We'd bet our monogrammed handcuffs that when Sex and the City climaxes in early 2004, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) will shag off into the sunset with her elusive longtime lover, Mr. Big (Chris Noth). Nonetheless, the HBO hitcom is determined to try to keep us guessing by introducing our bed-hopping heroine to a new lust interest, to be played by not just an A-lister, but an A-plus-lister. (And no, it's not David Duchovny; turns out, the X-Files grad will only be passing through next month.) "Why would we bring in a major name," argues executive producer Michael Patrick King, "if [Big] was already [the clear winner]?" Um, did we mention that they'd like to keep us guessing? Thought so. But no matter; we're still psyched to meet Carrie's latest Mr. Right Now, and think that a few of these very good men might be, ahem, up to the task. Read on and see if you don't agree.
Sean Penn: We'll grant you Madonna's first mate isn't exactly renowned for his proficiency as a romantic lead. But, as the ultraserious thespian proved in his Friends guest gig, he can crack a joke with the best of 'em. And, after five-plus seasons, we know the way to Carrie's heart is through her funny bone.
Michael Keaton: With his intense visage and savage wit, the erstwhile Caped Crusader could no more mask his intelligence than Parker could contain her joie de vivre. So we can't help but suspect that a little give-and-take between the odd couple would be all it'd take to make us give their peculiar pairing unusual consideration.
Benjamin Bratt: If the former Law & Order hunk thought dating Julia Roberts raised his profile, he should try canoodling on screen with Parker, and watch what that does for his career. (Hello? Did anyone remember fellow L&O alumnus Noth before his "Big" break?) Besides, the combined wattage of his and Parker's electric smiles could light up all of Manhattan, never mind our puny TV sets.
George Clooney: After Solaris and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind flatlined, the onetime ER doc would be smart to check back into television. If nothing else, the Romeo role would link him with Parker, leaving only Ellen DeGeneres and Miss Piggy off his list of on-screen hook-ups.
Matthew Broderick: By hiring Parker's real-life mate, the series could be assured that its hastily combined duo would leave us laughing. Of course, on the down side, how many married couples do you know who actually have sex, much less Sex-quality sex?
Ashton Kutcher: That '70s Show's resident pretty boy is everywhere else, so honestly, you can't be surprised to find him on this list, too. Besides, when you think about it, he's actually a pretty sensible choice to court Parker. After all, he does like older women...
Tom Cruise: Not that we hold a grudge, but if the ex Mr. Nicole Kidman should have an attack of conscience and want to make up for the 11 hours of our lives that we lost to Eyes Wide Shut, flashing his big smile at a small-screen Sex-pot wouldn't be a terrible start.
Nicolas Cage: If any celebrity needs career CPR, it's this down-and-almost-out Oscar winner. Enough with the art flicks already! The director of Sonny could do himself and his Honeymoon in Vegas better half, Parker a favor by tapping into his Sex appeal.
Hugh Grant: Having mastered the art of seduction in such chick-flick hits as Notting Hill and Two Weeks Notice, the Brit wit should have no trouble whatsoever sweet-talking his way into Parker's knickers. And if he did encounter a spot of difficulty? Oopsy-daisy so much the funnier.
Ben Affleck: Since the lucky hunk will have to strike a match with Parker fast, J. Lo's fiancé is the only truly fool-proof option. What other megastar can brag of having had on-screen chemistry opposite kissing partners as diverse as Sandra Bullock and Jason Lee? with additional reporting by Michael Ausiello