They're finally getting it right.

With just eight episodes left to go before "Sex and the City" (search) says good-bye, this might seem like the wrong time to suddenly start appreciating this girls-only TV show.

Well, it won't be the first time I've been late to a party, but it's not all my fault either.

Something's different this time, and I think I know what it is. Somewhere, somehow, "Sex and the City" has found its heart.

After all the over-heated, clinical discussions about sex - and the graphic depiction of same - "Sex and the City" is suddenly touching in a way I'd never observed before.

It's especially true in the second episode of the final eight that is scheduled to air Jan. 11 on HBO (the first one airs this Sunday night at 9).

In that second episode, one of the women will get married and another will receive some startling news.

And suddenly, life for Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha will be less hedonistic and more fragile.

That episode, written by Elisa Zuritsky and Julie Rottenberg, is outstanding - the kind of TV show that wins Emmys.

It seems also to be the perfect tone to take as "Sex and the City" nears the end of its iconic run.

As the final eight begin, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker (search)) is intensifying her relationship with the dashing Russian artist Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov (search)).

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is back firmly with Steve (David Eigenberg), the father of her child, and trying hard to avoid her upstairs neighbor, Robert (Blair Underwood), with whom she had a torrid fling.

Charlotte (Kristin Davis) appears happily married to Harry (Evan Handler).

And Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is beginning to question her involvement with her much-younger lover, the waiter/model Smith (Jason Lewis). If "Sex and the City" seems sweeter in its final installments, that doesn't mean it's suddenly become suitable for children.

It's still all about sex, and not at all shy about the subject either. This Sunday's episode, for example, has an especially frank sex scene involving, of course, Samantha.

But "Sex and the City" - as well as all the rest of HBO's signature shows - are made for grown-ups.

Let the kiddies watch "Friends" on NBC. "Sex and the City" set a high standard for adults-only TV shows that advertiser-supported network sitcoms cannot hope to match anytime soon.

"Sex and the City" always had a strong sense of style. And now it seems prepared to bring down the curtain with something new - a touch of class.