Who really killed 'Sex and the City'?

A scene from the tragic last days of A scene from the tragic last days of Mr. Big is dead. So is his wife Carrie and her three best friends, according to actor Chris Noth. He broke the bad news to New York Magazine this past week saying: "It's over. The franchise is dead."

And whodunnit? Noth is blaming the press. "The press killed it. It's like all the critics got together and said, 'This franchise must die.'" Case closed? Not exactly.

It's understandable that an actor who spent over a decade in bed with a cash cow would be blinded by grief, unable to see the truth about what really happened: "Sex and the City" did itself in.

Of course there were a number of factors at play that compelled the writers, actors and fans to put the ailing powerhouse to sleep. But it no doubt played a hand in its own demise.

Like all legends, the series rose to fame on the basis of talent--a strong cast and crew and an even stronger writing staff with a ground-breaking take on female sexuality: It's funny, not sad.

As the plot-lines thickened, so did the wardrobe and by season three the series went from aspirational to inspirational. After September 11, its relevance to a city and country in crisis was enhanced. We were told to shop, to remember to laugh, to indulge in escapism. And Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha offered just that. They lived in a newly minted city where Louboutins were impulse buys. And romance was on every corner.

But as reality and the recession sunk in, over the years, so did the offensiveness of their expenses. By the last season, it was hard to flip between the news and the series without seeing an immense disparity between the two. Perhaps as a reaction, the characters courted long-term relationships, doing away with the best part of the show: the absurdity of dating. To counteract that, the women got richer, bought bigger apartments, more shoes and even more outlandish accessories. By the last season Carrie was wearing Dior ballgowns and moping on a canopy bed at a five-star hotel in Paris. It was really hard to feel bad for her--much less, like her. Samantha's breast cancer and Charlotte's inability to have children were offered as olive branches to viewers in need of some real life problems. But between Smith Jerrod's billboards and Charlotte's 'classic six', it was hardly a dose of reality.

One could argue that the thing that brought the series the most fame, escapism, was also what tore it down. It got a big head, it kept playing the same song--only louder, it didn't change with the tides. By the the time the movie came out, the deplorable term 'fashionista' was now replaced by 'recessionista'. The single girl how-to guides were replaced by Suze Orman books. Even the cultural epicenter Manhattan had moved to Brooklyn. But Carrie Bradshaw didn't budge.

The next nail in the grave, came in anticipation of the first movie. As months of hype swelled, so did gossip about disgruntled cast-members. Sarah Jessica Parker blames Kim Cattrall for almost thwarting the movie. Kim Catrall's demands are too high. Even though the real women weren't their characters, we'd already come to conflate reality and fantasy. Cattrall wrote a book on sex. Parker wore the most ridiculous tutus to every award show. They had milked the pseudo-reality of their characters, so the rumored bad blood between the real women was enough to diminish the fictional friendships that built the franchise. "Sex was the tease, the city was the packaging, but the real selling point was always the love among those four wonderful women," writes New York Times critic A.O. Scott of the show's success. When the movie premiered, the love didn't feel like it used to.

Instead there were a lot of flashing lights, red carpets, and product placement. Mercedes-Benz, Apple, HP, LV, Dior, Jimmy Choo. The luxury brands the show had helped promote fought tooth and nail for a mention in the movie. Too much money was at stake. Everyone wanted a piece of the action. And the series, which had proven a cash register for brands, wanted what it was owed. It wasn't even about the money, except it was.

"Sex and the City" had become a fat Elvis. Once a handsome, unassuming talent that shook up a nation without warning on Ed Sullivan, was now a bloated Vegas performer, content to sing the same songs, wear a sequined jumpsuit and collect money from the die-hard fans who didn't care to judge. It couldn't end well.

When news of the sequel came, a collective "not again" was heard among many. What more could they do? If the show was a little more Bob Dylan and little less Elvis, it would have brought everyone back to the beginning. A prequel before the show began, or a re-imagined life where money and the allure of Mr. Big were no longer driving forces. They could have lowered the stakes to the level they were at in Season One: imperfect lives, comedic dating situations and occasional bad hair days. Instead, the show followed the Elvis model and became a blithering, pilled-out, racially-questionable fool--content to be the joke, not the joker it once was.

With the Swarovski crystal-coated sequel set in Abu Dhabi, the film's attempt to address feminine ideals in the Muslim world is tactless, tacky and offensive. The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Farber calls the film "blatantly anti-Muslim" and Richard Roeper tags it "cartoonishly offensive." "The ugly smell of unexamined privilege hangs over this film like the smoke from cheap incense," writes Scott in the Times.

Now not only were the women's friendships hard to believe, our friendships with the women came into question. Do we really want to relate to people who are so simple-minded when it comes to other cultures? Of course not. And likely, neither did the savvy team of writers and producers who must have known that their script was a flick off to fans, critics and their own golden shackles job. It was time to let these people go, they seemed to say as they etched the word Burka into a draft of the script.

The franchise died on an embarrassing note. Sadly, so did Elvis. But that doesn't make him any less a legend.

It's hard to believe Noth didn't see it all coming when he read the script for the sequel. But when something you love is at a crossroads, it's hard to know how to help besides just being there. And Noth was. On the other hand, many fans of the show found the relationship between Carrie and Big to be selfish, cruel and damaged by the sequel. They're pushing their 50s and they're still fighting, and now it's over gifts? What more do they need to be happy? And is Big always going to be a jerk? To many fans, Aidan Shaw--Carrie's recession-friendly boyfriend from the middle of the series--who loved nature, and wood and dogs and her, was the apex of the series. Maybe she/we could find love without all the bells and whistles? In season three, when Carrie cheated with Big, the dream died. Some would even say, the show died to. In that case, Big killed Sex and the City. It was Big, in the limo, with the flowers. He did it.