'Sex and the City' Creator Darren Star on Why the 'Up the Butt' Scene Changed the Game

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The producer talks to ETonline about the show's revolutionary, explicit humor.

No one loves a great scene more than the person who first dreamed it up -- the writer. We're asking iconic shows' creators and writers to tell ETonline all about the moment on their series that they most cherished getting to see make it from script to screen.

“You have to put yourself in the mindset of the late-‘90s, where this sort of thing was not done on television,” Sex and the City creator Darren Star tells ETonline of the HBO comedy that first premiered in 1998 and would eventually run six seasons, spawn two films, and make Carrie Bradshaw a household name.

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The show’s frankness and humor about sex was both iconic and revolutionary. Yet, in the first season, hardly anyone watched the adventures of Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall).

That means not many people saw Star’s favorite scene from the entire series when it originally aired early on--episode 4, to be exact. He says it helped set the pace for the show--and told HBO exactly what kind of show it was going to be. Dubbed the “up the butt” scene by Star and the episode’s writer, Two Broke Girls’ creator Michael Patrick King, it shows the four women piling into the back of a taxi to weigh the pros and cons of having anal sex.

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“When I went to talk to Chris Albrecht [then president of HBO programming] about what we were doing, I mentioned this scene--and for me it was like a litmus [test] of how he was going to react and what their attitude would be toward the show,” Star says.

“I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to tell him the scene where Charlotte meets a guy who wants her to have anal sex and she freaks out and talks to her friends about it and either he’s going to think it’s really funny or throw me out of the room,’” he recalls. (Watch the scene on YouTube.)


In a phone conversation with ETonline, Star talks more about going beyond sexual innuendo, finding an audience, and why the scene still resonates with him today.

While it wasn’t the first time all four women were in the same scene discussing the tribulations of sex in New York City, it was significant for many reasons.

Star: It was one of the first--we had done a couple of group scenes--but that was the one that just popped in a really big, funny way.

It wasn’t around a table. It was in a taxi and driving around the streets of New York. I have a very vivid recollection of being in the camera car, tailing that taxi cab, and just watching the scene play out and doing it over and over again. I just felt like, “Wow, we’re really capturing lightning in a bottle with the chemistry and the comedy.” It was just funny watching it.

I think that’s a great test of chemistry between actors because that’s when magic happens. There’s just a naturalism to the scene. It also has a bit of a cinematic feel that I always wanted. It was very important that this show have a cinematic feeling to it.

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For Star it was always about being frank. And the scene was just that
--an honest, albeit funny, conversation about the merits of anal sex and what it meant to Charlotte’s relationship. The moment was also significant for setting the tone and pace of a series that over the course of 94 episodes would cover at least as many explicit sexual topics.

Star: We planted a flag in terms of saying we’re not shying away from anything here. There’s going to be a lot of sexual frankness on the show in a comedic way. And I think that was the first big scene that showcased that.

When I did Sex and the City, it was like, “Let’s do a comedy where the humor is not coming from innuendo but from the a truthful place. This is a show where we’re going to be able to say and do what we want.”


By the time the show’s finale aired on Feb. 22, 2004, more than 10 million people tuned in, but this early episode on June 28, 1998, drew a tiny fraction of that
--hardly enough to make it water cooler moment at work the next day. And this was all before social media.

Back then it was a real slow burn. People weren’t watching HBO for TV series. People didn’t even know Sex and the City was on the air the first season. It took a long time for people to find the show and to watch the show. A lot of people came very late to the party. So it wasn’t like this instantaneous, “Wow, what a scene!” It was something that people sometimes saw years after it was filmed.

It was a whole different universe. I think people have this sort of idea that Sex and the City was this overnight sensation and that can’t be farther from the truth.

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And not having an immediate audience, in addition to filming the show before it aired, allowed for a pureness that didn’t exist once the show become a mammoth hit. For Star, the opportunity was a gift.

Star: In some ways it was the first and best season of the show because there was no outside feedback. We were just doing our thing. The only audience we had to satisfy [at that point] was ourselves. And that’s a rare opportunity.

I think people are able to do that more now in some ways with these Netflix shows. The series I’m doing now--Younger on TV Land--we shot all 12 episodes and it’s done before we air and it’s kind of a great place to be because you’re just doing your show.

Even though Star has moved onto other projects, he knows that through HBO Go, syndication on E! and TBS, and DVDs, SATC will continue to find a new audience.

I think Sex and the City is a chapter that will never close. In a wonderful way it’s always going to be an open chapter because it seems like new generations discover the show and relate to it, which is amazing and you can’t hope for that. In the moment when you’re doing a show, you’re thinking of that moment but you don’t think of, “Here’s down the line how people will be relating to the characters.” There’s something very universal about Sex and the City that people are still tapping into, where every generation seems to be discovering for itself.

Sex and the City is currently streaming on HBO Go. Younger premieres Tuesday, Mar. 31 at 10 p.m. ET on TV Land.