By Terry Kelleher
June 30, 2003 12:00 PM

HBO (Sun., June 22, 9 p.m. ET)

“After every breakup I told myself, ‘I’m never doing this again,’ ” Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) said to Jack (Ron Livingston) in the finale of Sex and the City’s fifth season. “I mean, how many of these things can one person survive?” Well, survivor Carrie launches an affair with Jack in the sixth-season premiere (airing June 22), and by the second episode she’s critiquing his sexual performance with her friends Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis).

As the series begins its long goodbye—12 episodes this summer, to be followed by the last eight in early 2004—I confess flirting with the idea that it may be about ready for retirement. Carrie’s latest boyfriend does seem lacking, partly because he’s not as witty as the writers intend him to be. Charlotte is having super sex with Harry (Evan Handler), despite his hairy back and bald head. But Harry is a Jew who refuses to marry outside his faith, leading the sweetly WASPy Charlotte to talk of conversion. “I never thought a shiksa goddess like you would fall for a putz like me,” Harry says. Please tell me we’re not sinking to such clichés.

All that aside, the show won’t slip from the A-list as long as it delivers laughs. When Miranda develops a passion for TiVo and Samantha forces down the food at a trendy restaurant called Raw, Sex proves it still has a sharp eye for the passing scene.

BOTTOM LINE: Funny, but showing its age