Carrie Bradshaw attempts to navigate high school and parties in 1980s Manhattan

By Tim Stack
January 15, 2013 at 02:00 AM EST
The CW
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Here’s a not-so-surprising confession if you know me or even perhaps read my Gossip Girl recaps for this site: I love sequins. I’m like a cat, responding to shiny objects. Or I’m just a 33-year-old gay man who loves sequins. Either way, this ultimately makes me the perfect audience for The Carrie Diaries, which is awash in both that shiny material and nostalgia for the decade that I grew up in, the 1980s. I’ve also seen every episode of the original Sex and the City but I draw the line at the SATC tour…but mostly that’s out of my distaste for public buses.

Crafting a prequel for a character as iconic as Carrie Bradshaw is a pretty ambitious undertaking but I personally found The Carrie Diaries’ pilot totally charming. It definitely is a little jarring at first because it’s not SATC. It’s not Gossip Girl. It’s more like Sixteen Candles without all the broad comedy. But that totally worked for me and AnnaSophia Robb was really adorable. This is gonna sound negative but she kinda reminded me of a young Lindsay Lohan. Something about her face and her voice. I’m talking like Mean Girls-style before the Liz & Dick era.

So basically we find Carrie Bradshaw living in Castlebury, Connecticut with her dad Tom (Matt Lescher) and her younger sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen). Side note: what kind of name is Dorrit? It doesn’t really blend with Carrie. I feel like her sister’s name should be like Kathy or Paula or Megan. It’s kinda like when my youngest brother was born and I wanted to name him Taylor or Connor or something jazzy and my parents were like, “Those don’t really fit with Tim and Ryan” (we eventually chose Matt). Also, Dorrit is real goth and apparently likes taking Carrie’s things, like their dead mother’s patent leather purse.  The Bradshaw family is still reeling from the death of Mom, with her closet almost like a shrine to the departed woman. Carrie’s father does let her borrow her mother’s sunglasses for her first day of high school.

Now, for SATC devotees, this is all quite different from the TV show. Loyal viewers will remember the episode where Carrie finds a father figure in Vogue editor Julian Fisher (Ron Rifkin) and admits that she had a deadbeat dad who left her and her mother when she was very young.

Similar to Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, teenager Carrie Bradshaw has a gaggle of pals. There’s Mouse (Ellen Wong), who is dating a college freshman; Maggie (Katie Findlay) and Walt (Brendan Dooling), a couple even though Walt seems to have an affection for fashion and shirtless photos of Rob Lowe. Been there, done that Walt. My spidey sense tells me there is a coming out plotline in the future of The Carrie Diaries. So far, I’d say Mouse is the Miranda, Maggie is the Samantha, and Walt is the Charlotte. The group even has the equivalent of SATC’s coffee shop chatter but this time in the cafeteria. Naturally, the dialogue doesn’t get as graphic as the HBO series but there is a discussion of Mouse’s first sexual experience being like a “hot dog being pushed through a key hole.” That is a very disturbing image, quite nearly as disturbing as Jessica Chastain’s Golden Globes ensemble.

NEXT: We meet Carrie’s nemesis Donna Ladonna

Carrie also reconnects with Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler), who’s an old flame and also looks like Chord Overstreet’s cousin. He’s all lips, abs and floppy blonde hair. The pair met while swimming (cue many scenes where Butler is required to be shirtless) but then drifted apart. Being the hot new guy, though, Sebastian is also targeted by the wonderfully named mean girl Donna Ladonna (Chloe Bridges). Cue many drag queens now renaming themselves Donna Ladonna.

But Sebastian is gonna have to compete with Manhattan for Carrie’s heart. She gets an internship one day a week through a friend of her father’s and instantly is infatuated with the Big Apple. One of the highlights of the pilot is when Carrie first discovers her new place of worship, Century 21. The sequin fanny pack shown at one point makes the scene worthwhile but we also meet the fabulous Larissa (Freema Agyeman), an Interview magazine fashion editor who notices Carrie’s refurbished purse (Dorritt spilled nail polish all over it so Carrie gave it a lil DIY makeover). Seems Larissa also has a bit of a klepto side (Why is everyone stealing things on this show? Is Winona Ryder a producer?) and enlists Carrie to help her walk out with a dress. But the gal pays Carrie back with a really cute pink party dress and a night out at Indochine so I feel like bygones, right?

The night out partying at Indochine (and meeting her first gays) keeps Carrie out too late though and she misses her big school dance where she was hoping to see Sebastian. But she ends up running into the dude at the train station where he’s hanging with Donna Ladonna. Carrie handles it cool, though. And the pair eventually reconnect in, naturally, the swimming pool (see: above note about Butler shirtless scenes).

The pilot ends with Carrie finding some of her mother’s blank diaries — not a huge shock given this series title. But Carrie Diaries isn’t out to shock like SATC did sometimes — it’s a coming of age story. I actually found it kinda refreshing that the show feels a little innocent and retro. It feels like something John Hughes would produce for television…just maybe with more sequins.

I’m totally interested in seeing where the show goes (and how many more characters begin stealing things). What about you?

Follow Tim on Twitter: @EWTimStack

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