Carrie finally got Big – that Persian cat leapt from its Parisian handbag with the social zeitgeist that was the final episode of Sex and the City. But throughout the six-season bait and switch that made snooty author Candace Bushnell a household name, the world got more than Big, it got dirty.

Say what you want about HBO's pre-Sopranos trump card – odds are it's already been said, anyway. Still there's no denying the potty-mouth allowance it gave to a gender previously welded into televised roles of submission. The lives of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) became a lexicon of modern feminism (whatever that really means, these days), and, less significantly, product placement. It was the Facts of Life all grown up, minus the Garrett and plus a whole lot of adult situations afforded by pay cable. In short, it was perfect.

So what's Ted Turner doing, smearing his ranch hands all over an ill-advised syndication deal? Well, he's clearly making money, but (to be read in the tone of Carrie) "is nothing sacred on television?"

Sex and the City begins its TBS run on Tuesday, June 15, airing two back-to-back episodes, all different, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in an emasculated version that's T&A-free. Really. Think of it as Sex and the City for Dummies, or perhaps don't think of it at all, as you've probably already thought about it too much. Destined to continue the dull hum that occupies the similar syndications of Friends and Seinfeld, Sex ups the ante with a TV-14 DLS rating, meaning it can blur the lines a bit (like, say, David Caruso's NYPD ass, or Alexis Carrington's Dynasty "Bitch!"). The standard lunch-table conversations amongst the girls retain some of their napkined bite as a result, but puzzling changes are evident.

"That's bullshit!" the girls concur, aloud, when dissing the name of Big's momentary model flame, Natasha. But then, in an odd stretch, Miranda, speaking of her own ex, awkwardly throws out a "For gosh sakes, we were intimate." And, for gosh sakes, Samantha is still allowed to say "tits." It's odd fare – "bullshit" is OK, "tits" are OK; taking the name of the Lord in vain is not OK – more interesting for what's not there than what is.

In fairness, TBS's PR department does include the following proviso in its press kit. "HBO and the producers of Sex and the City were very smart to shoot additional coverage throughout the production of the series, allowing for a TBS version that is well-suited for commercial television, while still maintaining the show's tone."

And smart they were. The four episodes we previewed were true to the four episodes we remember. Nevertheless, the whole set is available on DVD for purists. Particularly in Cattrall's Samantha, there is something missing, something important. For all of her never-work PR nonsense, there was a vulnerable side displayed in her carnal moments, a humility that saved her from caricature. It's not here in the cleaned-up version. Instead, we get the first fade-out we've ever seen on Sex and the City. It comes at the point where Samantha is greeted by possibly the largest cock ever, picked up from a street flirtation with somebody spectacularly hot. When she sets to servicing it, everything goes mute and fuzzy. We've been shorted on the long, it seems.

But the long and short of it remains: Sex and the City's crafty writing and puns aplenty transcend its dumbing-down. And for those of us who are going to miss the guilty pleasure of such turns of phrase as "A model what? A model citizen, a model home, a model airplane?" or "How do you know that your vagina is depressed?" on our Sunday-night wine-downs, just knowing that Carrie and company are keeping the cables crimped is some solace.


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