Remember Sex and the City? Do you remember Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte getting together for brunch at their favorite café? Remember crying during Charlotte’s infertility problems, getting angry at Carrie’s relationship fails and laughing at Samantha’s sexual escapades? That’s fantastic if you do remember all those moments that made SATC iconic. Now forget them, because if you start watching The CW’s new series The Carrie Diaries thinking that’s it’s an extension of the SATC-universe you’ll be greatly disappointed. And yes, I understand that there are books that this show is based on, but I also like to pretend that the books are from an entirely different universe.
With that out of the way, The Carrie Diaries is a brand new venture from The CW network and series co-creator, Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Gossip Girl). It stars young AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia, Because of Winn-Dixie) playing a precocious 16-year old coincidentally named Carrie Bradshaw. Which is not an uncommon name at all, there are about 348 Carrie Bradshaws in the US and 11 in Manhattan alone (Google is my best friend). This Carrie Bradshaw is very similar to SATC’s Carrie; they both love fashion and New York, and they both have been blessed with blonde, curly locks, and that’s where the similarities end.
Our Carrie’s story begins in the fictional suburban town of Castlebury, Connecticut. Having lost her mother to cancer 3 months previously, Carrie and her family are struggling to find a sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, Carrie’s family is so predictable and one-dimensional you’ll find yourself wondering whether or not you’re actually watching a Lifetime film. Carrie’s poor dad is so depth-less he doesn’t even have a real name (which at this point I’m assuming is just “Dad”). The actor who plays him has yet to even get a billing on IMDB. Carrie’s sister, however, takes the cake in predictability and personality. Dorrit (which at this point I’m hoping will be changed to “Sister” as the season continues) is an effervescent ball of sunshine. Just kidding, she’s a brat. Dear Dorrit fits the bill for the stereotypical Lifetime Movie troubled teen: Dead parent? Check, surly attitude? Check, starts wearing too much make-up? Double check, starts rebelling? Triple check. Dorrit’s only saving grace is her taste in music; her numerous Joy Division posters proves to me that she’s not entirely disappointing. I have to hand to the actress who plays Dorrit, Stefania Owen (Running Wilde, The Lovely Bones), she knows how to play a troubled teen very well. Even I, at one point, was yelling at the TV screen telling Dorrit to go to her room, she’s just that good.
Continuing on, Carrie’s first day of school gives the audience a chance to meet her high school friends. There’s
Samantha Maggie a brunette who’s not afraid of making a sexual innuendo or two, Maggie’s boyfriend Walt, who may or may not be gay, and Charlotte Mouse, a seemingly shy but loyal girl with boy troubles of her own. Throughout this part of the episode, the camera pans over Carrie’s other high school classmates to give the audience a glimpse of 80’s fashion that most of us were lucky enough not to experience. Although what we’re given is slight off the mark, apparently to the costume designers of this show 80’s means: neon, bangles, and polos. Some of these outfits are so modern that I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them whipped out an iPhone in order to show their friends the latest Bananarama video. To make up for their lack of actual 80’s wardrobe, the writers have come up with a clever way of reminding the audience that this series is supposed to take place in the 80’s. By having the characters refer to people who were popular in the 80’s (Rob Lowe, Madonna etc.), it’ll make the audience look past the wardrobe fails and continue the immersion the writers have worked so hard to keep.
Talk of 80’s icons dies down as a new kid, cleverly named Sebastian Kydd, arrives on the scene. Immediately Carrie is so taken with him that you start to get a nostalgic reminder of another Carrie who fell for men as quick as lightning. After the blonde Kydd exits, we’re treated to a scene of Carrie and her girlfriends gathered around a table in their school’s library dishing about their latest sexual experiences. It seems that
Charlotte Mouse has lost her virginity over the summer and is head-over-hills with the guy who took it (he later ends up ignoring her calls and high-tailing it back home). While Samantha Maggie nonchalantly mentions that she and her totally-straight boyfriend, Walt, have also had sex (they haven’t, she has though). This raises the issue with Carrie about how she’s the only virgin in her group of friends. Maggie comes up with the brilliant idea for Carrie to ask Kydd to the dance and then sleep with him.
Fast forward through a make-out with Kydd, and a fainting spell in the school’s hallway and we arrive at Carrie’s first experience with Manhattan. Her father (who through further research, I’ve learned his name is “Tom”) has hooked Carrie up with an internship in the big city. Not at anything glamorous, it’s a dead –end internship at a law firm filing files, but Carrie soars at the chance to go to New York. After a run-in with Dorrit in which their dead mother’s purse ends up destroyed by Dorrit, only to be destroyed even further after Carrie’s done “improving” it, Carrie finally arrives in the city. In her first few minutes in the city she manages to fall over and rip her stockings. Her klutziness was endearing, it was like a callback to another blonde whose name also started with “C.” After Carrie’s boss chastises her for having very pale legs, Carrie is sent on a mission to buy new nude stockings. It is inside a Century 21 that Carrie finds her mecca and also a new shoplifter friend who is probably 10 years older than her. The sticky fingered woman introduces herself as Larissa Loughlin who is played by Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who, Torchwood). Larissa is a free spirit who works for, Carrie’s favorite magazine, Interview magazine (add another Rob Lowe reference here).
Larissa, who strangely enough has no qualms about befriending a minor (or at this point I doubt she even knows that Carrie is a minor), invites Carrie to a club to meet her other friends who are artists just like her. She even sends young Bradshaw a dress to wear for the big night out, which gives Carrie’s boss another opportunity to throw in an 80’s pop culture reference.
As unpredictable as it sounds, Carrie finds herself at a cross-road. Does she go to the club where all the cool kids are hanging out or does she go to the high school dance and lose her virginity to a guy whose last name is Kydd? Honestly, neither one sounds like a bright idea. I don’t know if it’s because I’m finally getting older and therefore more mature or if it’s because I’m a total wet blanket but throughout the entire scene where 16 year old Carrie is in the club with a bunch of older strangers, a thousand red flags went up for me. The only redeeming fact was that after 40 minutes of faux 80’s outfits the audience was finally getting a glimpse of true 80’s fashion. There were bangs that have been teased to-hell-and-back and hair-sprayed to heaven, people dressed as members of Run-DMC and Hammer/parachute pants, honest-to-god Hammer/parachute pants, it was beautiful.
While Carrie may not have lost her virginity that night, she did reach another important milestone: her introduction to gay culture. Surely a moment like this will be most helpful for Carrie in the future, especially if she were to one day wish to become friends with a socialite named “Stanford.” It was almost sweet to see her go all bug-eyed when she met two fine young gentlemen who were owning the dance floor, and when she remarked that she had never met someone who was gay, her new friends told her that there was most likely someone right underneath her nose. If that wasn’t the biggest Blue’s Clue ever found.
Ever faithful Walt escorted Carrie home from the train station after Carrie realized that she was way past curfew. After a confrontation with Kydd and resident mean girl Donna LaDonna (I’m not kidding), and a heartfelt discussion with Walt about how he is still a virgin (which means
Sam Mags is a cheater) Carrie makes it home to find out that her sweetheart of a sister, Dorrit, has gone missing. The little scamp pulled a masterful maneuver by keeping the phone off the hook so nobody can call thereby giving her a wonderful excuse as to where she had been. When she finally makes it back the la casa de Bradshaw, she’s wasted causing Carrie to go into a mommy meltdown which leads her to stomp up the stairs while her father ( “Dad” Tom) merely looks on as if he has forgotten how to parent overnight. When Tom’s senses come to he makes his way to Carrie’s room and a healing process begins for the two of them, they invite Dorrit to join in their kumbaya moment and together the Bradshaws start the process of moving on… and scene.
I was ready to give up on this show half-way through but towards the end, I’ve realized that there’s a lot of potential: Mouse’s love life now that virginity guy flew the coop, Maggie’s secret affair with random older cop. It could become something really nice. Yeah, okay so that final moment with the Bradshaws plucked a few heartstrings, I have grown such a soft spot for Dorrit. Since it’s a Josh Schwartz production though, I imagine that’ll follow his fail-proof formula: one good season, two okay seasons and what happens after that it up to the television Gods. Hey, if nothing else, this show has an amazing soundtrack
Here’s next week’s promo