in Television

TV Review: Friendship, Fashion, and Flirtation on ‘The Carrie Diaries’

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Girls just wanna have fun!

I never planned on watching The Carries Diaries, but it’s certainly one of those things where you end up glad that you did watch.

When I first heard that this show was in production, I… laughed. The whole concept seemed ridiculous to me. My faith, or lack thereof, in The CW putting out good shows didn’t help matters.

A prequel to Sex and the City, especially after two disastrous feature films (one of which involved neo-liberal racism at its finest)? No thank you. What was the point, considering we already know what happens to Carrie? The fact that it was being created by the producers of the CW trainwreck known as Gossip Girl was another huge turn-off for me.

So maybe it was AnnaSophia Robb’s likability factor that drew me into the show. But it’s certainly not the only thing that kept me tuned in episode after episode.

While – yes – the show is a prequel to Sex and the City, the show draws most of its inspiration from the books (authored by Candace Bushnell) – not the show, which was very loosely based off the books. So don’t expect The Carrie Diaries to be perfectly in sync with the late HBO series.

Set in the 1980’s, the show follows a teenage Carrie Bradshaw as she’s coming of age in the aftermath of her mother’s passing. Her father, played by Matt Letscher who was last seen in ABC’s Scandal, is a lawyer who manages to get her an internship at a law office in Manhattan. Carrie is thrilled, but it’s not the internship itself that excited her. It’s Manhattan and the opportunities the city presents her with.

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The main arc kicks off when Carrie is shopping at a department store on her lunch break, carrying her late mother’s old purse which she’s had to alter slightly after her younger sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen) spills some nail polish on the front. There, she’s accosted by Larissa Loughlin, played by Doctor Who alum Freema Agyeman. Larissa reveals that she works for Interview magazine and would love to photograph the purse for an upcoming issue. Carrie is ecstatic, and she unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

Aside from Carrie’s family, whom we see a lot, the show also delves into the lives of Carrie’s high school friends: the sarcastic and underachieving Maggie (Katie Findlay), her WASP-y boyfriend Walt (Brendan Dooling), and the overly ambitious Jill who goes by the nickname “Mouse” (Ellen Wong). There’s also Carrie’s love interest Sebastian Kidd, played by Austin Butler, who seems to be in a perpetual state of ‘smoldering,’ and classic mean girl Donna LaDonna (Chloe Bridges) whom we learn more about in the most recent episode.

I like the emphasis on Carrie’s friendship with Maggie, Walt, and Mouse. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual ‘frenemy’ drama that The CW serves up with shows like 90210 and Gossip Girl. Instead, Carrie’s friends are loyal, protective, and genuinely care for one another.

The family drama is one of the weaker elements of the show, especially where Dorrit – who’s going through a rebellious phase – is concerned. It’s nice when the sisters manage to bond, but it seems whatever progress Dorrit makes is erased in the following episode.

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While it’s pretty obvious that none of the fashion is realistic for the time period, considering the huge emphasis placed on fashion in the show, I like what they’ve done with a lot of the styling. The bright colors, in particular, make the show visually appealing and sets a certain tone. All in all, it’s a more romanticized version of 80’s fashion. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing – far from it.

I’m not super in love with the romantic plotline on the show. Carrie and Sebastian got together in the most recent episode, after Carrie dumped her college-aged Manhattan boyfriend – whom I didn’t particularly care for either. Strangely enough, Sebastian and Mouse seem like a more interesting romantic prospect but I’m not sure the likelihood of that couple happening is very high. The romance isn’t a detriment to the show, however.

The Carrie Diaries is a cute, fun show, and definitely worthy of a season 2 renewal.