HBO announced Tuesday that it will abstain from ''Sex in the City,'' its landmark saga of four sophisticated sirens who collect suitors and shoes in equally large numbers, after one more year. The announcement came at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Hollywood, where the cable channel's execs said that just 20 more episodes of the series would go into production, starting in March. The sixth and final season will air in two parts: 12 episodes this summer and eight more starting next January.
With both ''Sex'' and ''The Sopranos'' having declared that the next season will be their last, HBO's once impregnable Sunday night lineup will now have a giant void. Still, the rest of its schedule isn't exactly deadwood (well, actually, there's a new Western called ''Deadwood,'' from ''NYPD Blue'' producer David Milch, in HBO's lineup). HBO also announced yesterday several new series, including ''Good in Bed'' (a ''Sex''-like comedy from ''Sex'' scribe Jenny Bicks), Stephen Bochco's drama ''Marriage,'' and late-night shows from Bill Maher and British comic Ali G (a.k.a. Sasha Baron Cohen). Plus, strong shows like ''Six Feet Under,'' ''Curb Your Enthusiasm,'' and ''The Wire'' are all coming back.
Still, HBO would rather not give up ''Sex,'' but the decision was not the cable channel's. ''All the principals involved felt that this was a strong place to go off,'' HBO executive vice president Carolyn Strauss told the Hollywood Reporter, pun apparently not intended. However, as ''Friends'' fans know, even a final season isn't necessarily a final season. Strauss said of the show's cast and creators, ''If somewhere along the line they change their mind and feel that they could do more of this, it would be fantastic.''