February 20, 2004 10:15 AM

Will Carrie Bradshaw ditch Paris and return to her true love… New York City? PEOPLE gets the rundown on “Sex and the City”‘s swan song and other big events to watch for in the coming week:

‘SEX’ SAYONARA: Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda are hanging up their Manolo Blahniks. Sunday, Feb. 22, marks the final episode of HBO’s “Sex and the City” — and no one is sadder about it than star-producer Sarah Jessica Parker (who will watch the finale in low-key style, with husband Matthew Broderick at a friend’s Manhattan home, PEOPLE reports in its latest issue). Ending the show after six years “was like being taken off life support,” Parker tells the magazine. Whether Carrie ends up with Aleksandr or Big remains to be seen, but the ladies may go out on a high note: The cast is nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding comedy series ensemble. The ill-timed SAGs will air on TNT — the same night as the finale.

IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES: Their marriage was tempestuous, their break-up even worse and now the rancor continues for Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. The estranged couple, who divorced in 2002, will head to court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Feb. 23 to battle over custody of their daughter Ireland, 8. Though they had temporarily agreed to joint legal custody — and Baldwin, a Best Supporting Oscar nominee for his role as a casino owner in “The Cooler,” was ordered to undergo anger-management therapy — things took a turn for the worse. A mental health expert evaluated Baldwin and Basinger, and the pair lobbed charges of physical and drug abuse against each other, PEOPLE reported in January.

DRAMA QUEEN: Mary J. Blige once sang “No More Drama,” but a diva’s entitled to change her mind. The hip-hop-soul queen will try her hand at acting when she makes her Off-Broadway debut in the critically acclaimed play “The Exonerated” on Tuesday, Feb. 24. In the play, which is based on true stories of six innocent prisoners who endured years of life on death row before being cleared, Blige plays a Florida woman wrongly accused of slaying two police officers. The Grammy winner (who picked up a best pop collaboration award for “Whenever I Say Your Name,” a duet with Sting) will only appear in the rotating-cast production until Sunday, Feb. 29, before returning to singing her heart out.

SPELL THIS: Okay, so it’s not exactly the Oscar-winning documentary “Spellbound,” but there’s gotta be something entertaining about a bunch of B-list stars — including Corbin Bernsen and former “Baywatch” babe Gena Lee Nolin — testing their spelling prowess. At least, that’s what FOX hopes when it airs the finale of its three-episode series “The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee” on Friday, Feb. 27. (Witness shock rocker Alice Cooper and others scratch their heads over words like “anomaly” and “prenuptial.”) Besides an ego boost, the show’s grand-prize winner will win $50,000, while $75,000 will be donated to the charity of their choice.

AND FINALLY… Stylists have already made their pilgrimage to Hollywood in preparation for the mother of all awards shows, the Academy Awards, which will be broadcast live on ABC Sunday, Feb. 29, from the Kodak Theatre. Will Sean Penn (“Mystic River”) trump Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) for Best Actor honors? Will Joan Rivers crow at somebody’s unfortunate fashion choice? Tune in to find out.

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