YAB Review: “The Carrie Diaries”

Today's post comes from Youth Advisory Board member Maddie, 18, who's been following the new series "The Carrie Diaries", on the CW network. The series is a prequel to "Sex and the City" and follows the character of Carrie Bradshaw during her junior year of high school in the early 1980s. Originally a novel by the author of "Sex and City", Candace Bushnell, the young Carrie asks her first questions about love, sex, friendship and family while navigating the worlds of high school against the backdrop of Manhattan.

YAB Review: “The Carrie Diaries” 

To say that “The Carrie Diaries,” The CW’s prequel to “Sex and the City,” had big Manolo Blahniks to fill would be an understatement. Fans of the original show, myself included, have six captivating seasons and two movies to compare this to. While it could have easily gone sour fast, a la so many prequels and sequels before it, “The Carrie Diaries” has proved itself in the five episodes aired thus far as a tantalizing glimpse into Carrie’s early life. We have seen her first kiss, her first bad-boy relationship, and best of all, her first adventures in New York City. The show follows Carrie as she splits her time between an internship in the city and attending high school in her hometown of Castlebury, CT, while also juggling friends, a rebellious little sister, and the grief that accompanied the recent death of her mother.

While the show has received mixed reviews so far, what the critics seem to be holding on to is the fact that it’s not an exact replica of its predecessor – but that is not how the show should be viewed. Yes, there are obvious discrepancies – I sometimes find myself wondering what happened to Dorrit and wasn’t Carrie’s father the missing parent? But these details do little to detract from the show’s appeal. Viewers will fall in love with 16-year-old Carrie for the same reasons they fell for her 30-something self: her charm, wit, intelligence, and independence. Played by the brilliant AnnaSophia Robb (who has SJP’s Carrie mannerisms down to a tee), Carrie exudes a familiar appeal; she is curious but not overly critical, a romantic but not a pushover, and introspective without sounding pretentious.

“The Carrie Diaries” incorporates most of the same characters as the book it’s based off of, Candace Bushnell’s novel of the same name. Like her future self, Carrie has a solid group of friends, whose close and honest relationships with one another give the show the same heart as “SATC.” It was immediately tempting to draw comparisons between Carrie’s two female best friends, Maggie (played by Katie Findlay) and Mouse (played by Ellen Wong), and Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. Maggie is clearly the Samantha, with her adventurous spirit and obsession with sex. Mouse, quiet and (mostly) innocent, seems more akin to Charlotte. However, these are in fact different characters with much different storylines; it’s hard to imagine Samantha approving of Maggie’s recent decision to get back together with her distant (and soon to come out) ex-boyfriend.

Carrie’s bad-boy love interest Sebastian Kydd (played by Austin Butler) has been a central part of the show so far, and their storyline is big part of what keeps me eager to watch each week. While he is no Mr. Big, he has the same charm and mystery that keeps you rooting for him and Carrie even when you’re not sure whether or not he deserves her. At the end of the fourth episode, “Fright Night,” he begins to show a softer side after bringing a stoned-for-the-first-time Mouse back to Carrie’s house. As Carrie says in her very SATC-like voiceovers, “I realized then that I couldn’t demonize him as someone selfish – he did care about people.”

While those who grew up in the 80s will probably see more similarities, I have not found the 80s setting to be particularly overbearing, which helps to keep it from feeling unrelatable. Big hair and shoulder pads aside, Carrie and her friends deal with the same things as any highschooler today – boyfriends, cliques, and parties.
One of the most impressive aspects of this show is this relatability. Both kinds of viewers, teens already familiar with Ms. Bradshaw and those meeting her for the first time, will find her adventures far more believable than those depicted in shows like “Gossip Girl” or “The OC,” ironically both produced by the same dream-team that has brought us “The Carrie Diaries,” Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz. While I, along with many of my peers soaked up the aforementioned shows for their glitz and glamour, the character’s lives were far from average. “The Carrie Diaries” has so far managed to walk a seldom-tread line: it addresses topics such as sex, drugs, and drinking without entering after-school-special territory or choosing the hyper-reality route, in which it is normal to sip cocktails with parents and catch your father with a vial of coke. The writers show these issues as they are; some kids smoke pot, and throw parties, but they are also aware of the potential consequences.

In the same vein, those of us teens and twentysomethings that did watch the original series will be able to connect with this version for obvious reasons. We are still in the “becoming” stage of the apropos tagline “Be who you want to become.” We haven’t reached the got-it-together, steady job and fabulous apartment lifestyle of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. Many of us don’t even know what we’d like that steady job to be. Like young Carrie, we are still trying to figure that out.

The show does occasionally slip out cliché lines, and each episode tends to neatly wrap up Carrie and Co.’s current problems, however Robb’s impressive skills and the chemistry of the cast make up for these missteps. If the show continues in the direction it has gone thus far, there will soon be a whole new generation of Carrie Bradshaw-idolizers.

Maddie Flager

Maddie YAB memberMadison is currently a freshman at Loyola Marymount University, majoring in Communication Studies. She writes and copy edits for the LA Loyolan and is active in community service on campus. She plans to pursue a career in journalism and hopes to write for Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly one day. In high school, Madison was editor-in-chief of The Prowl, vice-president of Key Club, and active in both marching and concert band. In her spare time she enjoys reading fashion magazines, watching The Office and exploring the city of Los Angeles.

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