: So the show is about more
than four women sleeping around
and being in control of who they do
it with and when?
A: It's about what sex does to
people, in terms of exposing them.
And the episodes where people
don't have sex, which you'll see a
lot of, (are) about what that means.
And the fun thing about this show is
that we're able to actually go into
the world of sex, and not in a bull-
shit way. In a funny way. ... That's
the selling piece of the show, that
you're maybe going to see some-
thing about sex, but I defy you to
find one scene in our show that's
about you getting turned on when
you're watching it. There's not one
sexual scene in our show.
Q: Wait a minute. There are lots
of sex scenes. Kim Cattrall has sex
practically every week.
A: What sex scenes? They're all
about the girls getting a huge cream
pie at the end. There's not one sin-
gle nudity scene in our show that
doesn't have a laugh attached.
Q: Single people like to complain
that it's hard to meet people. But
that's not something the women on
"Sex and the City" struggle with.
A: What our show says is it's so
hard to meet someone who's not
crazy or (messed) up. I mean, that's
the fun of it. Even if you have a
Versace wardrobe and you're a star
and you look like a million bucks,
it's really hard to meet a guy. Kim
Cattrall can't meet a guy. That says
a lot about how hard it is to meet a
guy for women who are not Kim
To me it's just about, what kind
of obstacles can we put in front of
these women to bring up the stuff
that everybody feels emotionally
in life'? What kind of guy can we
put in front of Miranda to work
out the fact that she's judgmental,
bitter and shut down? ... Of
course, everyone knows that no
one has that much sex. But it's an
adventure. It's "Alice in Wonder-
Q: If the show wins the Emmy
Courtesy of HBO
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie.
this year as best comedy series, I
suspect there will be grumbling
(that) HBO, with its fewer content*
restrictions, gives you guys an
unfair advantage over broadcast,
A "Will and Grace" is hilarious.
And they just don't say (expletive).
They say dirtier stuff. ... They just
are clever (about it). If we do win
the Emmy it's not about because we
can (swear), it's that people are rec-
ognizing that there's something
unique here. It's really about doing
something a new way, or a way that
seems more like real life.
Q: Do you think audiences have,
grown weary of conventional sit-
coms? Or are we just between hits?
And do you agree with many writ-
ers that the development process is.
stifling good work ?
A: When I was on "Murphy"
Brown," everybody had an individ-
ual voice. That was sort of the way*
(executive producer) Diane (Eng-
lish) did it. She hired writers that.
she thought were interestingly indi4
vidual, and then she sat at the head
of the table and took the best of
everybody's voice. It was never
about a room voice. It was about
individual voices, and therefore
everyone who came off that show
when I was there became an indi-
People would say, "Let's get Peter
d . Let's get Tom Palmer." And
'AheiI-we went through a phase, right
aund "Muist Sk V" - and I'
not talking abo"rideh" b
then, it became," ogan put an
t igathat block."-And th
iiiebody started finking,
u don't need vicsy s uj
need product. And it reall d
matter who writes it; just get it U
Andnow everyone's really sick
the product, and there's no voice-4
so people like ("Malcolm in the
Middle" creator) Linwood Boomer,
the voices are coming back. ... t
T BACK TO SCHOOL
Courtesy of HBO
Mr. Big (Chris Noth) is a former flame of Carrie's and a recurring character.
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