Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe

The Carrie Diaries is a show about Carrie Bradshaw, the protagonist from the Sex and the City series, in her high school days back in the eighties.

Spoilers Ahoy!

I have never seen Sex and the City. At least, I don't think I have. It's possible I might have seen an episode and completely forgotten about it. Whatever the case, I don't really know anything about the series or the two movies other than that they exist. This is an important note to establish because I have no idea how this prequel fits into the overall franchise. I may have met Carrie in teenage form but I have no idea who she grows up to be. It should come as no surprise that this series didn't interest me. I might like television dramas and period pieces but I wasn't interested in learning the beginning to a story I'm not familiar with. This same indifference also means I can't state whether the show truly deserves to be in the franchise or not. If you're a Sex in the City fan who has no idea whether or not to check this teen drama out, I can't tell you if you'll like it or not. I can tell you that if you like teen drama then this is a show that might appeal to you. This is because the Carrie Diaries is a surprisingly good show on it's own merits. It has solid writing and a good heart. It does have some problems that I'll get into but they aren't enough to really hold back the show. Overall, the Carrie Diaries might very well be the hidden gem of the season.

There are three significant problems for the pilot. The first has to do with the eighties setting. A large selling point for the series is nostalgia. Older women will watch this show because it'll take them back to their high school days. It's true that the series has some references within the narration and the decoration. It's also true that it uses the music of that era to great emotional effect. It's just that I never felt like I was actually in the eighties. The classic music served what was happening in the episode very well but it never really made me feel like I was in the eighties. Likewise, the frank discussions about sex felt out-of-place in what is largely remembered as a conservative era. The eighties was a time when the young generation rejected the counterculture of the seventies (and sixties) and embraced conservatism. The series notes Reagan was present but it never really captures that conservative environment within the youth. In many ways, the show felt like it was taking place in the modern setting but with eighties props and cars. The second problem is that the pilot presents two places where the show can go and it seems like the series hasn't decided which path to take. The best freshman series is one that's focused and it often feels like the Carrie Diaries is two separate dramas. The third problem is that the narration is pretty terrible. It's not that it really contributes to the episode. It just feels out of place.

So if these three major problems exist, why do I think this show has gotten a good start? The major characters are strong and believable. There is Carrie Bradshaw, a young teen who is trying to get over her mother's death. It should be noted that this death is handled delicately throughout the episode and it really helps to show the emotional side that the show has. The grief that the Bradshaw family has and how it impacts the relationship between them is simply the strongest part of the pilot. If it can keep that handle on real human emotion then future episodes should be just as strong. Carrie's narration might be terrible but she's a great character to build a show around. Heck, she's already had one for when she grows up! What's better is that just about every character has a unigue relationship with her. There's her father, who is struggling because he now has to be the tough parent when he's never been very good at it. The father-daughter relationship is one of the strongest that the pilot has. Carrie's younger sister, Dorritt, resents her because of how close Carrie was to their mom. It's all good drama that helps to attach the viewer into this family.

The characters outside the family are pretty good as well. Carrie has two best friends who are very different from each other. There is Jill Thompson, known as “The Mouse”. The actress portraying her manages to capture that nickname perfectly. Her primary drama is that she's lost her virginity to a guy who proceeds to ignore her. The other best friend is Maggie, a sexually active girl who has lost her virginity to someone other than her boyfriend. The show reveals that it's a cop at the very end. The conflict is going to arise because her father is the police chief. Maggie also has a boyfriend named Walt, who is attempting to come to terms with his sexuality. Even Walt has a nice personal connection with Carrie. Her love interest is Sebastian and he's a character who doesn't seem to be very intelligent but he's into her. I guess he's supposed to be attractive as well. The two have had a connection since he used to hang out at the local public swimming pool with her and she shared her first kiss with him. Carrie also gets a mentor in New York City with Larissa, who is addicted to having a good time and shoplifting for fun. The one character who didn't leave much of an impression and seems to be a complete cliché is Carrie's rival, Donna.

The Carrie Diaries sets up the series quite nicely and this might be the biggest surprise of the season. The serious drama is handled pretty well and it has a firm grasp on it's characters. If it can keep this in the future then this will have a solid first season. It does have some major problems when it comes to it's time period, narration, and focus. Whatever the case, the Carrie Diaries is a good beginning as it's own show, irregardless of Sex and the City.

Other Notes:

If the actress playing Doritt, Stefania Owen, was narrating then that would be pretty awesome. Not because Dorritt should be the main character but because Puddle Kadubic is a pretty great narrator.

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