I just returned from five blissful days in Palm Springs, California. Some people prepare for a trip by mapping out an itinerary, some purchase new outfits, I channel all my excitement into selecting the perfect books. During my daily routine, finding time to read is a luxury. On vacation, I have all the time in world and it brings me great joy to spend that unstructured time reading.
A few weeks before our trip, I was on Instagram when I saw writer, author and podcast hostess Doree Shafrir post that she had received an advance copy of Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. I hadn't heard of the book, but as a die hard fan of the show, I immediately hopped over to Amazon to learn more (and place my pre-order). The book arrived two weeks before we were set to take off.
Though I was ecstatic about discovering the book, I was also a bit nervous. Sex and the City is my favorite TV show of all time and I still reference it on a daily basis. I couldn't help but wonder, could a book about my beloved show ever live up to the show itself?
The short answer is: yes.
I knew Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and I were kindred spirits on the fifth page of the book's introduction when she wrote, "Sex and the City became my oracle." A few sentences later she continues, "Sex and the City showed me that not only was I still young, I was also under no obligation to get married at all."
Armstrong chronicles every single moment of the Sex and the City journey like a dedicated anthropologist. Starting with Candace Bushnells's original column for the New York Observer, the quest to find the right network to air the pilot, casting those four critical roles, the cultural phenomenon that gained momentum, and ultimately, the two movies that would hit the big screen.
In each chapter I would learn things that totally blew my mind. I kept putting in my bookmark, slamming the pages closed and turning to the other girls around the pool to ask, "Did you know . . .?!?"
A few shocking facts I uncovered:
- Sarah Jessica Parker was incredibly skeptical about committing to a TV production schedule. She liked the shorter term engagements of movies or Broadway shows. She flip flopped so many times that they cast a back up in case she bailed at the last minute. Guess who it was? Lisa Edelstein! You may know her from House or her current role on Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce.
- Big is based on a real person, Candace Bushnell's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Vogue publisher Ron Galotti.
- When Kristin Davis auditioned for the role of Charlotte York, they weren't thinking about Charlotte as a permanent cast member, she was just going to have a recurring guest role. Can you imagine the foursome without Charlotte?!
- The actor who plays Stanford Blatch, Willie Garson, is straight in real life.
- Though Miranda and Steve had one of the most treasured relationships on the show (especially with fans), David Eigenberg, who played Steve, shared that Cynthia Nixon was all business. While they enjoyed working together, their relationship never extended beyond the hours on the set. I was a bit bummed to hear they aren't close in real life.
I could go on and on about all of the great nuggets revealed in these pages!
One very cool thing I learned was that the book and the movie, He's Just Not That into You, were both inspired by character Jack Berger's line in that famous episode where he tries to help Miranda decode a guy's behavior. Two of the show's writers, Liz Tucillo and Greg Behrendt, noticed how the audience reacted to this epiphany and thought they could spin that concept into something much bigger. They co-authored the book and it sold 400,000 copies in the first six weeks. It was a New York Times bestseller and they were invited onto the Oprah Winfrey Show. All because of one line of script dialogue!
Another fun fact: He's Just Not That into You was published thanks to Jen Bergstrom, a young editor recently promoted at Simon & Schuster, who was running a new imprint called Simon Spotlight. Jen's story is the inspiration for the TV Land show Younger, which is produced by Darren Star, who also produced Sex and the City. Coincidence? Nope! Both shows also share the same incredible costume designer, Patricia Field.
While this book is mostly an absolute treat for fans, Armstrong does address some of the tough stuff - the rumored feud between Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall, the disaster that was the second movie and a lot the ways the show was imperfect (like a complete lack of racial or ethnic diversity in the cast).
That being said, if you loved (and continue to love) Sex and the City, you have to read this book. It felt like being right there in the writer's room, at the wardrobe fittings, on set and ducking from the paparazzi. I was sad when I reached the last page.