Spring 2013 Review: The Carrie Diaries

4 Mar

Carrie, '80s style

There was a show you probably heard of called Sex and the City, on HBO in the late ’90s and early ’00s.  Sex and the City was based on the autobiographical columns of New York writer Candace Bushnell.  Sex and the City was hugely successful, spawning two movies (the second less successful than the first), and single-handedly increasing brand awareness of products like Manolo Blahnik shoes, at least among people like me, who would never have heard of them otherwise.  After the fantastical success of the Sex and the City TV show, Bushnell, in 2010, wrote a two-part series called The Carrie Diaries to serve as a prequel to Sex and the City, about Carrie Bradshaw’s life as a senior in high school.  It’s these prequel books that are now being adapted into the TV show The Carrie Diaries.

Okay, so The Carrie Diaries.  The star is of course teenager Carrie Bradshaw, a high school junior in 1984.  It’s part classic ’80s John Hughes movie.  Carrie’s got her own crew wacky friends, where everyone has a role.  There’s bookish Asian girl Jill, who everyone calls the mouse (Ellen Wong from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, who has to be almost 30 by now), slutty drunk Maggie (played by Katie Lindlay, best known as dead teenager Rosie Larson from The Killing), and a guy, Walt, who’s dating Maggie but is clearly probably gay, staring at pictures of Rob Lowe late in the episode.  There’s a mean girl (exactly how mean has yet to be determined, but you know the type), Donna, and her posse who run around the school like they own the place, and there’s a rich bad boy, Sebastian with a good heart who Carrie clearly likes, Andrew McCarthy in Pretty in Pink style.  There’s lots of ’80s style all around and plenty of period music in the first episode, including Blue Monday, Footloose, Burning Down the House, Just Can’t Get Enough, and several others.

There’s a serious side to the show as well (it is, after all, an hour long and it doesn’t seem like CW does half hour comedies anymore).  Carrie’s mom died just months before the show begins, and her, her dad, and her rebellious sister are all suffering in the aftermath of her death and handling it in different ways.  Her dad looks like a cross between Dennis Leary and Tim DeKay from White Collar, and is having a hard time filling the role of both parents, and knowing when to try to take over his wife’s role, and when he’ll never be able to.  Her 14-year old sister, Dorrit, was the outcast to the good girl Carrie, even before her mother’s death, and she acts out, frustrating both her dad and Carrie, who don’t know how to handle her behavior.  Carrie struggles as well, trying to be the good girl, help her sister and dad, and live her own life.

There’s yet one more important aspect.  In order to help her both grow up and recover from the devastation of her mom’s death, Carrie’s dad arranges for her a one day a week internship at a law firm Manhattan, where she’s always wanted to live (get it?  that’s her future home!).  While there, she meets a crazy artsy socialite, Larissa (played by Freema Agyeman, Dr. Who’s Martha Jones), who has Carrie help her steal a dress from Century 21 and takes her to a super wacky artsy party where she meets a bunch of fascinating people (her first gay people!) and pretends to be older than she is.  She also says the worst line of the episode as she leaves, narrating about how infatuated she was with New York – saying that she doesn’t need a boy, because she’s found her man – Manhattan. Boooooo.

There it is, one part ’80s teen comedy, one part heartwarming dealing-with-serious-issues teen drama, and one part teen pretending-to-be-someone-else in Manhattan.  As for quality, well, it’s okay.  That’s really about it.  The acting was fine, the treatment of the ’80s mimicked the classic ’80s of films without being grossly over the top, and the tragedy of Carrie’s mom’s death seemed well handled by the show in the first episode, with pathos but not overdramatic.  If you like what you’ve heard so far, there’s nothing negative enough about the quality of the show that would recommend against watching it.  If you don’t like what you’ve heard so far, there’s nothing positive enough about the quality that would recommend watching it.  It certainly doesn’t transcend it’s genre, but it’s not an embarrassment either.   CW’s made a number or programs in this vein, and while I don’t think it’s ever going to get close to the kind of buzz of Q rating of its notable progenitor, The Carrie Diaries does seem clearly aimed at CW’s core demographic. As for comparisons to Sex and the City itself, The Carrie Diaries are a little bit more serious, more teen (obviously), thus more emo, and less irreverent, and also, fairly obviously, less bawdy.

Will I watch it again?  No.  This show falls into the vast chasm of shows that aren’t so good but aren’t so bad.  I don’t really have so many bad words for The Carrie Diaries; I could imagine why someone might want to watch it.  It just has nothing particularly interesting for me in a world where there more than enough good and interesting shows out there that I haven’t seen yet.

One Response to “Spring 2013 Review: The Carrie Diaries”

  1. Anonymous November 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Will there ever be a season two?

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