The Carrie Diaries, Season 1, Episode 101 “Pilot”
Written by Amy B. Harris
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Airs Mondays at 8pm (ET) on the CW
The CW knows how to do two things: Sexy action heroes (Supernatural, Smallville, Nikita) and your classic beautiful-teens-coming-of-age-in-a-very-specific-setting tale (90210, Hart of Dixie, The Vampire Diaries). After losing Gossip Girl and gaining Arrow, The Carrie Diaries (the story of a young girl struggling through adolescence while falling in love with the city) appears to be the perfect vehicle to round up those misplaced fashionistas while picking up a whole new generation of Manhattan dreamers.
The notable difference between this and the CW’s latest teen drama fare is that it’s wrapped up as a prequel to HBO’s much loved Sex and the City, a point which The CW really tries to drive home only to drop the audience off a few stops short. The story follows a 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) living in Connecticut whose life is really just beginning. At home, Carrie’s rebellious younger sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen) and dad Tom (Matt Lescher) are coping with the loss of their mother over the summer and struggling to find a new balance. At school, Carrie catches the eye of the new kid, Sebastian (Austin Butler), who she’s already met, while friends are experiencing love and a different kind of loss. Outside of school, Carrie is getting her first taste of the city she dreams about with a weekly internship at a Manhattan law firm.
This pilot establishes the characters’ relationships and motives from the beginning while gently reminding the viewer that it’s 1984 with a soundtrack of Depeche Mode and an array of other mixtape hits while girls ply on blue eye shadow and use payphones. The episode opens with Carrie nervous for the first day of her junior year and her first day at school since the loss of her mother. Despite having a “floor full of clothes”, she can find nothing to wear, leading to her to accuse her pot-smoking eyeliner-soaked sister of stealing their mother’s purse. Enter fumbling father who tries his best to diffuse the foreign situation by offering Carrie an item from the mother’s shrine-like closet. At school we’re introduced to the antagonizing popular girls, lead by Donna LaDonna, and Carrie’s group of friends, Mouse (Ellen Wong), Maggie (Katie Findlay), and Walt (Brendan Dooling). Staying true to its SATC roots, the girls have a refreshingly candid (as candid as a show about 16 year old girls on network TV can have) conversation about sex, which reveals Carrie as the group’s last remaining virgin. Then Carrie is off to her internship, the beginning of her Manhattan love story. A run in her stockings leads her to Century 21, a department store where she meets (and commits a felony with) Larisa Loughin (Freema Agyeman), a style editor for Interview Magazine and living the epitome of the lifestyle Carrie wants to have (minus the criminal element, of course). Later that night she experiences her first mesmerizing taste of Manhattan’s cosmopolitan nightlife when she chooses a night out with Larissa and her friends over the school dance.
Unfortunately what makes this show come together may also be what makes it fall apart. If you tune into The Carrie Dairies expecting to relive your cosmo-sipping and Manolo-wearing days you’re likely going to be let down, which doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the show. Because if you can push the premise to the back of your mind and forget about certain holes in the story (Carrie’s dad on SATC left her mother), the show is a fun, endearing, well-acted watch about a young girl on the cusp of life trying to find her place in the Big City that just happens to be set in 1984.