Monday, January 21, 2013

Review - The Carrie Diaires

Let me preface this review by saying I am a HUGE fan of Sex and the City.  I have all the DVDs, I occasionally tune in to it on E! despite have the DVDs, and I quote and reference the show all the time.  So when I heard they were doing this show about Carrie Bradshaw's teen years, I was curious but tentative.  After all, I'm not the best when it comes to re-imaginings/re-inventions, etc. of favorites of mine (see Battlestar Galactica old and new), but I like to give everything at least a chance.

This isn't a home run winner for me but it's not bad.  I think it stands fine on its own as a teen drama (it's an hour-long, as opposed to SATC's half-hour), but when you link it to such a powerhouse series like SATC and such a notable character as Carrie, it's asking a lot.  It's hard not to try and compare TCD star AnnaSophia Robb's (Soul Surfer) 15-year-old-Carrie to Sarah Jessica Parker's SATC Carrie - to look for similarities in reactions, nuances, inflections.  I know that our teen selves are often vastly different from our adult selves, and for that I hold back any nitpicking I'm tempted to harp on.

Robb is a likeable actress and she definitely has the cuteness and great hair going for her.  The younger Carrie is not yet a writer, still a virgin (thanks TCD for having her be so at 15, though her girlfriends alas are not...) and is just becoming a budding  fashionista.  Older Carrie (OC) is all about fashion and so often makes bold, out-of-the-box if not sometimes "what the ...?" statements, but Young Carrie (YC) is more conservative (until the last shot in the pilot episode, anyway, as seen below). 

Bonus:  TCD takes place in 1984, so it's fun to see all the crazy trends that era allotted, albeit somewhat toned down here.  Kinda wish they'd go all the way with it...

TCD has Carrie living with her widowed father (Matt Letscher, Scandal, Eli Stone), with whom she has a good relationship.  Interesting to go with this, being that SATC touched on OC's father issues just once, very briefly, and it made you believe the relationship was anything but good and was likely the cause of many of OC's questionable choices in men.  YC is dealing with the recent death of her mother, and her mom's closet is like her mecca for clothes.  The two had a tradition of going shopping for back-to-school clothes, so YC has to deal with facing the new school year on her own (dad lets her take her mom's sunglasses).   There's also suddenly a sister, Dorrit (Stefania Owen, Running Wilde).  SATC NEVER mentioned a sister, so again, interesting to go with this choice, knowing that SATC is gone and will therefore never address it (unless there is a third movie).

Another huge aspect of Carrie Bradshaw is her friends.  In SATC, we had sassy, sexy Samantha Jones (Kim Catrall), sweet, hopeful Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) and smart, guarded Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon).  TCD has Jill "The Mouse" Thompson (Ellen Wong, "Knives" from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), YC's Charlotte equivalent, Maggie Landers (Katie Findlay, The Killing), the Samantha of the group, and Walt Reynolds (Brendan Dooling), who could be the Miranda because of his guardedness but also the Stanford Blatch (SATC's Willie Garson), since Walt is realizing he might be gay (Stanford was OC's gay BFF).  There is also a potential love interest in new kid Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler, witched at Birth) ... he's no Mr. Big (Chris Noth), but who is, really?

TCD steals a little from the series Jane By Design (a delightful ABC Family show starring Erica Dasher and Andie MacDowell that I was sorry to see cancelled last year) in that, like Jane, a high schooler who passes herself off as an adult to work in the fashion industry, YC is mistaken to be an adult working on Wall St. by Larissa (Freema Agyeman, Doctor Who) a writer for Interview magazine who brings YC into her inner circle of NYC hipsters, therefore setting YC off on an exciting double life.  If you like the idea of this plot, do check out JBD when/if available on DVD or online.

There is, of course, one more very prominent character relevant to both SATC and TCD:  New York City.  Carrie Bradshaw has always been all about this "Man" (Manhattan, get it?) and it's nice to see where and how her love affair with the Big Apple began.  The pilot episode nicely has YC admitting to losing her metaphorical virginity - in essence, her innocence - to the city and not just some guy.  I like this.  And knowing how sexually active OC is, knowing her sexual experiences and things she dealt with (including an abortion at 22), it's interesting to watch YC at such an innocent part of her life just on the cusp of growing up.

The pilot episode did leave us with a very familiar image:  Carrie sitting in front of a window writing (YC with a journal as opposed to OC and a laptop) and reflecting on what's she's learned recently.  All we were missing were the words "I couldn't help but wonder..."  I appreciated the bridge between old and new.  Nice tribute.

Unfortunately Mondays are very crowded for me, so I will not likely be a regular viewer of The Carrie Diaries, but it's likeable enough to recommend, especially to those less familiar with Sex and the City - you have the freedom to enjoy it without the inevitable comparisons.  Obviously I highly recommend watching/re-watching Sex and the City, still one of my all-time favorite series. 

Bottom line:  A decent show to have a whimsical viewing affair with.

The Carrie Diaries airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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