January 14, 2013




THE CARRIE DIARIES: Monday 8PM on CW – Change the Channel


THE CARRIE DIARIES is CW’s last big gun of the season (Cult, still forthcoming, is smaller caliber), the show that the network hopes will inherit Gossip Girl‘s place (Carrie just so happens to be produced by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage of Gossip), and inherit its mantle as the network’s signature soap.

It’s a nice idea, but what audience exactly is Carrie meant to entice?  It’s a prequel to Sex and the City, all right, a show that premiered in 1998, with an audience that is currently, at best, the older edge of the CW demo.  And even for those viewers nostalgic for Sex, this is a very prequel, set in 1984 when Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) is 16 years old, a virgin who’s still going to high school in Connecticut and living with her family.  Carrie is the only Sex character featured in the series, and without Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, not to mention much in the way of, you know, sex, there’s little here for fans of the old show to cling to–and do today’s teens really care to see a series about being young in the mid-80s, just to learn the backstory of a character who grew up to become the lead in a show their mothers watched?

None of this would matter, of course, if Carrie were itself much of a show.  Sadly, it’s not. Carrie’s problems in getting over the recent death of her mother and trying to reconcile with her younger, vaguely punkish sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen), while empathetic dad Tom (Matt Lescher) looks on, just aren’t very interesting.  Nor are the friends Carrie’s been given in lieu of her adult BFFs:  Mattie (Katie FIndlay) may or may not consciously know that her “boyfriend” Walt (Brendan Dooling) really plays for the other team, but meanwhile she has another relationship on the side, while Mouse (Ellen Wong) has already had her heart broken by a college boy.  There’s also rich bad boy Sebastian (Austin Butler), whose relationship with Carrie is probably supposed to remind us of adult Carrie’s with Big.   Meanwhile, Carrie has an internship in New York, which puts her into contact with glamorous wild girl Larissa (Freema Agyeman), and a taste of big city nightlife and fashion.

Except… not so wild, because this is CW and not HBO, and a show aimed at teen girls and not adult women.  So little sex (certainly no nudity), no bad language, no more than a hint of drugs.  Yay, the 80s!  Although showrunner Amy Harris was a writer on Sex and the City (and more recently on Gossip Girl), and Carrie tries to preserve some of the stylistic touches of the old show, like the heroine’s voice-over narration, the sometimes startling frankness of Sex isn’t to be found here, and with it goes much of the original show’s humor.  What’s left is a routine comedy-drama about not terribly distinctive teens, with covers of Madonna songs and “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” on the soundtrack and lots of Look At Those Shoulder Pads! 80s fashion.  (And, in a very 21st century touch, some stridently obvious product placements.)  Robb, while lovely and engaging, isn’t particularly Sarah Jessica Parker-like, and none of her co-stars can compare to the original gang.  Pilot director Miguel Arteta, clearly working on a budget, piles on the costumes as a way to give the show some kind of memorable look.

CW has had a mixed track record when trying to refresh old franchises for young audiences.  90210, while never a breakout hit, established itself as a sturdy performer once it stopped trying to echo the original series and just became a contemporary teen soap; Melrose Place, on the other hand, went nowhere. Carrie Diaries isn’t nearly as much guilty fun as Gossip Girl was in its prime, and there’s little reason to think an audience with modern shows like Suburgatory and Awkward. to watch will find much to its taste in this stodgy attempt to resurrect what was once a very unconventional franchise.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."