The Carrie Diaries, in case you didn’t know, is a “prequel” to Sex and the City. Young Carrie (played by the kewpie-eyed AnnaSophia Robb, sporting an unfortunate perm) is a teenager from Connecticut in the 80s. Her mother has recently died of cancer and she lives with her doting, if sometimes bumbling father (Matt Letscher) and her proto-goth kid sister Dorrit (adorable Stefania Owen.)
And since this is a teen drama, we think we know what to expect: Carrie won’t be popular, she’ll be tormented by a “mean girl” and suffer numerous indignities in the school cafeteria; she’ll pine for a popular boy who doesn’t love her back (or at least can’t risk losing social standing by being seen with her). She’ll feel misunderstood, awkward, and sometimes ignored.
Or, well, not.
Because teenage Carrie Bradshaw has to be the most well-adjusted kid on TV. She has a group of great friends, who are really smart and cool and supportive. She is dating the best looking boy in school, Sebastian (played by the best-looking boy on TV, Austin Butler.)
She has fallen in love with New York City—as young Carrie Bradshaw would—and even got a job at the über-cool Interview magazine.
Many scenes of The Carrie Diaries are basically Carrie sitting at a booth at her favorite diner making out with Sebastian or bashing about New York City, marveling over her good fortune.
Yes, there is a “mean girl”, Donna (Chloe Bridges)—who briefly wins Sebastian away from Carrie (meanwhile, Carrie has her own hot new prepster boyfriend). But the mean girl isn’t even all that mean (she helps Carrie’s friend Walt deal with his closeted homosexuality) and Sebastian clearly loves Carrie, not her.
I started watching The Carrie Diaries because I’m totally infatuated with that period in New York. And while the show doesn’t get everything right—a lot of the fashion choices in particular seem like they come from the Urban Outfitters “Totally 80z” section—a lot is right: The Limelight! Bret Easton Ellis book release parties! The Smiths! Basquiat!
In a way, the show tracks consistently with Sex and the City, its own glossy, sugar-coated celebration of New York, girl power, and friendship. Yes, there were flare-ups of drama on Sex and the City—just as there are on The Carrie Diaries—but for the most part, that show was sunny and chipper. (That was why it briefly struggled to find its footing after 9/11.) But there was also all that great sex and all that great fashion—not to mention, the snarky, world-wise commentary by Samantha, Miranda, et al. It was fabulous, in a way that a show about teenagers simply can’t be.
I must confess that, charming as it can be, I sometimes find Carrie’s sunniness a little insipid. If the girl’s got the best friends, the hottest guy, and the coolest internship on the planet, what exactly is the source of the drama? (They show her grieving for her mother, but in a spunky, “I’m going to keep mom’s sprit alive!” kinda way.)
There is, however, one thing I absolutely adore about this show. There are hot guys on The Carrie Diaries, of course, but Carrie and her friends are not defined by them.
In fact, in the penultimate episode, Carrie breaks up with Sebastian—methinks not for long—because he doesn’t understand or support her ambition at Interview magazine.
Likewise, brainy Mouse (Ellen Wong) dumps her boyfriend because sex with him is taking away from her grade point average. (Another bonus! The Asian girl here might be a brain—cliché alert—but she also has lots of hot guys to choose from. Hooray!)
Next week is the season finale of the show (and possibly the series finale—ratings are middling at best.)
I’ll be watching—and expecting a totally warm and fuzzy ending. After all, cliffhangers are so. . . upsetting.