"The Carrie Diaries" Review: A Manhattan Fairy-Tale Set In a Mythical Place Called "The 1980s"
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"The Carrie Diaries" Review: A Manhattan Fairy-Tale Set In a Mythical Place Called "The 1980s"

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | January 15, 2013 | Comments ()


I tuned into The CW's "Carrie Diaries" pilot because I assumed it would be an easy mark: Trash it, torch it, and move one, chalk it up to another misguided and failed effort to exploit a name brand for capitalistic gain. But while it's perhaps an unnecessary prequel (in the entertainment world, what really is "necessary"?), it's not a terrible one. It's not even a bad one, inasmuch as it's a defanged and oddly innocent imagining of a young Carrie Bradshaw, one that sugar-coats the 1980s, and one that the original Cyndi Lauper "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" seems particularly well-suited to: It's frothy, surface deep, vibrant, and cute.

AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia, Because of Winn-Dixie) plays Carrie Bradshaw, and would be terribly miscast were it not for the fact that she's such an endearing actress. She's a young Sarah Jessica Parker (circa Footloose and "Square Pegs") who has been given a Blake Lively make-over and first season "Felicity" locks. The show picks up in Carrie's senior year of high school, three months removed from the death of her mother (NOT CANON) and dealing with the weight of that while trying to immerse herself back into high-school life.

Naturally, she has a circle of friends, and this is where "The Carrie Diaries" plays the most with familiar 80's character tropes: There's the mousy best friend (Ellen Wong); the slutty one (Kate Findlay, Rosie Larson from "The Killing"); and the slutty one's closeted gay boyfriend (Brendan Dooling), i.e., gay Duckie. The unrequited love of Carrie's life couldn't be more Spader-esque if they'd gotten a young Spader and sandblasted him with muscles, and of course, there's a group of Heathers that are certain to Mean Girl Carrie to death all season long.

Meanwhile, Carrie has also secured an internship in New York City where she is mistaken by a fashion editor for Interview ("Doctor Who's" Freema Agyeman) as an adult (see: Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead), and I expect that she'll eventually find her way onto the magazine as a writer, Cameron Crowe-style. She also has, in a suburban sense (and not the Precious sense), a dysfunctional younger sister (Stefania LaVie Owen) going through a Goth phase in the wake of their mother's death, and a widower father (Matthew Letscher) just trying to cope.

That's the basic set-up, but undoubtedly, the star of the show will be the 80's fashion, the giggly gossip, a fairy-tale Manhattan that never existed, and the boys (*titter, titter*), which is to say: It's well suited to the CW demo: "Sex and the City" by way of "Saved by the Bell" starring a grown-up Ramona Quimby and a lot of John Hughes' characters. The voice overs (CANON) are just as painful as they were in "SATC," but "The Carrie Diaries" is too harmless, too easy on the brain, and too sweet to raise much of a fuss over. The heaviest thing about the pilot was this fantastic cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," (Spotify link)and while I doubt "The Carrie Diaries" will ever be a compelling show, it's perky, delightful, and winsome enough to be watchable.

While You Were Campaining for an Oprah Interview About Your Use Of Performance Enhancing Cake | 5 Shows After Dark 1/15/13

Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • MellieOleson

    Did no one else think that "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" was added as a nod to SJP's movie from the 80s? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt00...

  • ellcoolj

    She was in footloose??? Are you sure it wasn't He said She said?

  • MellieOleson

    SJP was Willard's girlfriend and Ariel's bestie in Footloose.

  • BWeaves

    It drives me crazy when writers always have a group of friends, and there's the cute one, and the smart one and the slutty one, and the funny one, and they all have different styles. In real life, the girls who hung out together all looked alike, acted alike and dressed alike. The popular girls all hung out together and looked and dressed alike. The nerds hung out together and looked and dressed alike. The fat girls all hung out together and looked and dressed alike.

    Also, nobody looked like that in the 80's. Geez, is it that difficult to get it right? Any vintage store could have supplied the right look. Plus, there are photos of that time period, in color.

  • Kballs

    That girl doesn't look a day older than 14 and the writers are going to put her in a relationship with some college dude. I thought this show was about Carrie, not Samantha! ZING!

  • Tracer Bullet

    It's always been my understanding that Duckie WAS the Gay Duckie.

  • Puddin

    Duckie totally hooked up with Annie Potts, and she made a man out of him.

  • pumpkin

    Couldn't they even have made a half-assed attempt to find an actress who resembled SJP even a little bit.

  • ,

    Kids who look like SJP* wouldn't have a fucking chance in hell in Hollywood.

    *--Poor fuckers.

  • pumpkin

    But she did...in the 1980s.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Even with that body?

  • elsie_the_first

    "She’s a young Sarah Jessica Parker (circa Footloose and “Square Pegs”)..."

    I just re-watched the whole Square Pegs series, something I haven't seen since it aired when I was in 8th grade. It was just as fantastic as I remembered. Totally different head.

    That's all I wanted to say.

  • pumpkin

    I was in 10th grade and didn't miss an episode of Square Pegs. I also rewatched it recently. It really was/is a great show.

  • Puddin

    Perhaps the inevitable cocaine benders Carrie went on while clubbing in the 80s caused the, umm, reformation of her nose?

    And her dad left her and her mom when she was little, because that's what Carrie told Ron Rifkin when she got drunk. When she got drunk at Vooogue. (I still love that episode)

  • Mrs. Julien

    Mahnolo Blahnik Mary Janes! I thought they were an urban shoe myth.

  • Puddin

    Put your pants on. This is Vogue.

  • babykangarootribbiani

    my problem with stuff set in the 80's that wasn;t actually made then is they basically go around for two hours dressing like Madonna and marveling at the wonder of compact discs. but this is the second review i;ve read of this show that wasn;t completely negative, so i might have to watch it. and excluding soul surfer, i;m yet to watch something with annasophia robb and hate it.

  • Cree83

    I don't know why I care that they rewrote Carrie's backstory. But it bothers me. It really does.

  • True_Blue

    Given that I have no intention of watching this (didn't watch the original series either)--did they ever explain how this young Carrie with a cute nose metamorphosized into Sarah Jessica Parker, she with a sizeable honker? Is there such a thing as a reverse nose job?

  • meh

    You know what would be an awesome way to end this series?
    Bucket of pig's blood and telekinetically-induced Prom fire.
    Just sayin'.

  • OldSchool60

    Dustin, what is wrong with you?!?!?!?!?!?

  • pajiba

    Well, I can't crap on it just for the sake of crapping on it. IT'S NOT TWILIGHT.

  • Salieri2

    Goddammit, I miss the Scathing Reviews and the Bitchy People.

  • Scully

    Oh, we're still here, scathing in the corners....waiting. TK has taught us well.

  • BWeaves

    Oh, I love this thread.

  • googergieger

    I thought the prequel to Sex in the City was the Mr. Hands video tapes.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Pretty sure they didn't have shoes like that in the 80s...

  • Somewhere around 1985, super high spike heels/stilettos came into fashion - at least in L.A. But there was no sensible platform to keep all the pressure off your toes, so you'd have to tape them to keep them from breaking. Also, that color is way too subtle for 1980s anything, and the blue accent would not have happened. Then again, maybe it was just the hookers and blow set who wore shoes like that. If only I could form a clear memory of that time that didn't involve Coconut Teazers...

  • pumpkin

    Yes, spiked heels, and no chunky bottoms like those. Of course, I was more the slouchy-black-pointy-toe-suede-boot-wearing type. I loved those boots.

  • Mrs. Julien

    In the eighties, I once bought a pair of those boots specifically because they looked like something Cher would wear. I still have a weakness for point shoes.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    If I remember correctly, super pointy toes with spike heels were the 'thing' back then. Flats were popular too. Platforms were more 70s until the recent upgrade.

    Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love with the hot chicks as band members are a good representation of that style and looking at it now, they look really conservative compared to the hooker shoes we're now used to.

  • chriso

    Yeah, she'd be wearing spiked heels and white anklets like the benevolent sluts in a ZZ Top Video. And her hair would not look that current. So much styling fail.

  • Salieri2

    "Benevolent sluts." Well-put.

  • THANK YOU! In the 80s, the only people that had shoes like that were porn stars and strippers. It drives me nuts that people keep putting current footwear in things that take place in the past.

    Also, if it were truly 80s hair, she'd have a big pouf of bangs a la Debbie Gibson or Tiffany.

  • BWeaves

    Tiffany was on What Not To Wear last week. Oh how the lowly have fallen.

  • Mrs. Julien

    We called those bangs "Sociology Bangs" in university because it seemed like every woman with that major had them.

  • theotherone

    Ellen Wong is 28. She should not be going to a high school unless it's for her 10 year class reunion.

    Other than that it is a whole lot of pretty mixed in with Robin Sparkles outfits

  • Natallica

    Gabrielle Carteris opened up a very important door in Hollywood, indeed.

  • theotherone

    If the Brits (See: Skins) can find actual teenagers to play teenagers I don't see why the US can't...

  • lowercase_ryan

    That pic is more Toddlers In Tiaras than high school senior.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Seriously. Isn't she, like, 20? And her character's apparently 18-ish. WhyTF make her look like a fifth grader?

  • grinning dog

    This is NOT what I come to pajiba to read. I'm willing and able to hate on it and I'll wait until someone publishes a review that agrees with me.

  • Anna von Beav

    I accidentally watched this last night. It ... wasn't completely awful. If you ignore that it's supposed to be SaTC Jr., it's just another inoffensive teen soap.

    Also, that boy* is super, super pretty. And already shirtless, in the first episode! I'm hoping this bodes well for his future shirtlessness.

    *the love interest one, though the closeted one is also very attractive.

    ETA: OH OH OH and I did love that cover of Girls..., although it seemed somewhat ....erm, out of place? I guess?

  • Irina

    His name is Austin Butler, and I miss him on "Switched at Birth", but if that means more shirtlessness, who am I to complain? The man is yummy. Lucky Vanessa Hudgens.

  • DeistBrawler



  • zeke_the_pig

    Well, you see... No, wait...

  • Mrs. Julien

    This is the same Overlord who gave positive reviews to The Proposal and Easy A. Don't act so surprised.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Oh well I love me a bit of Easy A but... you know...

  • Kballs

    Having twins makes your brain soft. I am currently wiping drool from my ears.

  • zeke_the_pig

    You know what that DIDN'T make soft? My resolve to not have kids! HA-YOOOOOO

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