In the city, before all the sex
The prequel series must connect with another generation of viewers, writes
WILL The Carrie Diaries connect with viewers? Hard to say since some of the show’s target audience was in primary school when Sex and the City went off the air in 2004.
True, Sex and the City lives on in reruns and big-screen movies, but as a prequel series The Carrie Diaries will have to stand on its own.
The pilot episode gets off to a pretty decent start. The Carrie Diaries doesn’t reinvent the teen drama but it does offer a comparatively tame take on the teen years, at least in its pilot episode.
Tonally, Carrie Diaries is much closer to the late Life Unexpected than it is to Gossip Girl. Set in 1984 when Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) is a 16-year-old virgin living in Castlebury, Connecticut, The Carrie Diaries is based on a book by author Candace Bushnell, who also wrote the book Sex and the City was based on.
Carrie Diaries rewrites some of Carrie’s past as presented in HBO’s Sex and the City.
In the original series, Carrie’s father abandoned her and her mother and no mention was made of siblings.
As The Carrie Diaries begins, Carrie’s mother died a few months earlier, leaving Carrie’s father (Matt Letscher, Eli Stone) to raise Carrie and her younger sister, the rebellious Dorrit (Stefania Owen).
The Carrie Diaries pilot was written by Amy Harris, who was previously a writer on Sex and the City, and executive-produced by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage.
Sex and the City was one of the first shows in the modern TV era to make widespread use of diary-style, voiceover narration. Carrie Diaries can get away with this crutch – telling, not showing – because of its pedigree, I suppose.
‘‘As I watched everyone passing around the news of the day like mono after a homecoming dance, I realised that I was the virus no one wanted to get near, the freak who had lost her mom,’’ Carrie narrates on the first day of the new school year.
Viewers meet her best friends: Supersmart Mouse (Ellen Wong, Scott Pilgrim vs the World) and Maggie (Katie Findlay), who is dating Walt (Brendan Dooling). Carrie also has a few frenemies, including Donna LaDonna (Chloe Bridges), who looks like she walked off the set of Square Pegs.
And then there’s Carrie’s proto-Mr. Big: Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler, Life Unexpected), a rich kid she bonded with two summers earlier. He’s since been kicked out of multiple boarding schools before landing at Carrie’s high school. Carrie Diaries isn’t just a high-school-set show.
The opening scene, reminiscent of the beginning of Sex and the City, shows Carrie walking down a busy Manhattan footpath. Turns out it’s a dream that foreshadows her New York adventures to come, when her father snags her an internship with a Manhattan law firm.
It’s not glamorous work, but on a break she goes to a department store and runs into a hip style expert for Interview magazine.
Larissa (Freema Agyeman, Doctor Who) doesn’t seem to realise that Carrie is a highschooler and invites her out to party and meet her boho, chic friends. (This gives the show shades of the cancelled ABC Family series Jane by Design, where another highschooler found herself working in the city for employers who didn’t notice she was a teenager.)
It will be interesting to see how the show will deal with a few 1980s issues. Showing off ’80s-era fashion is one thing, but when Carrie meets her first gay guys you have to wonder if The Carrie Diaries will work the AIDS crisis into its storytelling.
Will The Carrie Diaries be a show of moderate depth, like Sex and the City, or merely a shallow teen soap?
Time – and Carrie’s ubiquitous narration – will eventually tell.
star AnnaSophia Robb.