Is it possible to examine the past without losing your identity in the process? That's part of the premise behind the new CW show "The Carrie Diaries," which followed a young girl learning who she was when things were a lot less complicated. The premise might've been risky, but the results had demonstrated some early potential.
"The Carrie Diaries" followed a young Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb) as she learned to cope after the death of her mother. She also had to cope with the complications of being a high school student in suburban Connecticut where everyone knew her story, but she was happy to see a familiar face in transfer student Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler). Carrie was hoping that they could pick up where they left off last year, but a school rival threatened to steal Sebastian before anything happened. Luckily, she had the support of her friends Jill "The Mouse" Chen (Ellen Wong), Maggie (Kate Findlay) and Walt (Brendan Dooling) to help her through some of the difficult times. Carrie tried to help both her father Tom (Matt Letscher) and younger sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen) as they tried to deal with their grief in their own way. Her father helped to get Carrie an internship in Manhattan where she met her new friends Larissa Loughton (Freema Agyeman) who had ties to the fashion world. With Larissa's help, Carrie was introduced a very different world than she was used to at her high school dances. Unfortunately, she was having a hard time separating her new life with her daily high school responsibilities. Will Carrie be able to find a way to juggle both worlds without getting hurt in the process?
In terms of questions, the show posed a few good ones about the possibility of trying to capitalize on the popular "Sex and the City" for a new generation. The CW took a huge risk in trying to revive the series in their own way without ruining what made the HBO show great. Like the original show, "The Carrie Diaries" was based on a book by Candace Bushnell that focused on Carrie Bradshaw's exploits, but this time it was set in the 1980s. The show was wise to keep the story in the 1980s because it helped to see how Carrie evolved into the iconic character that viewers loved. When it came to casting the leading role, Robb was the ideal choice to play Carrie because she gave her a level of romantic innocence and grit that made her worthy to wear Sarah Jessica Parker's designer clothes. Robb excelled as Carrie in her quieter moments, such as when she walked into Manhattan for the first time and when she tried to comfort her sister in her own way without pushing Dorrit into anything. In terms of chemistry, she had a decent rapport with Butler that was the right balance of playful innocence, but the show was wise by not pushing Carrie into a romance with him just yet. Only time will tell if that ends up happening sometime down the road.
As for breakout stars, Robb was an obvious choice, but the episode also belonged to Letscher and Agyeman for different reasons. Letscher's Tom was the right mixture of the perfect television father who was eager to support his children and a flawed human being who made his fair share of mistakes. He played a stressed out father who was forced to handle two teenage girls after the death of his wife. His breakout scene came towards the end of the premiere when he decided to clean out her closet and was forced to deal with his feelings. It was heartbreaking to watch, but those scenes provided the right balance of drama to keep things realistic. Agyeman, on the other hand, brought a newfound level of comedy that was literally full of bright colors. The series premiere basically designed Agyeman's Larissa to be Carrie's modern day fairy godmother with enough attitude to keep her interesting. As of yet, Agyeman's character wasn't fully developed at the moment, but future episodes will likely remedy that. Unfortunately, the show's teenage supporting cast needed to be fleshed out a little more than how the premiere introduced Carrie's friends. Let's hope that either Carrie's increased presence or their own story lines should help to do the trick.
"The Carrie Diaries" premiered on January 14th and airs Mondays at 8:00 PM on the CW.
Verdict: A prequel that examines an iconic character's past without losing what made Carrie Bradshaw memorable.
TV Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)