The Carrie Diaries CW: A Pale Imitation Of Sex and the City

A television show centered on the adolescent Carrie Bradshaw sounds like an intriguing possibility. Sex and the City’s Carrie, one of TV’s most beloved characters, is bound to have a fun back-story. Unfortunately, The Carrie Diaries isn’t it. Beyond the name and some messy blond curls, this Carrie bears little resemblance to her Sarah Jessica Parker counterpart.

In The Carrie Diaries, which premiered this week on the CW, Carrie Bradshaw (played by AnnaSophia Robb) is a high schooler living in a fancy Connecticut town in the 1980s. Her mom died a few months ago, and Carrie and her family (well-intentioned father, rebellious little sister) are still reeling. Her father decides that what Carrie really needs is an internship in New York City, so off she goes, one day a week, to what will become the love of her life — Manhattan.

The Carrie Diaries feels like it came from a “How to Write a Middling CW Teen Drama 101” class. Sexy ‘bad’ boy who doesn’t actually seem bad at all? Check. Inoffensively pretty, semi-boring heroine? Got it. Issues with parents? You betcha!

The only thing that distinguishes this show is its connection to Sex and the City. But the show gets Carrie’s back-story completely wrong, turning a woman who sometimes struggled with money and sought out unavailable men because of father issues into a trust funder with a totally supportive dad. Moreover, while SATC was mostly comedy with moments of drama and sadness, The Carrie Diaries all too often suffocates in drama. Of course, if the heroine’s mother has recently died, the show has to devote time to showing the consequences of such an event. But the scenes of grief and loss don’t feel especially real or moving, just manipulative. And because so much time is spent on that particular plot thread, the show never gets much of a chance to be fun or funny.

As the eponymous character, AnnaSophia Robb has a sweet face and an appealing earnestness to her, but not quite enough spunk. She’s surrounded by a battalion of friends, enemies, and family members, but nobody else manages to register much in the pilot episode.

Sex and the City was such a zeitgeist of a show. The amazing thing about it was that you could very easily imagine that, if you lived in New York and had money, you could be one of the characters. Maybe you had those conversations with your own friends and bought into the trends (drinking cosmopolitans, the idea of “He’s just not that into you”, etc. … ) But because The Carrie Diaries is set in the 80s, it feels like a half-hearted period piece. 

Maybe teenage girls will eat it up. But everyone else will likely want more substantial fare.