Unstinting in its language and unembarrassed about explicit discussions of sex, Darren Star's Sex and the City, now in its fifth season on HBO, is also television's most dazzling example of high comedy. The revue-sketch glimpses of the four female protagonists' sex lives--especially that of public relations executive Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who boasts a long list of lovers--may suggest a stylish, up-to-the-minute version of burlesque. But high comedy (also known as comedy of manners) has always been as frank about sex as low comedy. In other respects, too, Sex and the City demonstrates how this genre operates for a modern audience. Its focus is on verbal wit. Its characters belong to an aristocracy-which, in a democratic age and place, takes the form of a closed group, bonded by a shared vision of the world and governed by rules of conduct, access to which is a tricky proposition.
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