When it comes to journalistic integrity, an HBO series about four women exploring their city and their sexuality might not immediately leap to mind. But it turns out that the Sex and the City sex stories were all real, so you may need to adjust your thinking just a smidge. As I'm sure we all recall, Sex and the City the TV show was modeled off of writer Candace Bushnell's column for the New York Observer, which detailed her dating (mis)adventures and sexual exploits. But, don't worry, every single thing you saw onscreen didn't necessarily happen to Bushnell herself. Instead, as Miranda Hobbes-portrayer, Cynthia Nixon, shared on a recent episode of IMDb Asks, the stories came from the show's writer's room, and there were some pretty strict rules about what did and didn't make it into the script.
"They had a rule in the writing that they couldn’t put anything in an episode that didn’t literally happen to someone in the writer’s room or someone they knew firsthand," she said. "It couldn’t be, like, my father’s brother’s sister’s shoe repair guy heard once that, you know. So the outlandish physical, sexual things that happened — they really did happen."
Aside from the fact that I'm now frantically scanning through my brain remembering plot points that I cannot believe happened to real humans, this is a really cool thing that Nixon just revealed.
Sex and the City was by definition a fictional show, not a documentary, and they didn't use the names or likenesses of real people. So they were really at liberty to write episodes however and about whatever they wanted, provided that they brought in ratings. For the writers to hold themselves to a standard of truth like the one Nixon is describing, and to keep the show grounded in a reality experienced firsthand by its writers and creators, is really impressive and commendable.
And not only did they not make anything up, which they would've been completely within their rights to do, but these writers also didn't blow up anyone's spot once their stories were used in an episode. I can imagine the temptation to do an interview revealing the identity of someone fictionalized onscreen or to drop identifying details into an episode. But, once again, the SATC writers seem to have held themselves to a standard that was almost journalistic, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.
The writers took stigmatized, controversial topics like promiscuity and sexual empowerment and applied themselves to it with a dedication and and respect that you don't often see outside a newsroom. Even though Sex and the City was a comedy, it treated its subjects and topics seriously, never resorting to parody or subtweeting. That left audiences with a show that's even more real — and valuable — than we might ever have imagined.